The only Black Friday deal that will improve guest service

This BLACK FRIDAY special benefits YOU, your EMPLOYEES and your GUESTS!

BF2015 2

Amusement Advantage provides:
  • Guest Experience SOP review
  • Onsite Mystery Shopping Evaluations
Performance Optimist Consulting provides:
  • Onsite Supervisor Training
  • Strategies to engage leaders and drive guest loyalty

For more details, visit http://www.amusementadvantage.com/blackfriday

To secure your spot NOW, contact:

Josh Liebman
Director of Business Development
Amusement Advantage
305-632-4443

 

Performance Optimist Consulting and Amusement Advantage are strategic
business partners who combine forces to help attractions around the world
engage their employees, amaze their guests and improve business processes.

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3 Questions with Josh Liebman

Here it is… episode #2 of 3 Questions! My guest for this episode is Josh Liebman, Director of Business Development for Amusement Advantage.

In this episode we talked about careers (both chosen and not), fried cheese on a stick, and the importance of networking (and how to do it right)!

If you have more questions for Josh, he can be reached at josh@amusementadvantage.com or 407-442-3110.

Thanks for watching!

Matt

If you would like to be a guest on 3 Questions, or if you know of someone you would like to see on the show, email me here!

 

 

 

 

Challenge – the breakfast of champions for Millennials

I’m so excited! The IAAPA Attractions Expo will be upon us in a few short weeks and it’s shaping up to (again) be the most wonderful time of the year!

This year, one of the educational programs I am working on is called “HR NOW – The Frontline Speaks: Insights From The People Who Are Truly Running Your Business.”  In this session, we’ll hear what frontline employees from around the world think about technology, leadership, motivation and more. This is your chance to hear directly from the people who are serving your guests!

We’ll have 3 frontline employees from various attractions as our panelists in the room, and we have also gathered video footage of frontline employees from parks around the world answering the same questions we’ll be asking our in-room panelists.  During the session we will play some of those clips in addition to hearing directly from the panel.  You won’t want to miss this!

Now back to our title… in reviewing the video submissions that came in, an interesting trend emerged.  When talking about what motivated people, or what would even cause people to leave, many answers were different sides of the same coin.

And that coin is… CHALLENGE.

One employee said it was very motivating when their supervisor assigned them more complex tasks, and another said he would leave if there were no more challenge to the job.

Yet another spoke at length about how he had left his park for another job… a 9 to 5, weekends off, low-stress kind of job, but it didn’t last.  He craved the excitement, variety, and yes, challenge of his old job.  He found it by going BACK to the park.

I first heard T. Scott Gross say this during an education session at IAAPA back in 1997… “The only people who want to do idiot-proof jobs are idiots.”  I think it was true then, and it’s even more true today.  We can’t expect our employees (especially young employees) to be satisfied with same-old, same-old, hum-drum jobs where all of the challenge and decision making were removed to make sure no one made a mistake.  People don’t work that way… at least not the good ones, and those are the ones you want!

I can’t wait to gather this panel and see what other great insights they will provide! Below are the session details if you are going to be at the IAAPA Expo in Orlando.

Date: Monday, November 16, 2015

Time: 9:00 AM

Location: Room S330CD, Orange County Convention Center, Orlando

Hope to see you all there!!

Matt

#TBwhenever

Impromptu gathering of current and former Universal Orlando Team Members at the annual Florida Attractions Association networking lunch at #IAE14.

UO at FAA

 

How to blow away your customers – do something unexpected

This past Sunday was my first visit to a place in Hendersonville, NC called The Dugout.  My friend Brad and I went there to have some lunch and catch the Patriots game. Little did I know that I would be blown away by the actions of one of the employees.

As you might have guessed from the name, the Dugout is a sports bar.  Lots of TV’s, sports memorabilia on the walls and plenty of “pub grub” on the menu.  When our server, Josh, told us that everything they make is fresh and homemade, I was excited to try to the food.

And it was good. I had the fried green tomato and shrimp BLT.  Yum.

But that’s not the “blown away” part.

At about half time in the game, I asked Josh what they had for dessert.  The only thing they had that day, he said, was a sugar (or gluten – I can’t remember now) free pumpkin pie cheesecake.  I am a sucker for pumpkin pie AND cheesecake, so you put them together…

Pumpkin Pie CheesecakeYeah.  I’ll take a slice.

When I ordered, Josh asked if I would like whipped cream.  Um, of course!

He brought the slice over a few minutes later and informed me that they were out of whipped cream, so….

(Get ready to be blown away…)

He said he would make some!  And he did.

A few minutes later he came back with a small bowl of fresh (and REAL) whipped cream.  He had literally put some cream in a bowl and whipped it.

I’ve made whipped cream before – it’s not that hard.  BUT, for a server at a sports bar to whip up some whipped cream was totally unexpected.  Yes, I was blown away.

My friend Scott Brown is always asking his clients, “what can you do to ‘plus’ your service?”  In other words, Josh could have delivered the cheesecake and apologized for not having the whipped cream. Okay, they are out, oh well. The “plus” was taking the initiative and putting his know-how to work in the absence of a product or promise that had been made.

Because we were at the Dugout for so long (it was a long game!), I was able to glean a little intel into the perfect storm that allowed this to happen.

My friend Brad said that the owner is usually out and about, very visible in the restaurant, which is fantastic.  Today was a little different and toward the end of the game we found out why.

The owner came out (in a Patriots shirt, I might add!) and was conversing with some of the regulars.  He said that one employee called out today and another didn’t show up, so he had been helping out in the kitchen to make sure everything ran smoothly.

I remember back to leaders I knew that jumped in and helped when the chips were down and what a positive impact it had on the team.  There was a can-do, we’re-all-in-it-together kind of spirit. And even though it may not be the best situation, good leaders can turn it around quickly.

Getting back to Josh, if he didn’t KNOW how to make whipped cream, I would have enjoyed the cheesecake anyway.  BUT, with the owner setting the “do-whatever-it-takes” example, Josh probably felt like he could take it upon himself to do what he needed to do to make things right.

The stars had aligned… the perfect conditions were present for just the right synapse to fire in Josh’s brain, connecting what he knows HOW to do with what he COULD do.

Perfect.

But here’s the thing… this is not intended to be a lesson in teaching your employees how to make whipped cream.  That may not be your business and it might not make sense.

Instead, we should always be focusing on developing the skills and can-do attitude in our employees so they can read a situation and administer a positive solution.  So much of “customer service” training has devolved into order taking and completing tasks.  Probably because we don’t think our employees can handle anything else.  But that’s wrong.

That is us taking a short cut.

You want to stand out in customer service?  You want to provide cool and unexpected experiences for your guests?  You can’t script that.  You can’t put people in a box and then expect them to perform out-of-the-box feats of super-ness.

By the way, when was the last time you did something unexpected (and positive!) for your employees?

If I was blown away with positivity and good vibes as a guest, imagine what kind of impact you could have on your staff.

Thanks for reading!

Matt

About the author: After 20+ years in hospitality leadership and human resources, Matt Heller founded Performance Optimist Consulting in 2011 with one simple goal: Help Leaders Lead. Matt now works with organizations large and small to help them improve leadership competencies, customer service, employee motivation and teamwork. His book, “The Myth of Employee Burnout” addresses how leaders can overcome the all-too common phenomenon of employees burning out, or losing motivation over time.

Book cover with amazon

 

 

 

 

 

They screwed up, but I am still going back

So this just happened…. I took my VW Beetle in to get the door handle fixed.

The door handle was fixed, except… it was the wrong door handle.

As it happened, my car had two door handles needing repair.  On the drivers’ side, the handle that you use to pull the door shut was loose. Didn’t really care about that one.

The larger priority in my mind was the passenger door… the handle that you pull to OPEN the door was inoperable, meaning that the passenger (usually my wife) had to either roll the window down and open it from the outside or wait for me to come around and open it for her.  She was NOT doing a Dukes of Hazzard maneuver.

So, I made an appointment to get the door handle fixed. I went to the shop, gave them my keys and they went to work. It wasn’t until I got back into my car that I noticed something was amiss.

There was painters (blue) tape on the drivers side handle.  I thought… “oh, they noticed that and fixed that, too!  Sweet!”  (Not with painters tape, that was just holding it while the silicone cured).  Then I reached over and tried to open the passenger door.  Nothing doing.

I went back in to the shop and talked to the mechanic.  Apparently there was a miscommunication.  Hmmm… how did that happen?

Let’s look.  Re-read the parts where I talk about getting the door handle fixed.  I did it twice in this post.  Neither time did I mention that it was the passenger door.

It’s QUITE possible I didn’t mention it to the mechanic, either.  I honestly can’t remember. In my mind, the door handle that NEEDED to be fixed was the passenger side.  However, if they never got in or out of the passengers side, they wouldn’t have noticed it.  They noticed the drivers side and that was that.  That’s the one they were going to fix.

Part of the customer service “discovery” process is to MAKE SURE you know precisely what it is that the customer is looking for.  In this case, a clarifying question about which door handle needed attention would have saved us both some time.

But here’s the thing.  I’m not mad about this.  Not even a little angry.  So not angry or upset that I will still RECOMMEND this shop and will go back whenever my Beetle needs attention beyond my skill set (and not just to fix the other door handle!).  And why… because of the way they treated me and the way the mix up was handled.

Here is what I mean:

  • They remembered me – as soon as I walked in, they knew what I was there for (even if it WAS the wrong handle) and that I had been there before for something else. Being new in town, this was only my second trip there, yet they still remembered.
  • They were genuine – It was a small shop, so I imagine that the same people deal with each customer.  Still, I got the feeling that I mattered to them, that they were going to take care of me and that my car was in capable hands.  They made eye contact, smiled, and didn’t treat me like I was a car-idiot.
  • They owned up to the mistake – there was no, “well, you said it was that one” or “well, sucks to be you”.  When shown what was supposed to be fixed, it was “wow, I am so sorry. I should have clarified which one you meant. Most of the time we deal with the other side. We’ll make it right.”

And I am sure they will make it right.  So many of my experiences with this shop have been right, that it over powers this one that was not-so-right (especially when I probably contributed to this). And that is why I will be back.

What about you?  Is your service so good, and the way you treat your guests so genuine and exceptional that they will overlook little (or even medium-sized) missteps?   Do they give you the benefit-of-the-doubt if something isn’t quite up to expectations?

If you treat people like the fine folks at Eurotechnik in Hendersonville, NC treated me, (and be sure to ask clarifying questions!), they will.

Thanks for reading!

Matt

About the author:  After 20+ years in hospitality leadership and human resources, Matt Heller founded Performance Optimist Consulting in 2011 with one simple goal: Help Leaders Lead. Matt is now in high demand with organizations large and small to help them improve leadership competencies, customer service, employee motivation and teamwork. His book, “The Myth of Employee Burnout” addresses how leaders can overcome the all-too common phenomenon of employees burning out, or losing motivation over time.

Would you like to dance?

I’ve already written about the GREAT service we received while dining one day on our recent trip to California, and my overall impressions of the guest service at all of the parks we visited.  Today though, I want to explore an experience we had while waiting in lines that had nothing to do with how the employees treated us.

CNC Superman

Over the course of a week, we stood in lots of lines and waited for lots of rides.  What happened over and over again was the “dance” of large parties trying to get onto a ride at the same time.

Picture the “corral” set-up of most roller coaster loading stations.  There are chutes that guests get into that align them with the seat they are about to take.  This is where the dance happens, when people count the other guests in front of them and realize they may not be on the same ride as their friends.

So then this conversation ensues, “Would you like to go ahead of us so we can go with our friends?”

Let’s look at that.  So a guest is letting, in fact suggesting, that another group GO AHEAD of them in line.  At any other point in the line this would be considered “cutting” and not tolerated by the masses.  Yet, here it is encouraged.

And we saw this from guests of all ages and cultural backgrounds. It seemed that just about everyone was willing to wait a little longer for the chance to experience the ride their friends.

There is a special dynamic at an amusement park about sharing the experiences you have.  Even if you go on the exact same ride one cycle later, it’s not the same as going on on the ride WITH your friends.

Does this give us any insight into how people behave in the workplace?  I think it actually does.

The question about why people stay in a job, or what keeps them coming back, or what makes all the ups and downs worth it generally comes back to one thing: the people.

Of course we can’t overlook things like pay, benefits and working conditions, but so often people are driven by being around others that care about them, that support them and that THEY can have a positive influence on.  The more I am around people and get to study them, the more I truly believe that at their core, people want to GIVE as much as they GET.  That may not always be easy to do or articulate, but I do see it as a genuine human need.

As funny as it sounds, I think we sometimes marginalize what we allow our employees to GIVE us while they are working.  Yes, we get their time and usually their attention, but are we allowing them to give us their talents?

When people are unsatisfied in a job, is it because they haven’t worked enough hours, or is it because they haven’t been able to show what they are really capable of?

I’ve been a fan of Zappos for years.  Not necessarily as a retailer (although I have had good experiences) but as a company who has been able to sustain an amazing culture.  Look at their core values and tell me what you see.

  1. Deliver WOW Through Service
  2. Embrace and Drive Change
  3. Create Fun and A Little Weirdness
  4. Be Adventurous, Creative, and Open-Minded
  5. Pursue Growth and Learning
  6. Build Open and Honest Relationships With Communication
  7. Build a Positive Team and Family Spirit
  8. Do More With Less
  9. Be Passionate and Determined
  10. Be Humble

I see that the majority of items are centered around how people work together.  They tap into the deep need we have to connect with others on a meaningful level and use that to propel their business forward. It doesn’t say so explicitly in their values, but they are also very good at placing people where their talents are best utilized, which makes upholding their values a bit easier.

If experiencing the “dance” while waiting in line has taught me anything, it’s that the need to connect and be human is so powerful for some that it trumps some of our shorter-sighted goals, such as being first in line on a roller coaster.  It sometimes causes us to sacrifice what we’ve worked (or waited) for, but in the end we know it will be worth it because of the deepened connections we’ve made.

Is it a stretch then to say that being part of a strong, cohesive team is more important than making a lot of money?

To some, it just might be.

Thanks for reading!

Matt

About the author: This is always the toughest part of the post to write – trying to tell you a little about who I am and what I do, all while not sounding pompous.  How about this? If you liked what you read and would like to talk about working together to improve leadership, customer service or team dynamics at your company, please contact me in the manner you see fit. The end.

Record sales when short staffed – a story about bravery, vision, and true leadership

I apologize for my recent “blog silence”!  Some of you already know that my wife and I recently moved from Orlando to Hendersonville, NC, and packing, driving, and unpacking have taken up a bunch of my time (and provided some great customer service stories, but those will have to wait)!  We’re quasi settled now, and I hope that today’s post was worth the wait!

It’s a story about a leader who works in the theme park industry and what he did to make it (quite successfully) through a busy spring break season.  He sent me the following email, and graciously agreed to allow me to share it with you.


Matt,

I’m just going to jump right into this: I just completed the most rewarding and fun week of work I’ve had in a long while, and it was during peak season! Sorry for the long book of an email, but I must tell all!

Going into this Spring Break season I knew first hand we were going to be short handed in the staffing department of the operation. Those who we did have on the roster would be pushed harder to make up for it, and it would be up to us as leaders in the venue to ensure they are given 200% support, encouragement, and engagement for their efforts.

In our unit we have our primary restaurant and a handful of smaller locations. As my expertise lies in food carts I’ve spent the past year improving that part of the operation, but Continue reading

Jackie made it all better

NOTE: This is Part 4 of a series of posts inspired by 40 very active hours of travel on March 13-14, 2015. This will complete the series. For Part 1 “I don’t care about $2, click here.  For Part 2 “Maybe I didn’t exist”, click here. For Part 3 “You sent my bag where?” click here.


After coming to grips with the fact that my suitcase would not be accompanying me during my 12 hour stay in Chicago, I still had to pick up my rental car and get to my destination.  So I boarded the shuttle to the rental car area.

That’s where I met Jackie.

Jackie had a “how ya doing, friend” kind of attitude.  Warm, engaging and genuine. At the risk of sounding redundant, she was real AND genuine!

After the morning I’d had, interacting with someone like Jackie (just on the above merits) was quite refreshing. But the story doesn’t end here.

Jackie pulled up my reservation and noticed that I had booked my car through a 3rd party “bundle” site (like Orbitz or Travelocity). It just seemed easier booking the number of flights, hotels and cars over such a short period.  As Jackie was about to point out, it’s not always cheaper that way.

She had a confused and bewildered look on her face when she said, “Do you know you are getting charged $68 for your car for one day?”

“No, it was in the bundle.” was my response.

“Well then,” she said with a wily smile, “you are going to love me. How does $11 sound?”

“How did you do that?” I asked.

“I changed your reservation… I re-booked it directly through our site.  Don’t go through the bundle sites, a lot of times they are much more expensive.”

“Wow” was about all I could muster.  I was amazed at her honesty and goodwill and I began to smile.  Of course I would need a GPS, but even with that added to the rental I was still getting a bargain.

As I returned the car later that day, a nice young man asked if everything was okay with the car.  I told him the car was fine, but that Jackie at the counter was a real rock star.  He agreed and said, “yes, she’s the best”.

So how did Jackie make it all better?  How did she make me forget all the other junk that happened in the last 28 hours. She cared. Plain and simple, she cared about me, my experience, and my wallet.  She cared enough to take action on my behalf.  She cared enough to right the wrongs (or overchargings) perpetrated by others.

Based on the young man’s comment when I returned the car, this was not an isolated incident. He has either seen Jackie in action or has heard other happy patrons say similar things about his colleague.

Thing is, you can’t teach people to care.  You can’t give them a handbook of the do’s and don’ts and expect them to care.  I would imagine Jackie cares because she is a role that allows her to do what she does best.  How many of us can say that?

How many of our employees would care a whole lot more if they were in roles that aligned with their natural talents and abilities?  How much happier would your customers be then?

That’s something that every leader should care about.

Thanks for reading!

PS – I debated whether or not to mention Jackie’s employer, because if what she did was against policy, I certainly wouldn’t want her getting in trouble for it.  In the end though, through her actions she created a sense of connection and loyalty that will guide my rental car decisions in the future.  So, Alamo, you have a great employee in Jackie, and I hope she gets the recognition she deserves for this and ALL of the great experiences she creates.  Oh, and I will always check your website first when in need of a rental car.

Matt

 

 

 

About the author: Some people don’t like to travel – Matt loves it! Not only does it provide for great stories like these, but it also allows him to do what he feels he does best – Helping Leaders Lead!  He does this through interactive keynotes and customized training workshops.  Click here for more details or to find out how to book Matt for your next event!

Maybe I didn’t exist?

NOTE: This is Part 2 of a series of posts inspired by 40 very active hours of travel on  March 13-14, 2015.  There will be at least 2 more entries in this series.  For Part 1 “I don’t care about $2, click here.


So I made it through security after interacting with Erin, and was heading to my gate.  Being a little parched, I stopped at the Ruby Tuesday quick serve location to get a bottled water.

This is one of those outcropping locations that are connected to the larger restaurant so us travelers can grab a quick bite OR be drawn into the larger establishment for heartier fare.  Just a bottle of water for me, thanks.

As a I approached, I saw the cashier, Aleshia, of the outcrop talking across a wall behind her to an employee from the restaurant proper.  To Aleshia’s credit, she stopped “talking” to him when I came up.  But, she also didn’t actually talk to me.  The dude behind her had asked her a question about vacation time, and she sort of stared at me blankly while processing the sale.  It was as if something else was on her mind…

As it turns out, there was.  As soon I was handed my receipt, she answered the dude’s question as if he had just asked it.  As if the time I just spent giving them money did not exist.  Maybe I didn’t exist?

I have to give slight, and I mean slight props to Aleshia for not answering the dude during my transaction. But I think I would also have to take those props away because clearly her mind was not on the transaction or the sale… it was on remembering what the dude said so she could respond as soon as I stopped bothering her.

If Aleshia gets some props in this situation (even though they are later rescinded), the dude gets negative props, demerits, and bizarro world-kudos.  His behavior should be appalling to any leader of a hospitality or service-oriented company.  He was distracting another employee from doing her job while also very likely neglecting his own duties.  A true over-achiever.

Like Erin though, I can’t say I completely blame Aleshia or the dude.  They get some blame of course because they chose their own actions, but my question is who is allowing this to happen.  This CAN’T be the first time a conversation was held over that wall, and probably not the first of it’s kind between the dude and Aleshia.  So who is there to keep these folks in line?

One of the topics I was speaking about on this trip was visible leadership. The importance of visible leadership was reinforced last year on my annual roller coaster-palooza trip last year, where the locations with the best guest service also had leaders that were out and about and visible… oh, and doing the right things.  Imagine… great guest service and great leadership being tied together??  Who would have thunk it?

Turns out, a lot of people should be thinking it.  You cannot have great service without a great leadership team who is visible, engaged, and has the skills to communicate and inspire their teams.  Leadership and guest service go together like peanut butter and jelly… Batman and Robin… Zan and Jayna… Lewis and Clark… Calvin and Hobbs… Ben and Jerry.

Where would Ben and Jerry be if there was no Ben or no Jerry?  (If you are a fan of their ice cream, you probably don’t even want to fathom the thought.)

And where would service be without great leadership?  The Ruby Tuesday outcrop shop at the Orlando International Airport.

Don’t let that be you.

Thanks for reading!

Matt

 

 

 

About the author: Matt spent a lot of time as a kid watching the Super Friends (which explains the Zan and Jayna and bizarro world references). When Matt is asked about his favorite super friend or super hero, the answer is always the same.  “It’s Superman, because he can fly.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I don’t care about $2

NOTE: This is Part 1 of a series of posts inspired by 40 very active hours of travel on  March 13-14, 2015.  There will be at least 3 more entries in this series.


I don’t care about $2.  I do care about employees who don’t feel like they are being listened to.

On a recent trip to the airport, I stopped at the curbside check-in to drop off my bag.  I was met by Erin, who asked for a drivers license and credit card.  The following conversation ensued.

Me – (confused about why she needed a credit card) “I actually paid for my bag online.”

Erin – (sounding exasperated) “I know, but there is a $2 fee for checking in out here.”

Me – (trying to be funny/sympathetic) “Well that stinks.”

Erin – “Yeah, it’s supposed to be a convenience fee for not going inside.  We’ve complained about it, but no one listens.”

Me – “I hate to hear that.”

Erin – “Yeah, they don’t listen to the people actually doing the work.  They sit in their ivory tower and make decisions that we have to deal with.  That’s corporate America, nothing we can do about it.”

You could hear the resignation in her tone.  Here is an employee with a voice, with something to say, and no one is listening.  Or at least that is her perception.

And of course, that perception is Erin’s reality.

Erin dutifully printed my boarding passes and my receipt for the $2.  As she handed the documents to me, she said with a wily smirk and a chuckle, “and here is your receipt for the $2.”  Then she very pleasantly wished me a safe flight and a nice day.

How hard is it to listen to someone?  How tough is it to spend the time to pay attention to what the front line employees are saying?  It’s not hard and it’s not tough.  But it does take time and an open mind – two things that seem to be in short supply these days.

As a leader, we have choices about where we focus our time, our energy and attention.  If you think that listening to your employees is not worth your time, think about this.

Dr. Rick Bommelje, one of the foremost authorities on listening and leadership, has studied the emotional impact of being listened to for years. He has found that the feelings of being listened to are so close to that of being loved that most people can’t tell the difference.

Whoa.

So when you listen to your employees, or even if they PERCEIVE that you are listening, they will get the feeling that you care, and won’t feel like my friend Erin. Defeated and unengaged.

Even if that $2 is the difference between financial success and failure, Erin doesn’t know it.  Because she doesn’t know it, she doesn’t care.  That impacts how she explained the fee to me, and how this blog post got written.

Had she said, “I understand, and am sorry you didn’t know about the fee.  It’s for the convenience of avoiding the long lines inside.  We can get you through much quicker.”

That would be worth $2, right?  But I am NOT calling for the retraining of Erin.  I am calling for Erin’s leaders (and everyone like them) to listen to your employees.  Again, even if you keep the fee, let her know WHY you have the fee, why it’s important and why it is beneficial to the guests.

As a leader, you want that $2, right?  You’ve got to earn it… not just by tacking on an extra fee, but by listening and communicating with your employees.  That’s the REAL focus of your job.

Thanks for reading… now go listen!

Matt

 

 

 

About the author: Matt has written about broken policies with the airlines before.  As it so happens, the airline in this situation is one of the guilty parties.  Maybe the execs aren’t listening to their employees about that fiasco either.