Monthly Archives: May 2011

The appreciation of ‘wow’


A small intake of breath, your eyes widen, you feel emotional delight and exclaim, ‘Wow!’.  Not only have you been surprised, but at the same time you are engaged. A moment of delight to enliven your day.
How often do these wonderful experiences happen to us in a day?  You would expect when I ask a group of people this question there would be a deluge of colourful examples for all to admire.  ‘In a day?’ is the usual retort…‘Ever?’!
How sad.  Is it that these beautiful events don’t exist, or are they so rare that they might cause the recipient to write to The Times as if it were the first cuckoo of spring?  Surely when we are at work, travelling, shopping, at our leisure we experience ‘wow’ all the time.  I say this because when I ask the same audience how often they make the effort to surprise and engage their customers, colleagues, family and friends; they claim to do it all of the time, whenever the opportunity arises.
I can only conclude that it is I the intended recipient of this bonhomie that is at fault here.  I need to try harder to recognise when my fellows are attempting to ‘wow’ me.  Perhaps this lack of skill to appreciate sociable effort requires a national drive of citizen education if so many people are missing the clear signals others are giving.  Like all campaigns of this nature it falls upon me to start with my own behaviour.  I must try harder. 
Here’s the postman.  I’ll start with him.
‘Wow’, I was right.  I’ve just had a cheery discourse with our postman, what a nice chap, and all that time I thought the crushed letters and bent parcels were a sign he didn’t care.  They were in fact simply his way of inviting me to open the door to receive a moment of ‘wow’.
Like Saul on the road to Damascus I have seen the light.  It isn’t a lack of ‘wow’ moments; it’s not that people can’t be bothered that’s the problem. It is that I haven’t taken the trouble to give others the opportunity to have their efforts appreciated.  From now on I shall dedicate myself to the appreciation of ‘wow’.


Portmeirion – an example of a great tourist experience

Having been a tourist in Snowdonia, North Wales for a week, I’ve been subjected to a glorious array of customer experiences.  Having worked on a programme for a Scottish Tourist Organisation in the past I have become acutely aware of the challenge faced by destinations in giving a consistently good customer experience.  After all it only takes one bad experience for the whole tourist industry in a place to become tarnished.
In popular spots the tourists will come no matter what.  If you have a Castle, beach or panoramic view, this will attract visitors.  There is however an inherent problem for us tourists.  Since we will visit the spot infrequently it doesn’t matter to those delivering service what sort of experience we have.  If we have saved our Yen and travelled from Tokyo, for example, what are the chances of us ever returning?  It seems that some attractions, shops and hotels recognise this and are simply intent to take as much money from tourists as possible for the least effort.  The glossy brochure promises a ‘warm’ welcome but rarely delivers.
So when an attraction delivers, it stands out.  I have to say when my family decided we should visit Portmeirion; the ‘folly’ village created by Sir Clough Williams-Ellis, overlooking the estuary of the River Dwyryd near Porthmadog, I was keen to do something else.  In my mind here was a honeypot intended purely to attract tourists.  To some extent its architect always had this in mind since he always recognised he needed visitors to fund his designs.  When we arrived I was not best disposed to the adventure and all my preconceptions were being met by the time we had paid for admission. 

At this point we were greeted by John, who offered us a guided tour. Suddenly, I felt welcome.  He enthused about the place, its history and the philosophy of its creator.  He must have done this a thousand times but it didn’t show.  His tour felt like it was just for us. Our experience was the epitome of the values Williams-Ellis had wanted for Portmeirion and I have to say all the staff we encountered lived up to them.
Portmeirion was a rare treat for a tourist, somewhere which promised much and actually, for me, over delivered.  The Ffestiniog Railway was also worth a visit for the same reason.