Wednesday, October 13, 2010

First Impressions - The Sequel

I only just recently wrote on the importance of first impressions, and in that case my focus was on the silent or unspoken first impression that your building makes in contributing to the initial arrival experience.

I stand by my comments and the importance of your building, landscaping etc., being well maintained and consistent with your brand image.

But let’s move on, and assume that you have an impeccable building exterior, driveway, etc., that sends the right message about your commitment to providing exceptional experiences.

Your guest pulls up in his or her car, or by cab, to the front of your Hotel.  Now what happens?

It’s the moment of truth.

I always liked that expression. 

When I was a Front Office Manager, at Fairmont Hotels and Resorts, many years ago now, the (then) Executive Assistant Manager that I reported to first introduced me to that expression and the concept that every time that we come in contact with a guest, or potential guest, it is a moment of truth, a defining moment.

It’s one of those moments that I still remember today, because it had an immediate and profound impact on me – I “got it” the minute he said it, and I have tried to pass on that concept to employees at all levels ever since.

It’s why it is in fact so important that the person that your guests first come in contact with has the right “attitude” towards this guest, and every guest, no matter what the circumstances, no matter what kind of day it’s been.  

If that Bellman, Doorman, or perhaps Valet does not spring forth with an exuberance that sets the Hotel apart, find someone that will.

Yes, it’s that simple to me, I feel that strongly about it.

I have been to Hotels where I pulled up in a cab, and marveled as I struggled to get my bags out of the cab, (thanks to an equally less than helpful cab driver), to see Bellmen or Doormen watching me, clearly aware that I was struggling with an awkward load, and what did they do to help me?

Nothing, nothing, not until I either waved them over, or, as I now approached the actual doors to the Hotel and I was forced to walk by them to get access to the Hotel, they felt that I was now close enough to warrant their efforts to throw my bags on their now within reach bell cart.

What was I left thinking?

I was left to think that this was one of “those” Hotels where the staff, and perhaps the management, had grown to think that they were better than the guests.  A Hotel where the guests should feel fortunate that these well-seasoned employees that deemed them worthy to be served by them.

You all know a Hotel like this.  Where the environment is so arrogant you can sense it immediately upon arrival, and certainly upon first contact, and most every service contact that follows.

And if you’re like me, and you have found yourself unwillingly or unexpectedly in this Twilight Zone episode of service, you make it a point never to go back, and to warn of everyone else that you possibly can.

Alternatively, there are those gems, those ambassadors of service, that we all want to steal away for ourselves when we encounter them.

Patrick, the Doorman at the Fairmont Pacific Rim Hotel in Vancouver, BC is just such a gem.

I had the pleasure of working with Patrick when he was at the Vancouver Marriott Pinnacle Hotel, and when it was previously a Delta Hotel before that, but as often happens, we could not hang on to him forever.

He was at the Marriott/Delta property for many years and guest after guest after guest would comment on what an amazing, warm, charming, personable man this was, and how he remembered them and made them feel welcome, and how he was the reason that they consistently returned. 

And now, the Fairmont will benefit from his natural abilities, his warmth, his genuine caring, or more accurately, any and every guest that gets anywhere near the entrance to the Fairmont Pacific Rim Hotel will benefit from their experience of meeting Patrick.

If you go to the Fairmont Pacific Rim, you won’t need to look for Patrick, he will find you, and you will immediately know that it is him.

Make sure that you have your own gem, like Patrick, in position to make the right first impression to your guests when they arrive.

You know what they say; “you only get one chance to make a first impression.” 

Need an experienced hospitality professional to help your property reach its full potential?  Contact me.

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  1. A few weeks ago I was in my really casual clothes and walked into a downtown hotel after a long day of travel. "Can you with something?" the front desk attendant asked. She was shocked that scum like me could be checking into their hotel!

    I've experienced the opposite too, and I like your line, "you won’t need to look for Patrick, he will find you." Those are the frontline stars that make guests feel like stars themselves.

  2. I remember Patrick from my time staying at the Delta Pinnacle in 2000-2003. He was wonderful. I never write letters to hotel managers but when I moved back to Vancouver in 2003, I wrote to the GM to say how pleased I was with my time at the Pinnacle and how important Patrick was in that experience.