Customer Service Can Happen in an Elevator: From the Desk of the CEO


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Whether you’re a seasoned executive or a prospective intern preparing for your first interview, we’ve all been coached on creating and honing an “elevator speech.” An elevator speech is a brief summary describing what your organization does; creating interest in a project or product; or selling yourself to potential employers. The pitch usually lasts about 20-30 seconds–the length of a short elevator ride–and thus the origin of the term.

I was staying overnight at the Hilton Garden Inn in Concord, NC. At the end of my stay, I was riding down in the elevator when it stopped on the 4th floor. As the door opened, an elderly gentleman with a laundry cart stood outside. He smiled and noted he would wait for the next car. I surmised hotel policy is for staff not to ride with guests. As I was the only one on the elevator, and with no guarantee the next car would be empty, I insisted he ride along with me. Somewhat shyly, he finally acquiesced.

“I see you’re checking out,” he began, “I hope you enjoyed your stay.” I acknowledged it had been pleasant. He had pressed the button for the 3rd floor, and as the door opened, he began to push the cart through the open elevator door. Before he exited, he turned, looked me in the eye and said, “Thank you for choosing Hilton and staying with us.” The door closed.

What astonished me was before leaving my room just a few moments earlier, I had penned the following review for this particular hotel on Trip Advisor (the travel website that provides reviews of travel-related locations such as hotels, restaurants and attractions).

“Stayed overnight on business and very satisfied with the accommodation. Greeted warmly by Devante upon check-in; made me feel welcomed and special. In fact, throughout my stay I did not encounter a single staff person who did not greet me and smile as well. Management is doing something right here. Would highly recommend.”

When I discuss customer service with our staff, I stress creating a feeling of warmth and friendliness in every encounter. People like doing business with people they like. Every interaction (even a one-floor elevator ride) is an opportunity to share the brand. In our rushed, hurried world, politeness and kindness often stand out as memorable and extraordinary experiences.

If my assumption regarding hotel staff not riding elevators with guests is accurate, this gentlemen’s attention to customer service is even more impressive. By policy, he would have fewer direct encounters with guests, yet still was aware and took advantage of a brief engagement with one of his customers to share the Hilton brand.

I can’t tell you how many nights and interactions I’ve had with hotel staff over this past year, but I am blogging (spreading the word) about the Hilton Garden Inn in Concord, NC and this particular customer service experience. This elevator speech worked. Each day we can make our brand stand out.

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