Steer service through storms from the inside out

As soon as our feet touched Bahamian soil outside the airport gates, our driver greeted us with the warmth and familiarity of an old friend.

The first point of contact can be such a mood setter and truly steer any guest experience in the right direction, even before they set foot on their destined vessel.

Setting the stage for the right guest experience is all about managing each point of contact and recognizing that every touch point makes a difference. Whether three seconds, three minutes or three days, each interaction has so much power to set and deliver expectations.

I was in the Bahamas recently as a guest on a five-day mixture of business and pleasure aboard the 95-foot megayacht Lady Alice, a private yacht served by a crew of four.

As we approached the passerelle and bared our feet for official arrival on board, four smiling faces greeted us and introduced us to our floating home for the next few days.

As I reflect on that experience, I recognize how much those first few moments set the tone for an amazing service experience, truly from the inside out. Inside the bridge, inside the galley, inside the staterooms, and inside the belly of the yacht were a team consistently united in spirit and attitude.

Their appearance was always clean and crisp no matter what time of day, and the best thing they wore was a cheery disposition. Genuine hospitality was the name of their game and they took their roles seriously and with enthusiastic commitment.

Even when things went awry, the captain maintained a sense of control, humor and compassion for his guests. Though at one point serious mechanical troubles confronted him and the crew, he kept an intent focus on ensuring that guests were comfortable and happy. In turn, he set an excellent example for the crew.

The captain knew that his own troubles and challenges could not and should not impact his guests’ experience and shielded them from any of the discomfort that unexpected problems might cause.

The crew remained ready to serve guests and ensure their every comfort and pleasure even while their own discomfort and displeasure may have increased.

This ability to provide “service through the storms” is invaluable and critical to owners and the guests they serve. It’s easy to deliver service when guests are happy and all is going well. It is more difficult to deliver service when guests are uneasy and crew members are challenged.

Having strong role models who are walking/talking service excellence examples should be key in establishing any crew team. When I asked the crew why they were so committed and enthusiastic even when their own frustrations may have been strong, they noted the value of an owner who cared and a captain who also was a true example of exceptional service leadership.

When employees feel cared for, they care more about their guests. A red carpet attitude starts from the top and the first ones to walk on that carpet should always be employees.

In turn, employees should be trained with specifics in how to follow service excellence footsteps as well as how to navigate the stormy moments that may ensue.

Make sure that any crew members who are hired are properly trained in guest experience management and exceptional service delivery as well as the essential skills they must perform in their specific roles.

Charting a course for guest experience excellence is not that hard. The true challenge may be maintaining the course and steering through rough and calm waters with consistently and intuitively positive service attitudes.

Focus on each moment and every point of contact to make the memorable difference and the experiences that are cherished most.