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Small Gestures Make a Big Impact

It’s amazing how small gestures can help turn a bad situation around.

My family and I came home from vacation a few weeks ago to discover that a water line in our guest bathroom had sprung a leak. We called our favorite plumber to come stop the leak, but in the process, he had to tear up a portion of the floor and jackhammer through the concrete slab beneath to get to the damaged pipe.

Once he had removed that portion of the floor, we began to get a grip on the extent of the damage. Water had soaked underneath the entire floor of the bathroom, as well as the drywall and baseboard surrounding it, and we would discover later that the water had penetrated the concrete slab foundation and even seeped through the brick on the exterior of our house.

It’s never fun to find damage in your home, especially when you realize that fixing the damage is going to entail an insurance claim, multiple contractors and a hefty amount of cash out of pocket. I was overwhelmed by the situation and unsure of how to begin cleaning up the mess. So we reached out to a friend who works in real estate, and she hooked us up with a water damage specialist that she said was the best in town.

I called the company’s owner, Tina, and within half an hour, she and her husband, Paul, were at our house. Their presence was a breath of fresh air. They knew exactly what to do to start drying out our house and explained every step with kindness and smiles. Their professionalism and calm demeanor immediately made my wife and me feel better about our situation.

While Paul began setting up equipment in the bathroom, Tina sat down with us at our kitchen table and pulled out a small gift bag. Inside was a bundle of goodies: gift cards for pizza, free massages and other services. “We know this is a stressful time for you,” Tina said, “so we want to do some things for you to help relieve some of that stress.”

We were already impressed with Tina and Paul’s professionalism, but the thoughtfulness of this gesture endeared them to us even more. They weren’t just concerned about taking care of our house — they were concerned about taking care of us.

There’s a lesson here for anyone who works in tourism or hospitality. You’re in the business of helping make people’s travel dreams come true, but sometimes, unforeseen emergencies can turn those dreams into nightmares. And when that happens, how you respond can have a significant impact on their experience.

Many organizations in the travel business do the absolute minimum to help passengers or guests in distress. But you can do better. Don’t just take care of people’s problems; when problems arise, take care of people.

How you care for your customers will depend on your role in the industry. But whether you give them a helping hand, a listening ear, a free meal, a ride home or a thank-you gift, your small gesture can make a bad day on the road a positive memory.

Brian Jewell

Brian Jewell is the executive editor of The Group Travel Leader. In more than a decade of travel journalism he has visited 48 states and 25 foreign countries.