In two consecutive ‘at sea’ days between Bora Bora and Pago Pago (American Samoa), we had the opportunity to watch the Ocean Princess staff at work. A cruise ship really is a well-oiled machine, and the task of customer service is rather daunting. when you think about it, there are over 600 passengers aboard this ship (it is one of the ‘small ships’, unlike the larger ones that are 5x its size). Each of these passengers has a unique personality and unique needs. Some are laid-back, and some are demanding. Some are easy to please, some are high maintenance. Hard to meet or exceed the needs of everyone – since everyone has differing expectations.
For the most part, the team on the Ocean Princess does it exceptionally well. And they seem able to adapt quite quickly. Case in point: My wife, our friends and I all dine together at a fixed seating time each evening. The serving staff is always the same. By about day 4 of the cruise, we were finding their presence a little overwhelming. It was like they were hovering, and we were rarely ever able to finish a conversation without it being interrupted with one of the serving staff leaning in to fill a water glass, or asking how we liked our meal, or trying to remove a plate, etc. At times, there would be as many as 8 arms reaching across our table.
In truth, they were really just trying to be attentive. But (and I can’t believe I’m even saying this), they were actually too attentive. Interestingly, though, no sooner had we all started commenting amongst each other (outsideof the dining room)about the uncomfortable attentiveness, than it changed. The following evening was wonderful. Sure, they were always there to fill the water or wine glass, but the overkill and interruptions were gone. Clearly someone had been paying attention to our body language and spread the word. That’w pretty impressive.
But it did make me think aboutthe people I’ve encountered over the years who talk about ‘too much customer service.’ I guess this is what they are referring to. The question becomes, when it is overkill, is it still ‘customer service’? Its kind of like getting 4 pounds of fine Russian caviar dumped on a plate. Is that still fine cuisine?