June 14, 2023

Little Things…Big Impact

“Do what you can, with what you have, where you are”…Theodore Roosevelt. This quote ran through my mind with a recent hospitality experience. When I travel, I typically choose my hotel based on price, reviews, and location. I often end up in locally owned and boutique hotels because I’m naturally adventurous. I recently chose a hotel with decent reviews priced well for the area and not far from the airport. When I first pulled up to the hotel, I must admit that I started to panic. The hotel was not only in a terrible part of town but from the outside; it looked pretty rough. I considered spending the night in my car….which is a big deal since I am not typically a hotel snob. 

I decided to give it a chance and walked into the small lobby area to check in. I was pleasantly surprised by the sheer customer service and hospitality of the gentleman checking me in (who I believe was the business owner). He was friendly and welcoming, as well as funny. He made me feel very at ease and comfortable. After getting my key, I asked him if he knew of any running paths nearby. He told me he didn’t know (and told me where NOT to run) but would find out for me from someone else who works there and let me know. 

So, I took my key and went to my room to get settled. Once I got into the room, I was surprised again by the quality of the interior of the room. You would have never guessed by looking at the outside of this hotel or the location that the rooms were that nice! And then, a few minutes later, there was a knock at the door. The gentleman from the front desk was there and told me about some running paths. Sure…he could have just called up to the room, but instead, he came to the room to let me know where to run and told me to stay pleasant. The next day, I passed him in the courtyard, and he asked me how my visit was…. also about my run. The fact that he remembered made me feel like a special guest. Every interaction with him was pleasant. He always smiled and made eye contact. 

Family Entertainment Centers

So, what does this story do with YOUR entertainment center, you may ask? Of course, we are all in the hospitality and customer service industry. Our job is to serve people and to provide them with experiences. Now, like this small business owner, I know from personal experience that we don’t always have the money to buy all the latest attractions and games we would like or do all the upgrades needed. 

But don’t let that stop you from creating an experience that will WOW your guests and keep them returning for more. It doesn’t cost much money to make a considerable impact… as this business owner did. Often, we must do what we can with what we have. I’m sure he knew that the hotel looked terrible from the outside, and you could see that he was trying to upgrade what he could, but the experience came from his sheer hospitality and customer service. He overcame all my negative feelings with his exceptional customer service and interactions. That made more of an impact on my stay than anything else. So, what can you do to create a memorable experience on a shoestring budget?

Hire, Train, and Inspire

Staff! Hire, Train, and Inspire the right people. Unlike a small operation like this hotel, where the owner can be the face of the company and directly impact all the guests…most entertainment centers are not that way. Your team is representing you most of the time. Sometimes, finding good help can be difficult, but as a minimum, ensure the first and last staff interaction your guest has with your team is with your BEST team members. Make sure you aren’t hiding the good ones behind the scenes. They need to be interacting with your guests. Create a specific position for this….a Guest Ambassador. Their sole purpose is to “shake hands and kiss babies.”  Their job is to give high-fives, play with young guests, offer refills and comped games for guests, and make people feel special. With my location, these were the cream of the crop of the team. They had outgoing personalities that people wanted to be around and could make anyone smile. They were encouraged to join guests in laser tag or other attractions…but were clear that while they had fun and playing, their sole purpose was to “make the guest’s day.”  That’s why I say hire and train and inspire your staff. They must realize they are not just a ride operator but an experience creator. As often as you push the start and stop buttons on that ride…it becomes redundant, and you start losing your excitement and passion for the job. 

Next time you hire new employees…watch them perform these redundant tasks for the first few days. You will see their excitement in their new job and role. Often, they are gung-ho and smile while doing their job. Their positivity is contagious, and the guests can feel it. That feeling starts to wear off after pushing the same button. So, as a leader, it’s your job to inspire them to find that excitement… every day, for every shift. They need to realize that although it’s the 100th time that day that they started that ride or gave that safety briefing….for many of those guests, this is their first time, and they are excited.

I explained to my staff that it was much like the kiddie elephant ride. They have that same ride at the local fair as they do at Disneyland…but the experience is usually much different. At the local fair, you often get a grumpy, tired ride operator pushing the same button for too many hours in the sun. He will usually take your ticket and start the ride…nothing more. However, if you ride that same ride in Disneyland, you will often experience something opposite. The team member is smiling and in character. They ask you if you are excited to ride on Dumbo, and if you weren’t excited before, they make you feel that way with their demeanor and excitement. Same ride, a ….different experience. It doesn’t cost them any more money. They inspire and teach their employees that they are not a ride operator but someone who creates experiences and memories.

Teach your team to observe your customers. Have them sit and evaluate body language. Not everyone is the same and likes to be treated the same. The joke that one customer laughs at, another will be offended by. Younger employees often lack some people skills and how to read people…so take the time to teach them. 

Treat your customers as your friends. Make eye contact and smile. Greet the customer. When they ask for directions, escort them to where they need to go instead of pointing them to their destination. Use the customer’s name if you have it. If you don’t have their name, ask for it. Be sincere, work quickly, and don’t forget to thank them for their business. 

Little things can make a significant impact on the success and failure of a business. People react emotionally because of attention to minor details. If you can excel with the little things, you will be rewarded with positive reviews and return business.    

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Amber Lambert