Service Excellence 101: Be Welcome

Aside from being eager to serve, it is important to emphasize the importance of the overall welcome experience. There is a popular saying that says "You never get a second chance to make a first impression". While this is possible, it can be difficult to ward off a bad welcome experience.

Importance of welcome

On a recent trip, I drove to the hotel where I was staying. After getting directions from the concierge on where to go for self parking, I headed over to the hotel and was immediately amazed at how well everything was designed. Throughout the lobby were glass sculptures and beautiful chandeliers. I was impressed. When I got to the front desk, two receptionists were talking to each other. One of them eventually stopped talking, looked over to the computer, sighed, and said, "Hi, can I help you?" That question was asked with no eye contact, no smile and no interest. That experience was the exact opposite of a hearty welcome. The agent rushed through a scripted set of questions (Name? ID? Credit Card?).

It was quite clear that she too:
a) I don't like her job
b) Guests are not liked
c) You had a bad day
d) All of the above

Whatever the reason, I was very disappointed and felt unwanted. It was clearly a missed opportunity to feel welcome and I set my expectations for what the rest of the service might look like. Whenever a customer enters your building, everyone must do everything they can to create a welcoming atmosphere.

Imagine you haven't seen a favorite relative or close friend for a few years, and they come to visit. How will you greet them? More importantly, how will you feel? When a buyer enters your building or approaches your desk, he enters your home.

May they contrast this experience with a recent visit to the Relache Spa at the Gailord Opriland Resort in Nashville, TN. When I entered through the front door of the spa, I was immediately greeted by a receptionist with a big, warm smile … before reaching the registration desk where she was. After she greeted me, she asked me if I had a date at the spa. When I said I did, she quickly (but gracefully) looked at the logbook and then proactively used her name to welcome me once more. She then gave me an overview of the spa service I had booked, along with the mini verbal orientation of the spa facilities.

The spa receptionist clearly:
• She loved her job
• He loved his guests
• She had a great day (probably because she was at work where she could use her talents to achieve a sense of welcome).

Needless to say, the rest of my sleep experience was paired with the warm greeting I received.


Many organizations sharply underestimate the importance of receptionists / greetings. That position is by far one of the most important in any service-driven business, no matter what industry it is in. That person can turn your bad day into a good one, or your good day into a bad one. Yes, that's how much power their smile (or non-smile) can have on the customer experience. Nobody wants to go into a restaurant and the hostess seems to be sucking lemon all day.

The receptionist, or the one first seen by the customers, should have the most natural smile on the whole team. They need to love people and love to feel welcome. You should come behind your desk and check your guests periodically. You should do the reception / lobby, fixing furniture, magazines, etc. People should be filled with joy. It is not necessarily people who are happy, because happiness is event-based. If events are good, they are happy, and if events are bad, they are unhappy. The joy is innate and grounded. Joyful people give thanks. In the first place, they value having a business and appreciate the opportunity to positively influence their customers.

So here are my recommendations for designing or redesigning your welcome experience:

• Only devote yourself to hiring truly joyful people who cannot help but smile. These types of people literally have to try NOT to smile because smile is such a part of what they are.

• Work with your team to clearly articulate how you want your customers to feel for each guest on a daily basis.

• Identify key service points in the welcome experience of your business (eg parking, front door, reception, etc.)

• Make deposits at these points and look for opportunities to improve them.

During the welcome experience, every customer should feel honored as if they were a guest of honor at the banquet. So say hello, smile and engage your customers from the moment they see them. Not because you have to, but because it really is your pleasure.