Flash Kegan: The Valet with Wheels

While taking some deserved vacation time on the Pacific Coast, one of my many fine colleagues at Mindshare Technologies, CTO Kurt Williams, enjoyed a front-row seat for some red shoes service—and he’s given me the rights to the story! Read below for his worthwhile account.

Standing out. We tell ourselves it’s ethereal and elusive. We think being extraordinary is, well, extraordinarily difficult. But every so often you see someone who finds a way to work it in. Someone who reminds us that the margin between being common and uncommon can be very small.

While vacationing in San Diego last week, I saw, and then briefly met, such a person. His name is Kegan, and he’s a valet at the elegant L’Auberge Del Mar Resort and Spa.

The 120-room L’Auberge Del Mar has a rich and storied history that includes the glamour of the early Hollywood era. The hotel is decorated with classic photographs of Hollywood legends who used to visit the area, including Bing Crosby, Jimmy Durante, and Lucille Ball. It was recently renovated, and every inch of the Hotel’s design is crisp and classic. It boasts award-winning restaurants, an eco-friendly spa, and patio dining with an incredible ocean view. (The sunset vista from the adjacent Bleu Bar is truly magnificent.)

Naturally, the service at L’Auberge is top-notch. It’s everything a visitor would expect from a resort that is consistently ranked among Southern California’s finest hotels.

This is not an easy place to stand out. And yet, one employee managed.

THE 100-METER VALET DASH As my (altogether too brief) three-day stay at L’Auberge came to a close, my wife checked us out of our room, and I (don’t judge) waited in the car outside. I hadn’t planned on turning valet service into a spectator sport until the attendant zoomed past my car running as fast as he could go. I’m talking a full-out “track star” sprint. He came back with the guest’s car, and a few minutes later another guest showed up, and he took off again, feet flying, just as fast as before. This was repeated a third time with the same incredible speed.

I noticed that some of the cars were parked close by, but others were located quite a distance away, up a decent-sized hill. When my wife came back to the car, I pointed out what was going on.

“Watch this!” I told her, and the 100-meter valet dash was repeated.

Impressed, I got out and asked the fellow his name.

“Kegan,” he said. I told him how impressive his valet speed was and asked if I could share his brand of customer service on the blog of my associate, Lonnie Mayne. I also went inside the hotel and asked the manager about the resort’s valet training. She told me that the hotel trains all employees to deliver excellent service and that the valets are trained to return cars quickly. I then asked about the sprinting thing.

“That’s just Kegan,” she said. When I called back later to get more information, I asked again about the training, and the same thing was repeated: Valets are trained to be fast, but sprinting was Kegan’s thing.

THE IMPACT OF THE EXPERIENCE Think about it for a minute. When was the last time valet service was memorable? I don’t valet park very often myself, so each experience is somewhat singular, but I honestly can’t remember a time when valet service was remarkable. By adding a bit of extra speed, Kegan makes that part of the L’Auberge experience memorable. And consider this fact: Valet service is likely the last experience many of L’Auberge’s top guests have with the hotel. How much did Kegan add to L’Auberge’s brand that day as he sprinted for cars?

Truly exceptional service. Sometimes standing out is not about being exceptionally creative, working exceptionally long hours, or adding exceptionally expensive flourishes. Sometimes it just requires sprinting a little faster than the other guy. Ask an Olympic gold medalist sometime about the difference between first and second place.

Something’s going very right with the customer service training at L’Auberge. Not only are they teaching their employees the value of excellent customer service, but somehow they’re providing the autonomy required for employees like Kegan to take the next step into the realm of the exceptional. They’re hiring the right employees and helping them find innovative ways to stand out. That’s when magic happens in the minds and memories of customers.

The staff at L’Auberge is remarkable, but most notably the world-class valet service provided by Kegan as he sprints for cars. He truly stands out like he’s got a pair of red shoes on. I’ve decided to send Kegan a pair of red running shoes so his feet can stand out as he sprints for that next car.

What are you doing to help your employees stand out like they’re wearing red shoes?

~Kurt Williams