I’ve just returned from the most incredible trip to Iceland. My husband and I spent the week visiting some wondrous sights and meeting amazing people. Some of our experiences were quite different to the UK - in a good way. I think we can all learn a lot from Icelandic culture, both as individuals and in business.
Our holiday started at Keflavik airport where we collected our rental car. The office was busy and we had to wait a good 20 minutes for our turn at the front desk. The adviser gave me a short form to fill in whilst he popped outside. He was speechless when I passed the completed form back to him. For a moment I thought I’d made a mistake and given him the wrong information, until he smiled and told me I had the neatest handwriting he’d seen in all his years working there. A little bit embarrassed, I thanked him and quickly changed the subject to ask him to put both myself and my husband on the insurance. He explained that usually they charge a fee of £21.00 per day for the additional driver, but as my handwriting was so neat, he gave it to us for free!
What a brilliant start to our holiday, and an exceptional memorable customer experience. It pays to flex your communications or service to meet your customers’ needs - one size doesn’t fit all.
Make it easy
All Icelanders speak impeccable English, albeit with a strong American accent. Our tour guide told us this came from watching countless episodes of Friends as a teenager. Most restaurant and cafe menus are written in English and staff are only too willing to answer your questions. Making it easy to communicate with your business makes customers come back for more.
Use your common sense
The roads in Iceland were a lot of fun to drive. Mostly single lane, straight tracks that go on for hundreds of kilometres, often without any signs of life or other vehicles in sight. If I caught sight of a car in my rearview mirror, it was a bit of a shock, like seeing the bad guy come out of nowhere in a movie! Then you reach a mountain. In our UK ‘health and safety gone mad’ culture such steep inclines and descents trigger crash barriers, flashing lights, and hundreds of warning signs. In Iceland they’re virtually non-existent. They assume the driver has a certain level of knowledge, that they understand it’s a mountain and you’ve got to reduce speed and take care. It was a refreshing change to the signs and information we're bombarded with at home.
Use your common sense, don’t overload your customers with information. Let them make their own decisions, and when they ask you for information, be helpful, clear and concise in your answer.
I came across this sign in the visitor’s centre in Geysir, near the
incredible geysers that explode every few minutes. All that water
made me need to spend a penny! There’s a reason for the sign, which I don’t fully understand but I received the message loud and clear!
If you have a lot of complex information to share, use an infographic. Yes, the sign was slightly amusing, but it was memorable enough for me to take a picture of it and I will recall the message forever.
Icelanders are fiercely proud of their heritage and aren’t afraid to shout about it. On our walking tour of Reykjavik our guide, Disa talked at length about the 2008 financial crisis and the volcano eruption that curtailed so many flights two years later. Rather than apologise for the negative impact both events had on world tourism and the economy, she was honest and proud about how they had put Iceland on the map. This year Iceland expects to host a record 2 million tourists.
So take a note from Disa’s book and be proud and shout about who you are, what you’ve achieved and how your business can help!