A couple of Fridays ago it was my birthday. 29 and counting I’m sure.

I swung by Trader Joes to pick up some flowers. Having fresh flowers is not unusual in my home, but on this particular trip the quantity was larger. I grabbed 4 or 5 bunches as I had out of town guests coming and I wanted flowers in all of the rooms.

As I was checking out, the Trader Joe staffer at the cash register inquired if I was making arrangements for a big event, since I had so many flowers. “No”, I replied, “They’re just for my house. It’s my birthday, I love flowers, and I’ve got company joining me in my celebration.”

Within 3 seconds, the staffer grabbed his black marker, marked through the price on one of the bunches of flowers—the dozen red roses to be exact—and said, “these are from Trader Joes. Happy birthday!”

[tweet_box design=”default”]WOW! @TraderJoes knows great branding. Employees are empowered to do nice gestures. No approval from a manager, just like that, this guy made my day even better.[/tweet_box]

On the other hand, The Epicurean Hotel, an upscale property managed by Marriot, didn’t make the shining brand list in this blog post. Instead, they made the “what were they thinking” list.

I showed up at the guest desk on Friday evening to make arrangements to leave welcome gifts for clients staying at the property. The gifts were simple envelopes and small wrapped packages.

While requesting their help with the delivery of the gifts, I also explained to the hotel staffer that I just had 6 guests stay with them last week and 5 more this week for a total of 30 room nights. I explained that I loved the hotel and would be referring my friends and clients.

In an icy tone, the employee showed no gratitude for my referrals and proceeded to inform me that there would be a $3 charge per gift for delivery to the rooms.

I stated my disappointment to the policy and charges. It was not the money, but the principle about gratitude, service, and common sense. The employee did not budge. So I asked to speak to a manager.

A manager appeared and greeted me with, “What can I help you with?” I explained my simple request and my support of the hotel. Her reply was even less hospitable and she actually went as far as to share the blame on the city of Tampa. “This policy is standard here in Tampa. Everyone does it”.

Thinking my guests were arriving that night, I gave her their names. She could not find them in the system and frankly she didn’t make any effort to locate them either. Fortunately for me and, in my mind, for the hotel brand, it turned out that my guests did not arrive until the following night. They were coming from Australia and when they said they’d arrive on Sunday, it was actually our Monday.

So I left with a negative service experience and feeling regret that my clients would be staying there. I worried that they would encounter a similar brand of service with nickel and diming fees.

I returned the next day to try the gift delivery again. This time around, I was greeted by an employee with a completely different service attitude. She was helpful and extremely grateful for my business referrals. She also said it was no problem to deliver the gifts to the rooms. When I pulled out $15 to pay for the service, she explained, “There is no fee, it’s our pleasure.”

[tweet_box design=”default”]WOW, what a difference an empowered employee makes in a brand impression.[/tweet_box]

Are your employees empowered to think on their feet and make quick decisions? Can they give a customer something for free or even break a rule if it means building or mending a relationship? I hope so.

3 things you can do to make sure your brand blooms

1) Regularly talk to employees about flexibility, common sense, and experiences

2) Publicly recognize employees for their good deeds with customers

3) Give employees a budget for managing special situations


Brand on!