The notion of unique knowledge was first brought to my attention by a colleague from Boston. John was quite interesting and I learned a lot from him by listening to his insights related to topics ranging from history to customer service.
I would characterize John’s knowledge as substantial as opposed to superficial. Conversations with John were deeper and more memorable than superficial discussions that are soon forgotten.
One evening John and I were discussing customer service and he asked me, “Steve, what are some of the names of meeting rooms at your hotel?”
I responded, “Odets, Wilder, Cantor, Jolson…”
John interrupted, “If I were a customer and asked you why the room was named ‘Odets,’ what would you say?”
I thought about it a moment and realized that I didn’t know the significance of the name. I admitted this to John saying, “You know, I just got so used to the name representing a meeting room that I didn’t really give it much thought.”
John was not one to lecture but he did make the point that it’s our responsibility to know the significance of proper names and to learn the histories and stories that reflect the cultures, neighborhoods, and buildings in which we work. This unique knowledge has character, is memorable, and may be the difference between a bland and ordinary transaction and a unique and memorable experience.
Here are a few examples:
Unique knowledge about the chef: “Our chef trained at the prestigious Restaurant School in Philadelphia and apprenticed at Le Bec Fin. She also traveled to France to refine her knowledge of French delicacies such as truffles, escargot, and foie gras. In fact, our Pâté de Foie Gras is our signature appetizer. May I tempt you with an order?”
Unique knowledge about the building: “There’s quite a bit a history in this hotel. In fact, in 1926 the famed magician Harry Houdini escaped from a sealed underwater coffin beneath this very roof when it was the Shelton Towers Hotel.”
Unique knowledge about the neighborhood: “Our restaurant is located in the Gaslamp Quarter which is named after the gas lamps that lined the streets in the early 1900s when the area was a red light district known as ‘Stingaree.’ The name was probably derived from the fierce stingray fish in the San Diego Bay. It was said that you could be stung as badly in the Stingaree as in the bay!”
Unique knowledge about proper names: “Your meeting is being held in the Odets meeting room on the fourth floor. The room is named after the playwright Clifford Odets who wrote the plays Waiting for Lefty and Awake and Sing. Several of our meeting rooms are named after other well-known playwrights. After all, you are in the Theatre District!”
While customers appreciate nice employees, they value knowledgeable employees. And the more unique knowledge they possess, the more value they can bring to the customer experience.
Have you shared or experienced unique knowledge recently?