Saturday, March 19, 2011

What I learned standing in line at Voodoo Doughnut

Have you ever realllllly stood in line for something? I am not talking standing in line at the grocery store or the coffee shop…I’m talking about investing some serious time.

Recently I stood in line for over an hour for a doughnut. Not for tickets for Oprah’s final show or a chance to win something….it was to buy a doughnut. A Voodoo Maple/Bacon Doughnut to be precise. Are they the best doughnuts in the world? Maybe…maybe not. Were they worth standing in line for? Definitely.

While in Portland for the GMIC Sustainable Meetings Conference, Jenise Fryatt (one of the nicest, sweetest, talented human beings I know) and I decided to use our precious free time to check out the local hotspot known as Voodoo Doughnut. After taking a short, free MAX train ride (we were traveling within the free zone….yeah!), Jenise used her telephone navigational system to locate the bakery. As we approached, we could see that a line wrapped around the building and down the side street. “Is that it?” I asked….not sure why a doughnut shop would have a line up that long on a Sunday afternoon. We stationed ourselves at the end of the line not knowing exactly how long we would be in line and whether or not it was even going to be worth our while.

Life is like that. Sometimes we wait patiently for something, not really knowing how long it will take or if it will pay off. We just have a sense that it is worth waiting for.

We don’t know how long the line actually is because all we can see is how many are directly ahead of us before the line makes a sharp turn at the corner.

Sometimes in our lives, we have to move forward on blind faith alone, knowing that something better is around the corner.

In the end, it became less about the doughnut and more about the experience... a take on "life is about the journey, not the destination". We laughed, we shared and we made friends with those around us. We even got rained on a little bit. We had no idea what awaited us, yet we bonded over the unknown – the elusive Voodoo Doughnut.


Sunday, March 13, 2011

Oh Holiday Inn Express Grande make me laugh!

Lately it seems that I have been sharing alot of beefs and bouquets with regards to customer service. I think that the "bouquet's" are winning and I have another to share with you today.

My husband and I planned a getaway with another couple to Grande Prairie. We chose to stay at the Holiday Inn Express because a) we had stayed there before and b) I form habits easily.

I called the hotel and made reservations, letting the clerk know that we would be arriving sometime early evening.

It was a hectic day, and we didn't arrive at the hotel til about 6:30. Checking in was simple (as usual) and the clerk provided me with my complimentary WiFi password (love free Wifi).

Opening our hotel room door, I quickly spot a bag of chips sitting on the credenza. Beside it was a personalized letter to me, thanking me for choosing to stay once again at the Holiday Inn and then proceeded to tell me a cute joke. The personalized letter (signed by a real human being), the cute little joke and the bag of chips made me smile.

Quickly, I tweeted my twitter buddy @9InchMarketing and gave him the 911 on the "extra special" touch that the Holiday Inn Express added for me. He agreed, this was definitely an example of "lagniappe" and it would be listed as #740 in his Purple Goldfish Project. Yeah!

Now....if you want to know what "lagniappe" means and perhaps read a little more about their Purple Goldfish Project you can check it out here. the gal at the Holiday Inn Express Grande Prairie who left me the personalized letter WITH a cute joke AND a made me smile! Thank you

In case you are is the cute joke:

A nurse at a hospital received a call from an anxious patient. "I'm a diabetic and I'm afraid I've had too much sugar today", the caller said.

"Are you light-headed?" the nurse asked.

"No," the caller answered, "I'm a brunette".


Monday, March 7, 2011

Sprinkles of Sunshine

A very, very long time ago I participated in a webinar where the facilitator/moderator told us to “sprinkle sunshine throughout the events we plan”. I am not a “sunshine sprinkling” kind of gal and I began to wonder, at what point would she attempt a virtual “group hug”. It is not that I am not a happy person. In fact, a couple of years ago I announced to the world that my New Year’s resolution was going to be that I was going to become a “beacon of light”. My friends even mounted a high-powered flashlight onto a hardhat, which was bedazzled with the words “Beacon of Light” to assist me with my resolution. With one click, I could illuminate the world around me!

What I am saying, is that I am not above sprinkling sunshine or being a beacon of light….it’s just that I was strangely uncomfortable with her terminology. I was squirming in my seat by her “new age” language…heck I thought this was a professional webinar.

Squirming aside, I understood what she was trying to say. Remembering to “sprinkle sunshine” equates to giving that little bit extra. Sunshine sprinkling is anticipating the needs of your guests and going one step beyond that.

For example, having a staffed coat check at your event is a nice touch and is appreciated by your guests. How can we go one step further? Have a lint roller brush handy to give the jacket a once over before hanging it up. You may even check the buttons on the jacket to see if they are affixed securely. A loose button could be attended to in moments, and your guest would feel like royalty.

Here are some other examples where you can sprinkle some sunshine. Washrooms are often overlooked during events. You don’t hear a word about them until someone says to you, “Hey, the ladies washroom is out of paper towel”. By having a washroom attendant during the busiest hours (during coffee breaks and after sessions) you can ensure that your guests are using a tidy, well stocked powder room. I recommend having some fresh flowers on the vanity along with a basket or tray of items, like stain remover packets, or Bandaids, etc. Provide a pump mouthwash that has been diluted slightly with water, which is another bit of “sunshine”

Providing a shuttle service is a great perk during conferences and events. It helps to minimize the carbon footprint, and the shuttles can be scheduled to arrive and depart at the hotels and the conference site. You can kick it up one more notch, by providing a “Speedy Car” and a driver on site at the conference. The “Speedy Car” is an economical compact car available for attendee’s who need to quickly rush back to their hotel for a missing item. Providing this unexpected extra will certainly be appreciated and remembered.

My last “sunshine sprinkling” idea has to do with those out of town guests who are staying at a local hotel where the conference has arranged a room block. Leave a welcoming message on their room phone saying something like, “Welcome to the XYZ Conference. We look forward to seeing you at the reception this evening, which begins at 8:00 p.m. in the Civic Center Round Room. A shuttle schedule can be found at the hotel front desk”. Immediately, they feel special and welcomed. You have also reminded them of the reception and advised them of the shuttle service. (This idea came via Ignite Magazine). You have set the tone for the attendee and you haven’t even met them! Bravo!

Whatever you call it, whether it be “sprinkling sunshine” or just going that extra mile, it is really important for you to anticipate your attendee’s needs and then go that one extra step. You will win a customer/client/friend/member for life and they certainly will leave with a pleasant memory of your community and organization.


Tuesday, March 1, 2011

The Power of '10'

Generally, we arrive at our destinations tired, a little out of sorts, looking forward to getting into that hotel room, catching our breath and relaxing. I am no exception. Last week when I arrived in Portland for the GMIC Sustainable Meetings Conference all I wanted to do was get into my room, take my shoes off and kick back for a while. Traveling can be stressful!

Arriving at the airport in Portland, I was a little confused at which MAX line ticket I required. A very nice guy assisted me with my purchase and then said, “I am driving the train you are on today Miss…I will make sure you get on the right one”. I began to relax.

Hopping on the train, I grab a seat and look at the map on the wall. Of course, the MAX driver is unable to assist me now (he has to drive the train), but the gal sitting next to me pointed out which stop was mine. Knowing this, I now can enjoy the ride. I relaxed a little more.

Disembarking at my stop, I am momentarily disoriented. I swing around 360 degrees trying to determine the proximity of the hotel to my location. I look up, and see the Doubletree logo illuminated….I am less than a city block away. My posture immediately softens, I laugh at myself a little (such a worry-wart I am), and I begin to make my way to my conference hotel.

Whoosh! The doors to the Doubletree Hotel Portland open and I immediately spy the registration desk. I am greeted by not one, but three employees as I make my way to the registration desk. “Welcome”, and “Hello”, they say to me and one offers to assist me with my luggage.

Three minutes later, and after the registration clerk properly pronounced my last name (“I am Polish as well” she explains), I am provided directions to my room, handed a warm cookie and sent on my way. Anxiety free……totally relaxed.

What is wrong with this picture? Absolutely nothing. For the first time, I am arriving at my destination having experienced a trouble free, anxiety free, travel and check in process.

You would think that this story ends here….but of course, it doesn’t. I had begun to notice that the employees at the Doubletree Hotel Portland all wore pins on their uniforms. These pins, while some in different colours, all said the same thing. They simply said, ‘10’.

Approaching Steve Faulstick, AGM Doubletree Portland, I said, “I love your ‘10’ pin! How can I get one?” Smiling, he immediately removed it from his lapel and replied, “take mine”. Now…although I am not one of those people who bedazzle themselves with pins (my husband will disagree, I kinda do), I was actually curious as to the purpose of the pin. I had a good idea that it had something to do with customer service (see the pic of Steve’s pin), but I wanted to know the story around it.

Here is what he told me:

What is the significance of the pin?: It is our pledge to delivering a ‘10’ experience for our guests.

They certainly delivered on that pledge! Warm cookies and proper pronunciation of my name at check in set the tone for service. I know it sounds simple, but my name gets butchered so often that it is a pleasant surprise when said correctly.

Does everyone wear the pin? It is part of the uniform. We are consistent throughout and everyone wears them, although different colours are available.

I did notice that some wore black pins, others wore hot pink. Steve’s pin was a little different (see pic)

When did the pin program begin? About 8 years ago with Doubletree

What kind of results have you seen since the program began? It has provided three great things for us: 1) A ‘badge’ of personal commitment by our team members. 2) A ‘sign’ of our commitment for our guests to see. 3) A great ‘engagement’ tool. Customers ask all of us daily what it is for, and gives us a good chance to ensure their experience has been a 10, and if not, we can turn things around for them!

You notice that Steve used the words “team members” – they are not employees, they are part of a team. The pins are a constant reminder to the team members of their commitment to providing a great experience.

Is the pin specific to this hotel or part of a corporate program? It’s available to all Doubletree Hotels.

Steve also thanked me for my interest and repeated that he “hoped my experience at the hotel is a ‘10’ so far!” which didn’t surprise me. Steve’s commitment to excellent customer service, and experience is evident in the way that he personally responds to online concerns regarding the hotel. For example: Steve reviews the TripAdvisor comments for the hotel, and personally responds to individual concerns. Amazing! Who wouldn’t want to stay at a hotel like this where your concerns are taken so seriously?

Thank you Steve Faulstick and the great Doubletree Portland staff who made my stay so comfortable. Thank you to the MAX driver who eased my anxiety and assisted me with the train. Thank you Portland…you are a ‘10’!