Daily Pampering: Luxury Avenue in Cancun changes travel shopping completely

What do you do when your wallet starts to itch? If you’re sunning yourself in Cancun, Mexico, have a car take you from your resort to the new Luxury Avenue. This new travel retail destination has brought together in one place such stores as Mont Blanc, Cartier, Louis Vuitton, Ferragamo and Zegna — creating a shopping experience reminiscent of South Beach or Cannes. Luxury Avenue is within striking distance of the area’s top hotels, including Gran Caribe Real, Ritz-Carlton and Le Meridien Cancun.

When you need a break from toting your bags around — or if you want to fuel up for a run through Luxury Avenue — stop by the Luxury Bar and Café on the mezzanine level; it’s open from noon to 9 PM. There’s always Veuve Clicquot on ice, but you can sip a great red instead, if that’s how you prefer to unwind. Sit back in a bright pink loveseat — courtesy of Veuve — and chill like the flute in your fingers. If you’re intent on working in the midst of this decadence, at least you’ll be able to hit the free high-speed internet access.

Get your daily dose of pampering right here.

Cyber Monday: not just for retailers any more

After four days off, the world will slide behind its desks again on Monday morning. They’ll try to get back into the swing of work life, but it won’t be immediate. So, as they ease back into productivity, many will push into the shopping world they dodged three days earlier on Black Friday. The hotels will be waiting for them, with more than 60 of them pushing deals to try to get in on the holiday shopping action.

Around 69 million people are expected to jump into the Cyber Monday fray, with workers aged 18 to 24 seen as the most likely to shop at work. Overall, 54 percent of people with internet access at work will start to take care of their holiday season obligations on Monday.

According to a Shop.org survey, 87 percent of the retailers surveyed plan to get deals out in front of online consumers this holiday season, up a tad from last year’s 83 percent. So, it’ll be tough for the hotels to stand out, but this won’t keep them from trying.

Fifty of Starwood‘s resorts will be offering deals during a three-day sale that starts on Monday, with discounts of up to 45 percent. But, you’ll need to travel between the beginning of January and the end of April. Seven Affinia Hotels properties are offering 15% off a 2010 stay at properties in New York, Chicago and Washington, D.C. The James Hotel in Chicago is offering a 100% bonus on gift cards purchased.

Travel professionals: stop going the extra mile

It sounds counterintuitive, right? Normally, customers expect that extra effort, and we complain constantly that we don’t get it enough. What we sometimes don’t understand, though, is that the extra effort is at the root of many of the customer service problems we encounter. Going the extra mile at the wrong time can be a disaster.

I remember a case presented at a conference I attended back in 1999 (yeah, it made an impression), when I was a consultant in the hotel industry. Some customer service guru was teaching us how to better serve our clients – which was pretty important, since our clients, the hotels, were in the service business. She discussed with us a bank teller who spent extra time with a customer – going that extra mile” – even though there was a long line waiting. The guru couldn’t summon enough praise for this teller. Even though everybody else was waiting, this teller put forth more than was necessary to make a customer happy.

Almost as soon as the story was over, people in different parts of the audience barked almost in unison, “What about everyone else?” The service aficionado spent several minutes ducking and dodging as a growing number of attendees hurled the lines of “I’d be pissed,” “That’s not good service!” and “Do you really believe that stuff?” She eventually recovered and finished her session, but the discussion at the bar that night was all about whether to please the one at the expense of the many.

Just about everyone has seen this problem from the three perspectives involved. I know I’ve had to serve the idiot, wait in line behind the idiot … and, of course, been the idiot. The last time I was the cause, I inadvertently looked over my shoulder and noticed the line behind me. Immediately, it dawned on me. The person helping me – because of my stupidity – was screwing everybody else.

That’s what prompted me to dig into this issue. I realized that, on occasion, going the extra mile for one customer can alienate many others.

If you’re on the service side of the desk, instead of rushing to help, consider the following criteria before committing plenty of time:

1. Is the problem legitimate?
If the customer/passenger has been wronged somehow, do everything it takes to fix the problem. If this isn’t the case, go to #2.

2. Can the situation reasonably be resolved?
A problem with no solution isn’t worth everyone else’s time. At some point, the madness has to stop.

3. What was the customer’s role in all this?
Is this a situation of the customer’s own creation (e.g., late for a flight)? If so, take this into account. Personal responsibility should be considered.

Speaking of personal responsibility, we have some obligations as customers, too.

1. Admit when you screw up
Don’t try to shift the blame and extract the best outcome reasonably possible. Confess, make it as easy and fast as possible to remedy the problem (that you created) and accept whatever alternative can be supplied.

2. Know when it’s time to quit
Don’t push for the answer you want when it’s clear you won’t get it. When defeat is obvious, move on.

3. Use other resources
Complaining at the airport, for example, is a waste of time after a while. Instead, call customer service, write a letter to the CEO (they are read) or turn to social media. Facebook, Twitter and blogs can be great ways to spread the word. Many companies monitor these environments, and the good ones will respond quickly (props to OGIO and Babies “R” Us).

We all love the thought of doing everything possible to help a customer, but sometimes, it just doesn’t make sense. “Reasonable” can do a lot to keep the lines moving and make everyone much, much happier. The best customer service, from time to time, is as little as possible.

[Photo by Larry Myers via Flickr]