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by Sam Parker

My family and I went to Puerto Rico for a quick vacation. When we landed, we hopped the Hertz shuttle bus to get our rental car. For one of the first times I can remember, the bus driver seemed warm and ready to serve ... enthusiastic about our upcoming visit on his island. He helped with our 8 bags, asked questions about what we were hoping to see and do, and shared his ideas on how we might best enjoy a few things.

I tipped him ... something I almost never do with shuttle bus drivers because they rarely seem happy to do their job.

Do you seem happy to the people you serve? How much more would you earn if you did?

When we got to our resort, our rooms weren't ready (family of 5 when you have one in college – a quasi-adult – requires two rooms). We'd been traveling about 10 hours. It was 4 p.m. The rooms were supposed to be ready.

In the hotel and resort industry, your one thing is to provide a place for someone to live while he's in your city or town. Depending upon how much one spends, the experience tends to differ (better or lesser facilities and amenities, better or lesser location, better or lesser service).

What's your one thing? How do you respond when you miss the mark?

As an apology, we were given a discount card to use at the resort whenever we chose to eat or drink in one of their restaurants or bars. We were also offered a place to change if we wanted to get into bathing suits and enjoy the pool or beach. We opted to walk around and hope for a room relatively quickly.

After a little over an hour, I decided to go back to the front desk area and ask if there might be two other rooms available. Fortunately, there were and we took them.

Why did I have to ask? What could they have done to make sure I was happy despite the delay? A better room? Sought me out with the solution? So many opportunities to improve! How fun that could be!

Once we dropped our bags, we decided to get some appetizers and drinks at the beachside bar (we get to use our discount card!).

Unfortunately, service was excessively slow and the food and drinks screamed of mediocrity. Not the greatest arrival experience for the resort at this point and in hospitality, this is everything ... the arrival experience ... it sets the tone. Good thing our shuttle bus driver set the tone for the island or we'd likely be getting a little concerned about our next few days.

What's the arrival experience you and your team create for the people you serve? Remember, an arrival experience can be any first contact with a potential customer. It can be what your potential customer experiences when he comes into the hotel. It might even be your website that your potential customer sees first. What should it be? What do you want it to be? What will you do about it?

So where's the lesson, Sam?

On our final night, I was walking along the beach with the kids taking pictures (my lady was having a Pina Colada somewhere with someone who liked Pina Coladas too ... I'm kidding (remember the Pina Colada song?) ... she was back at the room handling something).

I asked the kids if they'd like to eat at the resort for our last night (we'd been going to the Luquillo Kiosks every other night ... don't let the word kiosks fool you on quality ... it's where the locals go, it's real, it's good, it's lively, and it's reasonable ... certainly less expensive than resort food but not necessarily cheap).

That's when my daughter referenced our first night at the resort...

"Why should we trust them with our dinner when they couldn't get a snack right?"

Dinner's a big deal for us. That's where we spend our money. And the Luquillo Kiosks got most of it on our trip. And with a family of five that's not a small amount.

It had me asking myself about those small interactions where I fail with those I serve and the message I send.

Where am I missing on a small opportunity that makes those I serve feel I can't be trusted with a bigger opportunity?

We are not here to fill or kill time. We're here to make good things happen for other people.

Here's an idea to get value from the story above ... call a meeting to discuss the questions above with your team. Make sure you're creating the best experience you can for those you serve. And be sure to do that for those in your meeting (creating the best experience). If you want to create something special, you've got to connect more often ... it's how we learn, how we encourage, and how we inspire.

If you have people on your team who you don't think would find the meeting valuable, ask yourself why.

2 additional thoughts...

1. With my speaking, I stay in quite a few hotels and resorts during the year and unfortunately, very few have me calling my wife saying, "Oh my. You should have come with me on this trip." (Some that have ... Inn at Palmetto Bluff, Bluffton, SC ... Hotel Drisco, San Francisco, CA ... The Pfister, Milwaukee, WI ... JW Marriott, Chicago, IL ... Montage, Laguna Beach, CA.)

When people stay at your hotel/resort, who do they tell about it? What do they say?

2. Overall, the resort in the story above was fine. Certainly pretty with nice rooms (we were fortunate to have the opportunity), but the team there really could do so much more to make the experience even better.

How much more could we enjoy if all of us viewed the things we need to do as an opportunity to shine?

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