A One and Only Customer Experience and a Dream Come True

By Diane Berenbaum

Imagine if someone told you that you could go anywhere in the world for a week, all expenses paid. What would you do? Where would you go?

Sound like a dream? Well, it was a reality for my husband and I a few months ago. The president of his company was so thrilled about a new client that he said, “You and your wife can go anywhere you like – it's on me.” 

We knew we had to act quickly, just in case he changed his mind. After hours of searching the web, I found a place that sounded like a perfect match for my dream vacation: The One and Only Palmilla resort in Cabo San Lucas, Mexico.

Not only did the resort live up to its name, it provided a service experience that surpassed any I have ever seen or heard of (and I have been in the customer service field for over 18 years). Upon reflection, I realize that they have a well thought out strategy for providing the “One and Only” experience that wows customers and entices them to come back for more.

Here are just a few secrets to their success:

Make Each Guest Feel Special Right from the Start

Instead of the usual wait-in-line check-in process, we were immediately greeted by name, at our car, by an associate who took us directly to our room. I could not help but wonder how she knew who we were – it is not like we are celebrities and the property is quite expansive with over 170 rooms.

She explained that the registration details were taken care of and that our morning butler could answer any questions we may have. Sure enough, as we headed to breakfast the next morning, we were greeted by a gentleman who again called us by name.

From the moment we arrived, we were treated and felt as though we were special VIP guests at the resort.

A Small Gesture that Speaks Volumes

It did not take us long to notice that everyone who worked at the resort would bow slightly, put their fist over their heart, and express a Spanish greeting like “hola” or “buenos dias” as we walked by. Without fail, every associate who caught our eye made this gesture, even if they were in the middle of gardening or a conversation. In fact, it seemed that the resort had associates on staff whose sole purpose was to bow, greet, and acknowledge guests as they wandered through the stone paths.

After only a few days, my husband and I found ourselves bowing and giving the same gesture to others. It was contagious! My curiosity was piqued. What did this gesture really mean? Where did it come from? Was this a common symbol of hospitality in the area?

The concierge explained that this gesture came from the custom of a small Mexican Indian tribe who developed this symbol to show that their welcome was truly “from the heart.” The general manager of the resort learned of this unique symbol of hospitality and made it a standard practice for all employees. He proudly stated that no other resort, hotel, or business in the world uses this greeting.

This small gesture speaks volumes about the details that make the Palmilla truly unique.

Give More than What is Expected

As you might imagine, this resort was not inexpensive. Despite this, I left feeling that the experience was well worth the money (even if I had been the one to pay for it). Every day brought a new, “free” treat that further solidified my appreciation.

Each morning we were delivered fresh fruit on a handcrafted Mexican tray. We even had the opportunity to complete a card indicating what fruit we wanted for the next morning. In the afternoon, they would bring a cocktail snack, and here too, we could choose what we wanted. It is amazing how the simple element of choice contributed to our appreciation and satisfaction.

There was even a card asking if we had a preference for in-room aromatherapy. In essence, they would simply light a candle in the room and put on the same soft music every night, but it felt like an indulgent value-add.

At the pool, you have access to any kind of pillow you can imagine (for every part of your body from your head to your toes) and free bottled water from Norway. 

While there is certainly a cost to providing all of these extras, I sense they serve a broader purpose. They help the guests feel comfortable and relaxed, therefore making them more:

  • Likely to stay at the pool and order additional drinks and snacks

  • Willing to go to the restaurant and try more of their delicacies

  • Likely to go to the gift shop to purchase the lovely Mexican handicrafts that appear in their room every day

Keep Your Guests Guessing

The turndown service yielded a new surprise every night. Yes, they put the obligatory chocolate on each pillow (a chocolate truffle, I might add), but they offered much more than just that. Each night, we would find a small artifact representing a plant or animal of significance from this part of Mexico. Alongside it would be a card explaining the origin of the item and the Mexicans' beliefs about the power and lore of this living creature. 

I found this nightly gift so intriguing that after dinner I would go straight to the room to see what had been left for us that night. Not only were we pleasantly surprised, we were learning about the deeper side of the culture and accumulating great souvenirs and mementos.

Room Service with a Smile

Despite the fact that this trip was being paid for by someone else, we fell into our standard cost-saving habits (i.e., room service is too expensive). That was until we noticed something very unusual – room service was available at no extra charge. We ordered what we wanted the night before and our breakfast was delivered to us at the exact time we specified the next morning.

Our server set up our breakfast on the balcony overlooking the Sea of Cortez. He even brought a big old-fashioned toaster and toasted our bread right in front of us to ensure its freshness and warmth. One morning, he accidentally burnt the toast, which did not bother us in the least. However, he insisted that he take away the offending toast and toaster, and walk through miles of paths at the resort to bring us a new toaster and fresh bread. His facial expression changed from that of pain and disappointment from the burnt toast, to one of relief and pride when he produced a batch of toast that met his satisfaction.

The room service experience accentuated the innate sense of genuine courtesy and caring that everyone at the resort seemed to possess.

Handle Issues with Professionalism and Grace

When it came to check out and leave this idyllic place, we were still on our Mexican high. That was until we received the bill for our stay. The charges far exceeded what the travel agent had promised and confirmed. My bubble had been burst – perhaps this was not the ultimate customer experience.

Prepared for a fight, I headed to the front desk with my confirmation in hand. The front desk associate listened intently, expressed his concern, and said he would adjust my bill immediately. He also handed me a small token of appreciation for staying at the resort. No more questions and no need for my prepared speech on undelivered promises and hidden charges. Smooth, calm and professional – that is how he approached everything in his role. 

As I left the One and Only Palmilla, I put my hand on my heart, bowed and said “adiós” and “gracias” to all who worked at this glorious resort. The property's name does not begin to describe the exquisite balance of elegance, comfort, and pure bliss that we experienced – a dream come true.

By the way, the next time someone offers to send you on a dream vacation, consider the One and Only Palmilla: www.oneandonlyresorts.com
Diane Berenbaum is a long-time contributor and former editor of the MAGIC Service Newsletter. She has more than twenty-five years of experience as a consultant, coach, and facilitator. Diane is the co-author of How to Talk to Customers: Create a Great Impression Every Time with MAGIC® .
Before and After
Before and After
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