Lessons Learned From Vacation Spot Businesses

2014-06-18 09.42.04    2014-06-17 11.53.51

We all strive to provide that service that delights our customers.  I recently visited the awesome Cape San Blas and Port Saint Joe areas of Florida.  This charming coastal town off The Gulf is your typical summer getaway spot – rows of large houses suitable for families, a beautiful bay area, and the ocean only a short walk away.  The small towns surrounding the area – Mexico Beach and Apalachicola – are thick with small local shops and restaurants, which offer your typical souvenir and seafood needs.  And the best part is that they are an object lesson in hospitality and throughput.

Now there are exceptions and opportunities in all cases, this included, but overall there were lessons to be learned.  I watched the way they interacted with the locals as well as vacationing families, and I was impressed with their service.  They were exceedingly patient and polite – I figure they must get asked for directions to the same places fifty times a day, yet they smile and give a helping hand.

That was the first take a way.  They know their area, they understand that they’ll be giving directions to those who are terrible navigators, and are ready for that sort of vacation entitlement that those on holiday often display.  The directions they give are accurate, succinct, and friendly – how does your team do when folks ask them for directions to someplace in the area?

They also understand the importance of throughput.  During their busy seasons, these places can get absolutely mobbed.  There is a local ice cream shop in this area that gets hit harder than H&R Block on Tax Day, and they handle it with an almost elegant flare.  They must spend four months getting crushed for six hours a day, and they do so with a smile.  While one of the folks was making me a particularly tasty chocolate malt, I asked how they did it.

“Simple,” She replied.  “We know its going to be a madhouse every night.  We don’t have to work here.  We tell people what they are getting into and if they don’t like that, they shouldn’t work here.  But those of us who do work here have fun with it and we do the best we can every night.”

So in a nutshell, they are honest about expectations and hire folks who are up for the challenge.  Be honest about what the job entails, hire those who can commit to doing their best, and then get them trained to provide the best product possible in the quickest manner.

The final thing I noticed was the genuine hospitality.  The people working in these places smiled easily, laughed often, and thanked always.  To me that is the epitome of fantastic service when coupled with competence to provide the product or service being sought.  Again, not complicated.  They didn’t have a cleaver acronym for their service model, they were just nice to people.

If I had one criticism, it would be the lack of convenience items; that is one thing I noticed that could have been done with more regularity.  Many of the shops I entered didn’t sell beverages or any type of snack item.  I would offer that up as advice to anyone looking to drive sales in their business – if you can add a cooler of water or a vending machine or even a rack of candy bars or chips, you should do so.  If you keep your eyes open, you’ll see that even Lowes, BestBuy, and Office Max often have coolers near their cash register in an attempt to add another $3.00 onto your purchase.  And many times it works.  So if you can at all integrate this into your business model, odds are it will pay off.

Until next time, remember:  You can find great examples of fantastic service everywhere – even while on vacation.  So learn what you can and apply what you can use to drive a great experience for your customers.