Members are putting customers first

Members are putting customers first

By Shelby Pemberton

Customer service is a universal language. Here at the Washington Hospitality Association, we know quite a few operators in Washington state who exemplify a culture of putting customers first.

If you’ve ever ventured to the upper left region of the state, you may have stumbled across Maltby Café, and the owner is an excellent example of what it means to portray exceptional customer service. Tana Baumler has worked in the hospitality industry since she was in high school, with her first job being a part of a family-run business. After traveling the world and working in various kitchens, Baumler has been operating Maltby Café in Snohomish for 31 years.

When asked what customer service meant to her, Baumler’s response was: “Customer service is greeting your guest and making sure they feel special from the time they come through the door until the moment they leave. It’s making sure all of their needs are taken care of.”

The café always strives for a family-friendly and inviting atmosphere. The result of this, as Baumler says, is that she receives several repeat customers, some of whom she’s known since they were babies being brought in with their parents. When asked what they do daily to keep this level of customer service alive, her answer was simple: “My staff are always warm and friendly, and quite a few of them have been with me since I opened the café. We work as a team. We help and interact with one another, we’re like a family; and customers can sense that the second they walk through the door.”

Bryan Harmon, managing director at the Hampton Inn and Suites in Seattle/Everett, shed some insight into how Hampton hotels achieve their prestigious level of customer service: “Hamptonality.” Hamptonality is the caring, thoughtful, and authentic culture all Hampton hotels embody, and he makes sure his employees deliver on this expectation by living up to their vision of Harmon said “making you happy, makes us happy.”

“We put our guests first by anticipating their needs. We approach them with friendly, smiling faces and make sure they feel comfortable away from home. If they aren’t from the area, we’ll email them a list of dining and entertainment recommendations prior to their stay,” Harmon explains how his staff stands out among other Hampton hotels. By staying ahead of the game and being on top of changes, Harmon and his employees continue to adapt new things into their customer service technique, ensuring every guest interaction is genuine and unique.

“We problem solve, and we’re always willing to answer questions,” said Harmon. “Always be authentic, be caring, and be yourself.”

To Matthew Rosenthal, general manager at the Best Western in Arlington, customer service is the defining characteristic of any hotel. “It differentiates you from your competitors,” said Rosenthal. He shared a story about a guest who frequently travels down from Canada.

“They could stay elsewhere, but they keep coming back because of the relationships they’ve built with me and my staff,” he said. They even used to play the guitar for us in the lobby.”

By tailoring each experience to fit their guests’ needs, Rosenthal and his team is able to create a fabulous customer service experience.

“If a family is traveling and they have young children, we’ll ask what their favorite cartoon characters are and have coloring pages ready for them when they arrive for their stay,” Rosenthal said.

Rosenthal’s advice for anyone wanting to be sure they’re delivering excellent customer service is “Always go above and beyond when you can. I always have the mindset of ‘I have the opportunity to turn someone’s bad day into a good day.’ Also, start with your employees. If they’re happy, they’ll interact better with guests.”

In the world of hospitality and customer service, standing out can be difficult. Carrie Van Dyck, owner of The Herbfarm in Woodinville, understands this. The Herbfarm creates a unique dining experience by not only extending thoughtful customer service but also by creating a nightly learning experience as well.

“We start each dinner with a garden tour”, says Van Dyck. “We share our history and educate our guests about the night’s foods and herbal components. It’s interactive and fun teaching.”

Van Dyck said for a guest to feel they’ve received the best service her staff work to anticipate guest’s needs and satisfy them before they even know what they want.

“Because we book each party in advance and ask questions, our staff knows why each guest is coming,” she said. “We know about special dietary or beverage needs that our team accommodates for. Every day, the front and back of the house both work toward creating the best dining experience in the world.”

Van Dyck knows that without great service, guests don’t come back. That’s why The Herbfarm personalizes every dining experience by greeting guests with small, framed signs with their names.

“We change the menu themes every two to three weeks. Although we post the initial draft of the menu on our website, most of the time our guests don’t know exactly what they will be eating until they arrive. They come because they trust us,” Van Dyck notes.

A huge part of the overall experience guests receive at The Herbfarm is the way the restaurant thinks about food.

“We have our own gardens” said Van Dyck. “The ingredients we use are all from the Pacific Northwest, and many are grown right here on the farm or in close conjunction with other farmers, ranchers, foragers, cheesemakers and fisherfolk.”

Hospitality is a diverse industry, but one aspect remains the same, and that is customer service. Members of the Washington Hospitality Association are role models within our industry, and for that, we applaud you.

(May 2019 Magazine)

Categories: Magazine, News Room