By now, most people are already aware that an icon in the hotel industry – the Mandarin Oriental Hotel – is closing its doors this August 2014.  Our loyal Mansmith clients know that the Mandarin is like our second home – having held our seminars there for more than 10 years.  The Mansmith-Mandarin association has been so strong that sometimes, when we hold our events in other hotels, people make the mistake of still going to Mandarin as if on auto-pilot.  I have closely worked with the Mandarin team all these years and I have not said goodbye because I am honestly still grieving.
It was not all butterflies and roses when began doing business together.  Those who know us, would know we could be tough clients, being sticklers for quality service.  I remember there was an employee strike when I opened my first seminar there and my requirements in the events order were not met to the dot.  My first account manager was Eliza de Venecia-Reyes  (who would later become director for Banquet and Sales in another hotel) and I must have given her a jolt in our first encounter with my demand for  the levels of standards in events organization that would become the Mansmith trade mark.  Eliza and I would become very good friends over the years and to date, I still consider her the best account manager we ever had.  Eliza, her team, and later on, the other Mandarin account officers, knew us and worked with us well-  they would assign the best waiters  to our programs, made sure their set up crew or head waiters were with us when we arrived at 4 am to set up for conferences, were quick to respond to our requests and yes, had a ready bottle of water or a pot of green tea to soothe our stressed nerves.  When Eliza moved on, I l had the privilege of working with Directors Alie Villanueva-Sison and Owen Samonte who further strengthened my bond with Mandarin.
I also fondly remember the bellman Ernesto who would greet me by name every time he opens the door of my car, technicians Ferdie, Danny and Joseph who would always save the day for us when our technical and electrical skills are challenged, Robby and Alvin whom we saw got promoted from on-call waiters to regulars in Paseo Uno and even my dear Chato, the janitress who accompanied me to the clinic one time I got sick during a seminar and with whom I shed a tear and gave a hug to when she shared some crises in her life.  They all make up the wonderful, positive memories I will always have with Mandarin.
Note that I speak of memories here rather than experience as a customer.  Perhaps because I felt more like family rather than just a customer, I see things with different lenses.  Mandarin is home, not an outsourced supplier.  The people are family, not positions in a hierarchy.  And when at home and with family, it is the memories we remember.
In the service industry, this is a powerful realization in understanding customer experience.    Bruce Temkin introduced a concept called People-Centric Experience Design (PCxD)  where the principle no. three of that framework discussed the idea of Designing for Memories.  Temkin noted  “When it comes to loyalty, customer experience isn’t the driving factor. That’s right, customer experience is not the key driver. What is important? Memories. People make decisions based on how they remember experiences, not on how they actually experienced them. This distinction is important because people don’t remember experiences the way they actually occur. Rather, people construct memories as stories in their mind based on the fragments of their actual experiences.”
He further stressed the five areas where companies can design for memories :  making every ending count, training employees about moments that matter, smoothen transitions, recover quickly from mistakes, dampen bad experiences and create happy memories.
I have many stories and happy memories to share about Mandarin– but most importantly, it is the people that I will miss most.  I told the officers that I am sure that I will see them again in other hotels, but my heart aches for the “less visible” or behind the scenes people who enabled the frontliners to do a good job.  I wish I could name all of them here. In the meantime, thank you for the memories, Mandarin.  They will not be forgotten.  And I hope you invite me to be there when you open again in 2020.

Chiqui Escareal-Go is the CEO and Chief Service Strategist of Mansmith and Fielders, Inc.  She will be conducting the 20thDelivering Outstanding Service program on July 21-22, 2016 in Makati.  For inquiries, please email info@mansmith.netor call (02) 584-5858 or (02) 412-0034.