Sent this email to a few friends that are helping me build C4E. This is a slightly edited version of the same. If you want more such updates in your mailbox, lemme know and I will add you to the list. Promise to not spam you ever.

So, yesterday, my team and I went to Pune with a client to conduct a recce for one of their events (a delegation of leaders from different parts of the world is coming to Pune and the event aims to give them a “real” Indian experience while they are here). We went to 3–4 hotels and other places noted for their hospitality and we wanted to evaluate each place for their ability to host the client’s global leadership team. And because these guests are as VIP as VIP gets and this is the first time they are in India, everything had to be impeccable.

Now most of these hotels that we went to (Conrad, Hyatt, Westin, Marriott) are rated 5-stars and are very well known for their hospitality and service and all that. As a third-party, I did not find anything amiss at any of the hotels. Neither could I find anything that separated one from another. Each looked and felt the same. You could take the signboard from Conrad and place it atop Hyatt and no one would know. For all I cared, I could pick any of those 5-stars and goto sleep. I mean they all did have varying degrees of finesses, charm, glitter and all that. But all were plush and fancy at the end of the day.

And all was fine until we landed at The Conrad. Side note, I LOVE it. If I had my way, I’d literally live there.

While bantering with the sales team there, the client asked the sales guy, “What else can you give us that will delight our guests?”

While the sales guy was thinking, the client lobbed a simple yet loaded question. “Has any of you been to Andaz in Delhi?”

For the context, Andaz is a Hyatt property and this client had done an event there (and we managed it) about 6 months back.

Moment he asked that question, epiphany happened. I knew what was coming.

The sales guy said, “No.”

And before he could finish saying the O of no, the client blasted into a 15-minute long (am not exaggerating. It was 15 minutes long) monologue about how Andaz is not just a hotel but an experience that you HAVE to live. And how by paying attention to little small things, Andaz has made itself into a great hotel property that he is happy to go back all the time and recommend.

The client was praising a hotel, while sitting in the most luxurious meeting room of another hotel!

I realised that even though the client’s last visit to Andaz was more than 6 months ago, he remembered tiny details that most people overlook. For example, the way the team dresses up at Andaz. To the food they serve at the restaurant. To the way they serve the food. To how does the check-in happen. To the way they’ve designed the rooms. And the way the staff greets you. To the way the team helps you live the experience when you stay there. To the way the place has been designed with glass and stones and wood and colors. To the fact that their official airport pickup car is a bright pink-coloured Ambassador. And how they do their conferences. And the way the bar functions. And so much more.

I kid you not. 15 minutes.

The client literally gave us a tour of the property. I wanted to quit C4E and send my CV to Andaz!

To me, Andaz is a brilliant case study on design thinking and customer obsessiveness. They’ve thought about how to create an experience that will delight people. And they’ve executed it to perfection. Whenever you are in Delhi next, you HAVE to visit Andaz. Better, see if you can spend a night there.

Lessons for me?

  • If I am customer focused, I can charge a premium. Andaz apparently is 20% more expensive
  • If I deliver well, my shortcomings can be overlooked. The ballroom is oval in shape and its the WORST possible configuration to do an event and yet the ballroom is always booked
  • Do less things but do them so well that people appreciate. The restaurant menu is limited but the food and service is so good that you dont want more things on the menu
  • And more!

And while you are at it, this is a book that captures the Andaz experience! Kind of expensive but you have to see it once. And if you still want more dope on customer obsession, read about Jeff Bezos. He’s become the richest man by focusing on two things — customer and long-term thinking.

Coming back. You know, if I were the GM at Andaz, I couldnt have hired a better PR professional to sell my hotel. And this one was a client — someone who will pay me a premium to experience the place. Isn’t that insane if you are a business owner. You dont need to spend money on business development. You know, to get such fanaticism about any of my brands, I will probably give an arm or a leg. Yeah. I think I will. Promise.

The question is, how do I create such an experience? What lessons from Andaz can I replicate at C4E? Afterall we are also in the service business and more than anything, the service levels we offer make or break us. But then, most other agencies will offer great service. Its assumed that your service will be exemplary. It’s hygiene.

How do I delight the customer? So much that even though he may not give me work, he raves about me to other agencies. What do I change? Where do I start? What do I move? How do I differentiate myself from a million other event agencies? After all if they can differentiate a hotel (which is probably a more cluttered market than event management is), why cant I?

Help me. Ideas? Thoughts? Brickbats? Examples of other businesses that have done exceptional work around their customers?

Thanks a ton. Wish you happy holidays and hope 2018 is our greatest year yet.

– Saurabh Garg

P.S.: I plan to send most such things to this closed group of people and if you wish to receive those, please do let me know. Thanks!