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Relinquish Control For A Better Experience

January 4, 2010

Nowadays people are used to receiving what they want, when and how they want it.  Our society is borderline obsessed with maintaining control over all aspects of our lives and, in particular, our experiences.  Normally I am all for the customer getting exactly what they are looking for.  But what if the customer doesn’t really know what they want? Or better still, what if what they want isn’t what they need?

I will admit that I am as guilty as anyone in this department.  However, life has a funny way of changing who you are, whether you like it or not.  For me, it wasn’t a conscious effort to give up control.  I just got busy – really busy.

My first experience was when I was planning a destination wedding in Antigua from Manila with very little time.  A twelve-hour time difference and no direct access to the information I needed forced me to hand over decisions to the staff of the resort.  I figured they do this a lot and I, hopefully, will only be doing it once.  I made it clear to them that I wanted it to be low-key, fun, and natural to the island – local food, flowers, setting, etc.  All I had to do was show up with a dress and a groom.

I know what you are thinking…a bride showing up to her wedding having no idea what to expect?  That’s unheard of.  I really didn’t have time to think about it.  I flew into Toronto and a few days later was en route to Antigua – dress in hand and groom by my side.  What I experienced in the subsequent week was more than I could have dreamed of.  I found out the details just as I needed to know them – the knock on my door to signal I should be getting ready at the bridal villa, the champagne toast preceding the walk to the peninsula where the ceremony would take place, etc.

The result?  The staff made better choices then I ever could have.  Everything was a new and wonderful adventure.  Right down to the Soca dance lessons on the sunset cruise and the jazz quartet playing music for our Antiguan dinner on the beach.  I think I can fairly say that it was one of the best vacations our families and friends have had.  All blissfully stress free and much less costly for my husband and me.

The biggest ah-ha was the reaction of the staff.  They were not upset about all the extra work and decision-making.  They were excited, proud and determined to make it the best experience possible for us. From the management to the groundskeeper who stopped me the day before the wedding to let me know that he personally would be raking and cleaning the area of the beach where we were to wed.  The staff didn’t work our wedding…they were part of our wedding.  And they made it perfect.

When I thought about it from an employees perspective I started to think about the dissatisfaction of working in an area that is your expertise however always having to do what others are asking.  Even if the decision is not the best one or you know a way to provide the customer more value.  It must be mind numbing.  The opportunity to use creativity and to show the world what you are capable of would, therefore, be liberating!  The staff of Jumby Bay Resort and our fabulous photographer Steven Lam validated this theory.

So I challenge you to relinquish control and see how those serving you can create a better experience than the one you think you want. Okay, maybe don’t start with something as large as your wedding but next time you try a new restaurant why not ask the waiter to put together a meal and drink combination for you?  Worried they’ll pick all the most expensive items?  Relax.  And give them a chance to show you their ability to meet your needs without breaking the bank.  They are usually more aware of value than we are ourselves.  It is what they do for a living after-all.

Tell us about your experiences if you dare to experiment…