DCF 1.0[/caption]I just returned from the VetPartners 2013 Mid-Year Meeting in Chicago. It’s usually the only time during the year that I get to meet a good friend and fellow Crimson Tide fan, CPA Scott Huner of Birmingham, AL, as tax season wipes out any chance of attending the annual Florida meeting at the NAVC in January. VetPartners colleagues like David McCormick, Lou Gatto, Philip Homsey, Kelly Baltzell, Bete Johnson and others from across the world have helped grow our firm’s veterinary client base through referrals, education on timely industry issues, and introductions to veterinary luminaries at networking events far from home.
I usually get some ideas to write about from my travels and have good intentions of typing on the plane back from wherever I have been. This is one of those times. I could blog about DOMA tax law changes, health care exchanges, or eking out extra profitability by buying cheap copier paper to print patient invoices versus using recycled “green” laser paper (our choice despite the cost). But what hit me on my trip was breakfast customer service as a leading indicator for hotel guest happiness. If the first meal of the day goes wrong, the rest of that day’s experience could be a potential disaster.
We stayed at the Hyatt Regency Chicago as our base of operations and I noticed that it wasn’t your typical downtown hotel. For one thing, the restaurants in the hotel were great. What made them great were both the food and the service. Both at Stetsons Modern Steak + Sushi and American Craft Kitchen & Bar located in the hotel, the wait staff (notably our upbeat server Patricia at ACK&B) were very well-educated in all facets of food ingredients, pairings, and I could tell that they liked their jobs, and not just for the paycheck. Breakfast is my “bellwether” event to see how an entire hotel succeeds. And based on that, the hotel was top notch.
Breakfast at the restaurant Wildberry Pancakes & Café, located 3 blocks down from the Hyatt, was really the highlight of the trip. I went there three times out of four morning slots. Wait time was either nothing to 45 minutes without complaint. Breakfast is my favorite meal and the food was fantastic. My wife Kathy and Scott and Sherry Huner had the famous Bliss Berry Crepes, while I had boring less-sweet alternatives. One of our servers, Will, was just exceptionally fabulous as he came in at the right times, apprised us of food ETA, filled our coffee at the perfect time, and just had a super chipper attitude. You would have thought he was serving a seven course dinner with wine pairings at a Sonoma Vineyard instead of breakfast. Our meal could have been mediocre had the food been fantastic and the service sub-par or just par, but he took it up a notch. I noticed there was no idle staff chitchat; everyone had a task and did it well. Even the table busboys were hustling. We experienced a waitress in training on our first visit. A lot was expected from her supervisor, who stood right by with an on the spot performance evaluation.
Many people don’t come to a service establishment with any expectations, that way they don’t get disappointed. In my case, I always expect the best, and when I get it, the experience is truly memorable. That’s why I remembered Patricia and Will without even writing down their names 5 days ago, a great feat for me. Both Patricia and Will could have even worked for Chef Ming Tsai at Blue Ginger without interviewing.
Training can help employees learn tasks, but positive attitude is hard-wired. It’s either there or it’s not. It would pay for veterinary practices to hire employees that pet owners remember not for what they didn’t do, but where everything they actually did just made the experience that much better. And in those instances where a veterinary visit produces some sad results, the right staff attitude could be just what the doctor ordered.