There are two absolute essentials in this business. That is providing both true value and what I call paramount service, each and every customer every time, regardless of your concept or price point. It should be an operating philosophy, part of your mission statement and a point of pride for your entire team to treat each and every guest like they are your Most Important Guest. Unfortunately, this approach is not always the norm when I patronize restaurants or businesses of any type where I live or where I travel.
This past weekend, my older daughter had a ski race in Jackson Hole Wyoming, a five hour drive for us. We selected a hotel well in advance at the base of the slopes partly for the convenience, but mostly because of the heated outdoor pool which is a must for my kids. I enjoy this amenity as well, and its part of the magic of winter resorts.
Jackson, Wyoming is one of the world’s great ski destinations and as one would expect it attracts a sophisticated, well-traveled and well-heeled clientele. But really, the local population of regular hard-working people, families and ski bums are the backbone of the community, so it stands to reason that the value and service equation be ever-present in all businesses.
Over the weekend, our experiences differed greatly at a variety of businesses. Whether they were resort hotels, a hip modern motel, high end restaurants, Chinese take-out, the local bagel shop and a bowling alley; the lessons learned are the same. Regardless of the price of your menu or service provided, hospitality is either present or noticeable absent. Your operation’s reputation, online reviews and ultimate success are dependent on providing true value for price paid with paramount customer service. This is what brings customers back again and again, delivers five star reviews and has customers singing your restaurant’s praises. There is no more powerful and cost-effective marketing on the planet.
My ten year old daughter Madi has a pretty solid understanding of value and service having grown up the hospitality business. At a young age, this is her take on our experiences in Jackson:
“We checked in to our resort and our room was OK, but kind of old and dated. We decided to have lunch before going to the pool. Our server was a typical “order taker” with the pad and pen who oddly took my sister’s and my order and then ignored our dad and walked away. She came back a minute or so later with a lame apology about forgetting. Our food was good and reasonably priced, but service throughout the meal ordinary as if we were just another table. Forgetting my dad’s order was our last impression.”
“Next we went to the pool and noticed the towel rack was empty. There was no steam coming off the water, so my dad told us to test it first before jumping in. Good thing because the water was freezing and we would have jumped right out. We all went to the front desk and my dad asked why the pool was ice cold and if it would be fixed soon. The staff kind of shrugged their shoulders and a lady said I don’t know. The main reason we picked this resort was because of the pool and the online photos, so with that answer, we checked out right away.”
“I called the motel where my sister’s team was staying and asked two questions: Do you have a heated pool and a room for two nights. A very friendly guy told us they had a very large heated pool and to come on down. When we arrived, the same really cool man checked us in, gave us all the info, told us where to park conveniently and then said that if we needed anything to call him and he’d take care of it.”
“Sure enough the room was great and the beds were very comfortable. There was a giant chalkboard “word search” on the wall about Jackson Hole and Teton National Park. We immediately started circling words we found. That was so fun. Then we went to the pool and as the man said, it was awesome. At dinner time, we drove to one of my dad’s favorite Italian restaurants, but the parking lot was packed and we could see through the windows that there were no seats, so we kept driving. Several other places had one hour waits, but we found a place that would seat us at a counter where we could watch the pizza makers.”
My dad asked about a kid’s menu and the server said they did not have one, but they could make us pizzas or spaghetti with different sauces. We ordered spaghetti and meatballs. The food was fine, but my dad was shocked when he got the bill. They charged us $40 for two kids spaghetti and meatballs. They didn’t give us any fruit or carrots or anything else, just the spaghetti, so my dad had to speak to the manager.” He told the man, “I’ve been in this business for twenty five years, I’ve eaten all over the world and I’ve never seen a kid’s meal for $20, how can you justify that? The manager was pretty cool about it, thanked dad for telling him and gave us a discount on the bill.” Dad thought: “I get this is Jackson Hole, but how can this be the first time someone complained about this at a family resort?.”
“The next day, we went to a bagel shop close to our hotel that was really convenient. There was a line in front of us, but it moved fast and the ladies made our food right in front of us. They were so nice to us as if they knew us and the prices were reasonable. We went back the next day and they were just as nice all over again.”
“For dinner that night, I wanted Orange Chicken, so I googled it and called a Chinese place to see if they had that. My dad went over there to order the food and he said the owner was very rude and that there was only one customer there. It was Saturday night and he thought that was strange. After eating, I looked at their reviews and they were terrible and talked about the rude owner.” My dad said “Eureka”. While in Jackson we went to a bowling alley where we got great service. Gas stations, convenience stores and other shops were kind of mixed service and some of the prices very expensive. I’ll let dad finish his blog now.”
Regardless if your operation is in a high traffic tourist destination, business should be approached as if every customer matters and you want them to return.
I was quite impressed with my daughter’s view of hospitality both present and not, during our trip. Her takeaway and mine on the bottom line is this: Train your staff to put themselves in the customer’s shoes, treat everyone like they were your business’ best customer and ensure that your pricing offers value and respect for each customer’s business.
My daughter may be your next customer.