Editorial: Reinvent Your Guest Experience: Are You IN… or OUT?

Jim Mathis 2009By: Jim Mathis, IPCS, CSP, MDiv
J&L Mathis Group, Inc.
www.jimmathis.com

Someone will always find a way to do what you do for less expense.
But people will pay more for an exceptional experience with you.
-Clark Howard

Be Our Guest
We purchased a house earlier this year as the culmination of a year long move to a new state and new lifestyle. At the closing our Realtor gave us a gift. She didn’t have to do this. She had already made a commission on the purchase, but she knew we had used her before and probably would in the future.

After all, we live in a very mobile society that is characterized by change. The package included a personalized throw for our sofa that reads, “Home is where your story begins. The Mathis Family.” It is great looking and matches our furniture perfectly. Why doesn’t everyone give this type of service regularly?

Has exceptional service just about vanished from your organization? Is there no class in delivering products and service? You would think with unemployment still rampant in many cities, someone would have taught how to serve others with excellence to keep both business strong and to keep their jobs.

It’s been this way before most of today’s workers were born. But it is getting increasingly hard to train good help and keep employees in place very long. The people who frequent your business can probably tell you a lot about this already.

Orlando, Florida is a guest oriented town. Most people come here for the theme parks (Disney World, Universal Studios, Sea World, etc.). Guest service is a hallmark in every restaurant, shop and attraction at these places. If you are unemployed, it isn’t because the company didn’t need quality people serving their market.

One of our sons is employed in guest relations for the Disney Corporation. Another son works in guest services at a family recreation center. Both have come home with stories about co-workers who brag that they just want to make money and don’t care about the company image (These people never last long with either organization).

Disney has delivered famous service for over 60 years. Don’t believe it? Visit a resort, restaurant or theme park and see how well you are treated by the employees (known as Cast Members). The family entertainment center is known locally for great service and a clean facility. Both businesses are full of guests every day.

“Someone will always find a less expensive way of doing what you do. But people will pay more for an exceptional experience with you.”

Here are some of the lessons I’ve learned from the two young men as they are involved in a reinvented service industry. How do you feel about these changes?

1. “Customer” is OUT; “Guest” is IN. Disney is famous for their guest experience. The song, “Be Our Guest,” has become their mantra. Think about it. How do you treat a guest in your home? Are they treated better than someone just coming in and leaving?

Everyone loves exceptional treatment.

Anything you can do for them that increases your value is rewarded with more frequent visits. Want to see what I mean? Go to the Guest Service Lounge at a BMW, Lexus or Mercedes dealership and spend an hour just taking in the atmosphere. Then go to a Ford or Chevrolet dealership showroom and tell me if you see a difference. One group treats their frequent guests better than the others.

2. “Unfortunately” is OUT; “At this time,” is in. People don’t like hearing bad news. They particularly don’t like it when they are expecting the best service your company can give. I have never talked to anyone who says, “unfortunately,” and enjoys the same phrase being shot at in their direction when they are being
disappointed by another’s lack of service. Next time you can’t do something for your guest, try saying, “At this time, we can’t….” It comes across much better than saying, “Unfortunately, you don’t…” It also sounds like at sometime in the future, you might be rewarded with a better situation. But, not quite yet…

3. “You guys,” is OUT; “Sir,” or “Ma’am,” is back IN. It is a common practice to hire young people. They communicate to one another in a unique way. It works for their friends, but not for your guests. Calling your guests (particularly the women), “you guys,” isn’t exceptional service. They deserve respect and complimentary responses. They don’t like being called out like they are the
crowd you hang out with after work. They want to be treated special and that their patronage and money is important to you.

4. “Have a good one,” is OUT; “Thank you for your business,” is IN. I have noticed that in place of the 1970’s expression, “Have a nice day,” people now say, “Have a good one.”

Casual service almost never results in repeat business.

Formalities may have disappeared in many sectors of society, but great service demands courtesy and clarity. When you tell a guest as they are completing the purchase or service call to, “Have a good one,” it takes your service down several notches. It is ordinary, rather than being exceptional.

What kind of impression do you want to leave people with? Is that what you want someone to hear as they are leaving your business or walking out the door? Is “have a good one,” that last statement you want people to remember about you?

5. “I know where you’re coming from,” is OUT; “Let me try to understand,” is IN. I was calling about a concern with my cellular phone service. I called the company to get it straightened out while in an airport lounge. The call lasted a very long time. It seemed the lady on the other end of the line kept interrupting me by saying, “I know where you are coming from.” She really had no idea, but never let me explain the situation.

First, I was in an airport and almost was compelled to ask her if she knew my flight itinerary and that is how she “knew where I was coming from.” Second, the reason the call was taking so long? She was busy giving me a casual scripted response before I could explain the problem. However, someone had taught her to say that she knew where I was coming from instead of repeating back my concerns in an understanding manner or reassuring me by saying, “Let me try to understand.” Sadly, she was impatient and not exceptional.

And me, her guest on the line… I blame the whole company for training this person and then putting her on the phone with their account holders.

6. “No problem!” is OUT; “Yes,” “No” or “I will have that right away,” is IN. Why do so many guest service people trivialize your concern by saying, “No problem.”  Are they bragging that they can handle the situation and you don’t need to worry? You and I expect handling the difficulties we are experiencing with your service or product to be handled by you accurately the first time.

For instance, if we ask the maître de for a table to seat six for dinner, it shouldn’t be a problem to do the job you are being paid by the restaurant to do. But do we really need to be told it isn’t a problem? We need to be told, “We’ll have that for you right away, or as soon as we can.”

So don’t tell us it isn’t a problem; because it is. It is our problem as your guest who needs their service in an accurate, courteous and timely manner… done right the first time.

Your business can’t afford to offer casual, slack service. If you want to attract eager, frequent guests, they need to experience the best from you every time. Each guest should be treated like they are the most important person to ever call you on the phone or come
in you door. People like being treated special. You know this because you do as well. They remember poor experiences… and they remember excellence. Is your business a “casualty” of casual service? Or is it an example of excellence in an ordinary atmosphere that goes beyond expectations?

Change Your Service; Change Your Results
Jim Mathis, IPCS, CSP, MDiv. is The Reinvention PRO™, an International Platform Certified Speaker, Certified Speaking Professional and best-selling author of Reinvention Made Easy: Change Your Strategy, Change Your Results. To subscribe to his free professional development newsletter, please send an email to: subscribe@jimmathis.com with the word SUBSCRIBE in the subject. An electronic copy will be sent out to you every month. For more information on how Jim and his programs can benefit your organization or group, please call 888-688-0220, or visit his web site: www.jimmathis.com.

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