What I Learned About Customer Service From The Italians

Apr 12, 2018, Written by Sue Miley


Upon closing the clasp of my seat belt, the voice rang clear over the loud speaker: “First let me tell you what you can expect on our flight. We will be traveling for eight hours and 45 minutes. During your time with us we will begin by serving a beverage. After that we have three choices for your dinner tonight, then half way through our flight another snack, finishing with a light breakfast a couple of hours before we land.”

Let your customers or guests know what they can expect.

Moments later outstretched tongs delivered each of us a warm wet towel to clean our hands. This was my first international flight.

After our long overnight flight we were overachievers and met a guide at our hotel a couple of hours later. Our guide found various ways to provide short cuts and quick access so that we were able to spend the depth of our time learning the rich history of the Vatican and viewing the precious art and artifacts commissioned and built by centuries of Popes.

Be time conscious and experience-centric. Save your customer’s time with minimal logistical hassle. 

Our first Italian dinner was part wine bar, part restaurant. Upon seating us, and smiling at our South-Louisiana-Italian accent, the hostess poured us each a complimentary splash of sparkling wine. She found another server who better understood English and could navigate us through the menu, gently nudging us away from our safe choices to unique light fish and vegetable dishes.

Honestly, we were tired and stuffed and declined dessert. But, the hospitality wouldn’t be complete without a couple of bite size petit fours to complete our experience with them.

Little extras make a big difference. In Louisiana we call it lagniappe.

We were walking up to the famous Rome Colosseum when a stranger approached us in a suit and tie to sell us their tour of the Colosseum. There was none like it and…guess what…we could avoid the 45 minute line for tickets. We were skeptical. We had been sold by street solicitors and this one was in full sales mode. The cost was 300% of the 12 euro price of entrance. But this group tour is different- special he assured. We would get to see the underground dungeons…the point that sold my husband…and don’t forget you will skip the line.

We handed over cash and hoped we at least got in the Colosseum. A local Italian guide took us through and at the final picture taking moment, and then he said only to us…you have a second piece to your tour. “There is a guide waiting for you at the left entrance”, he said. We were confused. We thought we saw it all.  “No, no, you have the extra tour of…we told you, this is the best tour. You get extra. Scott from Pennsylvania is waiting on you to join their group.”


To our amazement, we actually found Scott from Pennsylvania who is not an Italian citizen. We were able to see all of the Roman ruins of the city under the city that had been excavated over the centuries.

It was exactly what was promised, yet more than expected.


Exceed the expectations of your customers, first by doing all that you promise.

After a more than intimidating experience finding the right train to Florence, we were a bit decision fatigued. We arrived right around lunch time and instead of using Google to guide us to local cuisine, we just plopped down in the seat in front of the concierge.

Where do you recommend for lunch that is close by?

Do you want a café or sit-down restaurant?

Restaurant please. She pulled out a local map, drew a line down two streets, circled a spot and wrote down the name of a restaurant.

Wait…what kind of food.

Local Italian. Restaurant. It is good.

I thought she was a little short with us and quite confident only giving us one option. But she was so sure, we followed her instructions. Remember we were decision-fatigued already. We found it a few blocks away. It was perfect. Italian comfort food. She knew her stuff.

You are the expert. You are paid for your expertise. Deliver it with confidence.

We are only 3 days into my first trip to Europe. We have experienced a few examples of bad customer service, but much has been excellent. As we have gone through the experiences I kept thinking that if small businesses delivered on their promises, over-delivered on their customer’s expectations, and added a little lagniappe where they could, these small businesses would experience word of mouth marketing, consistent growth, and long-term repeated customers.

How about you?  Which of these customer service principles do you deliver upon?

Reader Interactions


  1. Bill says

    Wow! If this is current, and it sounds like it is, have a great time! I’ve been there before and it’s a fun country to be in. Love the tips. 🙂 Blessings!

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Sue Miley

Sue Miley MBA, MA, LPC helps small business owners build successful businesses on a foundation of Christian values. After 20 years in business, and 10 years as a Christian counselor, Sue uses a combination of faith, business and psychology to help clients in business and in life.

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