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First impressions in Finland

As you will know from an earlier blog post, I recently visited Helsinki on behalf of American Express, on a mission to find examples of great customer service. Thankfully, I didn’t have to wait long. I arrived at Helsinki Airport late at night, not having been to Finland before, and needed to get into the city centre. Having retrieved my luggage, I didn’t see any obvious signs pointing in the direction of a taxi rank; what I did see, however, was a trail of yellow stickered footprints on the airport floor advertising a taxi service, so I followed that route and found myself at the desk of AirportTaxi.fi. It very soon materialised that this was a shared taxi service and, in no time at all, a driver was kindly leading myself and two young ladies who were travelling together to an available taxi. Iikka's taxi It couldn’t have been simpler. I had literally just got my bag and already the driver, Iikka, was relieving me of my case and pushing back the passenger seat to ensure I had ample leg room. It was around midnight and I’d been travelling for more than 12 hours already, so a pleasure to find that, in no time at all, we were in the taxi on our way to the city centre. And what’s more, being a shared taxi, not only was this a little ‘greener’ but the fare was around 30% cheaper too. I chatted to Iikka on the way and explained that it was my first time in Finland and that some people on the flight had suggested I go to an ice hockey game. He was very welcoming and friendly, and kindly pointed out one of the hockey stadiums as we neared the city centre as well as one or two other key city landmarks. He also signalled towards the green laser beam of light emanating from the Olympic Stadium in Helsinki, a remnant from the celebrations when Helsinki was named World Design Capital for 2012. Green laser beam in Helsinki On my flight, I had heard that there was a strike taking place with Finnair that looked set to last for the weekend and possibly beyond.  Since my flight out on the Monday was with Finnair, this gave slight cause for concern, but Iikka was able to re-assure me that he’d heard on the news that the dispute had now been resolved, so I neededn’t worry. It was the girls’ stop first. Their hotel was on the other side of a wide street with traffic running in both directions, but they said they were happy just to be dropped off and cross the road on foot. It was clearly a safe neighbourhood but Iikka was having none of it and insisted on doing a manoeuvre that ensured they were dropped off at the doorstep of the hotel. American Express’ research into customer service found that 64% of people are just as likely to share a positive experience as a negative one, so  It’s gestures such as these that can go a long way. Minutes later, it was my stop. With a warm smile, Iikka got my case from the back, released the handle and wished me a pleasant stay. I offered him a tip but was surprised to find he wouldn’t accept. Maybe that was the wrong thing to do, I don’t know, but I was very happy with the service he’d provided after what had proved to be a long day. Iikka I don’t think you can under-estimate how much first impressions matter. When you arrive in a new country, I think it’s of huge importance that people who have ‘frontline’ jobs, where they are meeting visitors who have maybe just arrived, excel when it comes to customer service. Thank you, Iikka… you did just that. This trip was carried out in partnership with American Express, in a quest to find examples of great customer service.

Paul Johnson

Paul Johnson is Editor of A Luxury Travel Blog and has worked in the travel industry for more than 30 years. He is Winner of the Innovations in Travel ‘Best Travel Influencer’ Award from WIRED magazine. In addition to other awards, the blog has also been voted “one of the world’s best travel blogs” and “best for luxury” by The Daily Telegraph.

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  1. Taxi drivers in Finland are in general very trustworthy and responsible. For you it was maybe strange the taxi driver didn’t accept a tip, but tipping is not common in Finland, only in restaurants it’s somehow usual. There’s a service fee is in your bill and that’s enough. Prices may look higher but there’s no hidden costs like tips or taxes to add.

  2. I can only confirm your first impressions. People in Finland are very friendly and helpful. You will also find a very attractive landscape in the country side. Wishing you a pleasant stay!

  3. Hi, you mention “safe neighbourhood” in the article. Well, the whole city of Helsinki could be regarded as safe. There are of course some places better to be avoided when drunk, but the Finns have no problems with safety.

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