The Importance of the Guest Experience

The guest experience is the new marketing norm for today’s consumer. In 2010, 36% of companies expected to compete mostly on customer experience but in 2016 89% of companies expect to compete mostly on the guest experience. In today’s modern world where social media feedback sites and online communities significantly influence customer spending, the experience you offer and how people write about that experience is more influential than any advertising you could spend.
In 2012 Beign Company research found that 80% of companies believe they deliver a superior guest experience. Do you have any idea what the percentage was when they surveyed their customers? Just 8%. While we think we deliver a great experience, our guests might think different. Whether we like it or not, how your guests think is critical to your brand and your reputation.
Look at it this way. How many of you have cell phones? OK, how many of you use your cell phones to get on the internet? Now the last question, is how many of you made purchasing decisions based on what you read on the internet?
Well I would submit to you that your guest and customers also do the same thing. As a business owner, I hate websites like Yelp, but as a business owner I pay very close attention to websites like Yelp. I might not like what I read about what the guest is saying, but I definitely make operational adjustments based on what I read.
In the end, it goes back to the fact that your people represent your brand and your culture. And culture is the behavior of your company and its people. It forms your reputation and your reputation is your brand.



Building High-Performance Teams

There are many groups of people who work at a company in the same department, on the same shifts, with the same people, and they function as a work group. As a leader and manager, you can take a work group and mold them into high performance teams.

There are four common elements in high performance teams.

The first is common purpose, common purpose is described as something larger than one’s own role within an organization. It’s more than just a business goal, it is what we want to be known as. Everyone on your team needs to understand the common purpose beyond the task they perform on a regular basis. This will give them a buy-in every shift, every day.

The second element of building high performance teams are goals. Every person on your team needs to know what their goals are and how they will be measured. They should be clearly defined, simple to understand, and measured through tools like mystery shops or associated performance reviews and regular scheduled coaching sessions to review goals and their progress towards those goals.
The third element of a high-performance team is complimentary team members. What this means is that members of your team each bring a different perspective, strength, ability, or mix of personality styles. This certainly can bring up many challenges. Many of you may be managers who inherit a current work group. Maybe you’re not that person who does the hiring for your department or maybe you don’t always have a choice in who you hire. While these challenges will always be present, your goal is to understand each person on your team, what are their strengths and areas for development, how can you best position those people that you have on your team and how you can become a person of influence in the selection of future team members.
The last element is mutual accountability. In mutual accountability, your goal is to create an atmosphere where each individual team member feels the role they play is important to the success of the entire business. Once individuals are vested in what they do, they become more accountable to each other as a group. The ultimate goal is to create an atmosphere where each individual feels their role is important to the overall success of the team.

All four of these elements are critical in building a high-performance team.

The Power of Visualization

The goal of visualization is to create images in your mind of what you want to be able to do and mentally practice them over and over again. This might sound crazy to you, but research has shown us that the technique of visualization is just as effective in creating an auto-pilot routine as actually performing the desired steps.

An Australian psychologist named Alan Richardson performed an experiment with a group of basketball players to demonstrate the power behind creating images that are rehearsed in the mind. He took a group of basketball players and tested them on their ability to make free throws. Once they were tested, he divided them into three groups. The first group would practice free throws every day for 20 minutes. The second group would only visualize themselves making free throws with no physical practice and the third group would not practice or visualize. The results were surprising. The group who only visualized improved their free throw shots by 23%. Only 1% less than the group that actually practiced. Isn’t that amazing? Visualizing yourself doing an action over and over again is almost the same as actually practicing it.

If you’re familiar with the actor Jim Carrey, would you be surprised to know that he credits visualization with helping him reach his career success? Jim Carrey was broke and trying to make it as an actor. He would drive to the top of Moholan Drive and visualize his success and steps he would need to do to achieve it. He actually wrote himself a check for 10 million dollars and dated it for Thanksgiving of 1995. On the bottom he wrote, for acting services rendered. He carried the check in his wallet and looked at it every day. Six months before Thanksgiving of 1995, he learned that he would be paid 10 million dollars for his work on Dumb and Dumber.

Visualization should not be confused with the “think it and it will be it” advise pedaled by popular self-help gurus. It is not a gimmick, nor does it involve dreaming or just hoping for a better future. Visualization is a proven method to help you achieve your goals.

The Cost of a Negative Guest Experience

The cost of a negative customer or guest service experience can be staggering to a business. According to an American Express survey in 2011,
  • 78% of customers who are involved in a transaction and have a negative service experience will stop the transaction and walk away without making a purchase,
  • 58% of guests who have a negative service experience will never make a purchase with that company again,
  • 65% of guests are likely to tell others about their negative experience according to a Harvard business review. We all know first hand the power of reputation and the word of mouth when it comes to making future purchases.
As we have all personally experienced the emotional effect of a negative service experience and its lasting influences on your perspective on how you feel about that company, if you will ever try to do business with that company again, and what you tell others about that company. When training my teams, I always make sure that they know that it’s never about if they make a mistake with a guest, but when they make a mistake with a guest and the most important thing is how they fix that mistake. Even though the guest is not always right, the guest must always be satisfied because if they walk out not satisfied, they will tell people about their experience.
Guest service is a perception and whether we like it or not, the only perception that matters is the guest’s perception. I like to train my organizations by the credo, “The noble oblige,” which means simply the guest isn’t always right, but the guest must be satisfied. Some of the companies that I do a lot of business with started out as a negative service experience, but the way that they fixed it and resolved my issues went above and beyond my expectations and I became a guest or client of theirs for life.

Time Stacking

I believe that hospitality and technology are a modern day oxymoron. There is truly nothing hospitable about modern day technology. Think about it, how often have you walked down a corridor or hallway and almost bumped into somebody that wasn’t paying attention because they were on their phone, or how many times have you been in a meeting where somebody’s not paying attention because they’re on

their phone or computer?

All the modern technologies that were invented were invented to make our lives simpler and more efficient and the byproduct was to give us more time. But actually the opposite has happened. All these technologies from the fax machine, the personal computer, emails, text messages, smart phones, tablets were all invented to make us more efficient, thereby giving us more spare time.
But now instead of being on a plane and watching the movie, we’re on our computers. Instead of being in our car on the drive home listening to music to soothe us, we’re on our cell phones.  Instead

of being fully engaged in a meeting, we are on our smart phones trying to multitask. What’s happening is we might be more efficient, but we are less engaged and less present. This is called time stacking, where we’re multitasking over and over again and piling tasks on top of each other.

Just think about the millennial generation and how efficient they are with technology. The byproduct though is that they sometimes lack social skills and being engaged in the present.
In my operations, I don’t allow my team or managers to be on their cell phones while they’re guest-forward.  My reasoning is simple. If you’re not engaging with the guests, you’re not able to assist them, and if you’re staring into your phone or your computer, you’re certainly not engaging with your guests.

There’s nothing wrong with modern technology, quite the opposite. It’s wonderful.  I use it all the time and don’t know where I’d be without it. The difference is that I understand when it’s important to actually engage people in face-to-face one-on-one conversation.

As a society, we have to be more self-aware and know when to turn off our electronics and actually be human beings to each other and appreciate the value of face to face communication.

Our Perception of the Job We Do

I always tell my team that perception is reality.  If a guest has a great experience or a bad experience, that is their perception, and that is their reality.  I also tell my team members that my perception of the job I do is the least important perception there is.  If I think I’m really good at my job, but my team doesn’t, I’m not that good. 

If I think I’m really good, but the guest doesn’t have a good experience in one of my establishments, I’m not that good.

So it is with my teammates, as well. Their perception of the job they do is the least important perception there is.  If they think they’re really good, but their team members don’t, they’re not.  If they think they’re really good, and the guest doesn’t have a

good experience, they’re not that good.  If they think they’re really good, and the business isn’t performing or making money, then they’re not that good.

Your perception of the job you do is the least important perception there is.  Everybody else’s perception of your work is more important. Think about that the next time you are facing one of your guests, and you pick up on body language such as a scowl or a shrug, or not paying attention to you.  You can tell pretty quickly that their perception of the job you do is not great.

The great thing about perception is that you can change it.  Make the guests feel warm, welcome, engaged.  As I’ve always said, the guest isn’t always right, but the guest must be satisfied and walk out happy.

Superlative Leadership

There is an old saying that a manager lights a fire under people, but a leader lights a fire in people.
I’ve learned a long time ago that there are three traits of a great leader.

The first is passion.  A great leader has passion for what they do. They have excitement every day they come to work, and that excitement is infectious with their team.

The next is hard work.  A great leader will always work as hard as their teammate, and never ask a team member to do anything that they wouldn’t do, themselves.

Lastly, expertise.  A great leader is a student of their craft, and certainly always understands the challenges that their team goes through.

Always remember that leaders are not rewarded for what they do.  They are rewarded for what their

people do.

The Only Thing Consistent in the World is Change


Change is inevitable yet we innately, as humans, hate and push back to it whenever possible. The reason we do this is because change typically takes us out of our comfort zone.
I learned this first hand when I was 19 years old and I was a fry cook at a restaurant called Chan’s Saloon and Eatery in Pensacola, FL.  I had been working at this restaurant as the fry cook and the restaurant was certainly a freezer to fryer type restaurant, where half the menu came right out of the freezer and went right into the fryer.  I had been working there for three months and thought I was pretty good at what I was doing.
About three months after I started the restaurant wasn’t doing well because they had hired a consultant to come in and evaluate the operation and give ideas on how to make the restaurant better.  After about a week being on site, the consultant started to make changes to the restaurant operation, including me.
He came to me and he said, Kelley, you work great at your station and I really appreciate what you’re doing but I want you keep your baskets into the fry oil.  After every order I would dump the baskets out of the items I was frying and then hang the baskets up on the hooks.  He gave me all kinds of reasons about why it was a better way to do it his way including that the baskets in the oil keeps the oil hot so you don’t drop cold basket into the oil.  We did a lot of batter fish frying, so you could swim the fish into the oil without it sticking to the baskets, and it’s more efficient to be able to dump things right into the oil versus the basket.
He gave this advice, and every time he walked

off the line I would hang the baskets back up. Every time he would walk on the line, he would drop the baskets back into the oil. He’d walk off the line and I’d hang the baskets back up. He’d walk on the line and he’d drop them back into the oil. This went back and forth for a couple of days until one day he pulls me aside and he says, “Kelley I really appreciate your job you do here but the next time I come into the kitchen and the baskets are hanging up, you no longer work here.”  Sometimes the stick is truly mightier than the carrot and I couldn’t lose my job so I started to do it his way.

To this day, every time I walk into one of my restaurants’ kitchens, instinctively the first thing I do is drop the fry baskets into the oil.  Why?  Because he was right, it was a better way to do it, it’s more efficient, and the only reason I challenged him was it took me out of my comfort zone, and was different from what I was used to.
Change is inevitable.  It is the only thing consistent in the world.  Change is fine.  It’s good to be out of your comfort zone.  If you change something and it doesn’t work, change it again, and if that doesn’t work, change it again, and if that doesn’t work, change it again.  I’m a big fan of one axiom, “If it ain’t broke, break it.”  How do you make it better all the time?  Continuous improvement can only come through change.


A Customers Lifetime Value

When I do training, I tell all of my audience that when you’re in the service industry and whenever you have a team member that is face forwarding a guest they have an unbelievable effect on that guest’s lifetime value.

If you think about it, any consumer that comes into a place of business, whether it’s a restaurant, bar, retail establishment, entertainment venue, or a concession, the team members working at that place of business have a huge impact on that guest experience.  In fact, they are the business to that guest. If the guest has a good experience, odds are that they might tell somebody and come back.  If the guest has a bad experience, they will definitely tell everybody and never come back.

To me, it is never about the immediate sale but the relationship my team develops with my guest. Mya Angelo said “I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did but people will never forget how you made them feel” I believe this is so very true in business and in life.

Is your staff aware of their impact on your guests’ or customers’ lifetime value and how important they are to the success of your business?