Make every link in the chain as strong as the next

 Customer service should be a priority for every staff member

A few nights ago, I was talking to a friend who works in the hospitality industry about the importance of customer service and its role in the ongoing success across so many market segments from hotels to retail business. It’s a topic we’ve talked about before but he threw a new angle into the equation and mentioned how the best laid plans can be derailed or reinforced by the attitude of the most unlikely and lowly staff member.

Hotels and resorts are in a constant and highly competitive fight to attract corporate meetings to their properties. Even a medium-sized business meeting translates into dozens of room nights and a healthy injection of cash into the food and beverage revenue stream. Of course the larger ones are more lucrative and senior management work hard to convince meeting planners that theirs is the right venue to host their event.

My friend explained to me that his property – an upscale resort in a beautiful waterfront setting – has just landed a huge shoulder-season booking that was being chased by a handful of competitors. “Securing this one has made up for some of the bad news we’ve had during the past few months complements of the economy,” he confided.

Of course, I’m pleased for him and his sales team but the reason I’m sharing the news with you is what clinched the deal.

Now you could be forgiven for thinking the item that tipped the balance in my friends favor was a discount or a sweetener like upgraded rooms or a special event thrown in at low-cost. Nope. No special deals at all. In fact my friend said that his resort’s proposal was probably not the lowest bid… so what was it that did the trick?

It turns out that the meeting planner snuck back into the resort after her meetings with the executive team to check things out from the customer’s point of view. My buddy says that’s not an unusual tactic… a sort of secret shopper routine. Apparently the meeting planner took a little walking tour on her own and finally settled unnoticed in one of the resort’s three restaurants to have supper.

The email she wrote to my friend the following day confirmed the meeting and contained a short explanation why she’s opted to go with his resort.

She mentioned the great location, the understated luxury and several of the pillars of his property’s brand… what he refers to as all the usual stuff… but she wrote she was most impressed with the level of service she received during her clandestine supper. She mentioned the manners of her server, her attitude and her attention to detail. And she mentioned the professional way ALL the wait staff seemed to deal with diners seated at surrounding tables. She wrote in bold letters that it made her feel welcome and comfortable… “as though I’ve been a regular special customer in your restaurant for many years,” was how she phrased it.

She went on the say that if the close to 200 delegates expected to attend the meeting she was arranging got the same level of service, she’d look like a hero.

Of course my buddy was very pleased, but not too surprised since the hotel management company he is part of is one of the best-known in the world and pays particular attention to training its associates. But when he shared the news with the restaurant manager, he was a little surprised to find out that the server who had managed to be a successful ambassador for the hotel and who had helped secure a few hundred thousand dollars worth of business, was a newbie! The night in question was her first day on the job!

The lesson that I took from this is a simple one, but one worth paying special attention to: Every member of our staff must buy completely into the store policy when it comes to dealing with customers.  And regardless of their job description, every member of staff should treat anyone who comes into your store or who walks onto your boat or steps into your classrooms, with respect. If fact it’s safest to assume that your next customer has the potential to spend thousands with you over the next few years… all you have to do is make them feel special.

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