The little things really do make a big difference

A few weeks ago I was trying to deliver a nice amenity to my wife who was at a Conference in Atlanta.  The hotel was a high end chain, so I expected the service to match.  

The order was simple. Iced coffee, cookies and a note, delivered the evening she checked in. I was asked to fill out two pages of paperwork, one for a credit card authorization and one for an amenity sheet, which seemed excessive but if it guaranteed getting the order right, I was OK with it. I even filled out the message for the note and a little bit of info as to why my wife was there so that the person delivering could personalize it even more.  

There was no amenity for iced coffee and cookies, only milk and cookies. “Could I swap out the milk for a bottle of iced coffee, even with an upcharge?” I asked. There was silence on the other end of the phone. “I’m not sure we have that, sir” was the response. “Can you at least try?” They said they would. 

Not what I was expecting from this top hotel but not the fault of the overstretched front desk clerk, rather management. They had a list of amenities with pricing and that was it. In other words, this is what we think you would like, so please try and fit it to our plan, otherwise there might be an issue. 

I confirmed all the details again by email and left it with them. Having worked in hotels in the past I had a lingering suspicion that this may not be followed all the way as I had ordered in the morning and the shift changes at 3pm. It would therefore be a different crew that would oversee the actual delivery. My suspicions grew as I did not hear anything by 7pm, so I called the front desk and, to no surprise, the poor lady wasn’t aware of the delivery, but did see it was in the system. “Sir, I’m working the front desk by myself right now and I have about 6 people in front of me, but I will certainly attend to it when I can” was her reply. “I’m sorry you have been left in that situation” I said empathetically. (Been there done that).  Remembering this is a large hotel, I only hoped that the kitchen and room service had seen the order too. 

To her credit, my wife received the iced coffee and cookies, about two hours later, from room service, no note of course, and no acknowledgement about her big event, rather a simple “This is from your husband”….a full 12 hours after I had initially placed the order. 

So what was learned from this experience and how could they have done better? Here’s my three takeaways:


If you are the first person involved in a client request, you see it through. If you are not directly involved in the delivery of the situation you still make sure that you pass on the information accurately to your colleague, and follow up to make sure it has been completed. Ideally, you should follow up with your original client who came to you with the issue in the first place.


I didn’t know they were able to deliver it or the iced coffee until after the order was delivered. Nobody had communicated with me on the process and where we were on it. Of course, the note never arrived, but that would have been checked at the above two levels. If FEDEX and UBER Eats can provide status updates all around the world, is it so difficult for people in the same building to provide the same? 


Within reason, if a client wants something a certain way, find a way to make it happen. Better still, find a way to make it memorable. I remember once in Kansas City I ordered a 6 pack of local craft beers for a client on ice. Not only did the craft beer come but a mini yard of ale glass with mini pretzels cascading from it was set up alongside it…with my note in the middle!  You see the small things do make a big difference and the best part is they are normally easy to do and just take a little imagination. 

At APlus these are 3 things we preach every day. Everyone is empowered to own a situation and make the best decision for our clients. We actively communicate with our team and our clients to make sure everyone is making the best use of our systems. Finally, we build that system around our clients, rather than say you must order from this or that list. 

In the Payroll world every little detail is important, as it is in world class customer service. Combining the two should be a daily practice and commitment.


– ‘Payroll’ Paul