Hey, Olive Garden! YOU Get It!

Hey, Olive Garden! YOU Get It!It’s true – there is the ULTIMATE dining experience out there just for you!

We decided to stop for a quick bite to eat on the way home from Madison, Wisconsin.  There happened to be an Olive Garden along the highway, so we thought it would be a great stop.

Who would have thought just pulling into the parking lot that I would be blogging about this fantastic experience?

As we entered the lobby, an individual with the biggest smile you have ever seen greeted us with, “Hello, welcome to Olive Garden!”  Her tone of voice was inviting, and she was ready to serve us. She asked how many and I said, “Two.”

As we walked to the table, she asked if we have ever been to an Olive Garden, and I said, “Yes, at home.” She asked where “home” was and I said, “St. Louis.”

“Oh,” she said, “I have driven through there! What a great city! Your server (she stated the name) will be with you very shortly.”  Within ten seconds, our server approached us with a wonderful greeting, eye contact, and a very friendly aura about her. It almost made me want to pull out a chair and have her join us.

She said, “So you’re from St. Louis?”

WOW! An actual communication between two staff members!

She explained that she had driven through there many years ago.  She took our order and then, of course, brought us some nice fresh bread.

We were also intrigued by her conversation with the table behind us.  They were also traveling northbound.  There was light discussion on traveling, and then the waitress brought out to-go cups and tightly packed food, commenting, “Now you are going to need this for the ride, so I have packed some extra plastic ware as well as extra ice in your cups.  Be safe and on your way back through town, consider stopping by to see us again!”

Our food came, and it was perfect.  She slid in with some extra Parmesan cheese and plenty of drink refills.  I asked for a to-go box and believe it or not, it was not the same conversation she had with them.

Here is what she said – “So you have a bit of a drive back to St. Louis.  Did you want to take home some dessert to have something to look forward to at the end of your long trip? Or how about some to-go drinks?”

Okay, she had me!

After she brought the bill, I explained to her that every single interaction we had within the last hour at Olive Garden was unbelievable.  She smiled and said, “We want every experience to be fantastic.”

On the way out I stopped and asked the front desk staff member for the manager.  When the manager came out, I shook his hand and told him what I do for a living.  He smiled and said how happy he was that they had exceeded our expectations.  I promised him that I would blog about him and here it is!

Olive Garden – YOU get it!

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What Not To Wear (and What To Wear) For Your Next Interview!

May is finally here, and that means that in high schools, colleges, and universities throughout the nation will be holding graduation ceremonies for all of their hard-working graduates. The students will be released into the real world either to further their education or to obtain a job.

If you’re about to graduate and are thinking about finding a job, you may be thinking, “Hey, I got through my Anatomy & Physiology/Spanish IV/Calculus/rocket science class with no problem. This should be a cinch!”

Let me tell you – the job market may be getting a little bit better than it was this time four years ago, but don’t let that fool you. It’s still tough to get a job out there, and with the economy still being where it is today, employers are being ruthlessly selective about whom they choose to be part of their team. These days, the goal of companies is to get as much work done as quickly as possible and for the least amount of money.

What does that mean for you? That means you need to be on your A-game to land a job. And that means (besides having the skills and the experience you need to get in) that you need to dress for success to land that job of yours!

“Oh, but c’mon, Dawn! What about the whole ‘beauty-is-in-the-inside thing’? I’ve got the skills and know-how to get this gig!”

Wrong, my friend!

First impressions these days are everything, and I mean EVERYTHING. In fact, did you know that it takes only three, count ‘em, THREE seconds to make a good first impression with your potential employer? And while your resume, skill set, and experience are all important, they have less power than you may think during the initial hiring process. Why? Because the first thing people will notice about you is your appearance!

Just keep this in mind – you can say all the right things and do all the right things, but if you’re not dressed well for your interview, you will NOT get the job when you’re compared to a lot of other perfectly capable people who are dressed better than you.

So with that in mind, here is a short list of DOs and DON’Ts from me to you! That’s right – I’m gonna go Stacy London and Clinton Kelly on you here! Check out these tips for success in your interview!

DO dress conservatively for your interview. By dressing conservatively, you are showing that you are making an effort and that you are respectful, polite, and mean business.

DON’T wear clothes that are too tight, too loose, or too casual. It will make you look sloppy and lazy.

DO choose an outfit that is customary to your industry. If you’re dressing for a conservative business, don a matching skirt or pantsuit with pantyhose if you’re a woman, and choose close-toed shoes. If you’re interviewing for a public relations or Internet gig, ditch the suits and choose a trendier outfit complete with a button-down shirt, a pair of nice slacks, and sling-back heels.

DON’T show any cleavage! Ladies, this is a big must for you! Avoid wearing see-through garments or anything that gives you an air of sexiness (fishnet stockings, anyone?). It’s not a question of not deserving to look sexy more as a assertion of you’re carrying the message that you feel the way to win the job is by relying on your looks. Save your sexy clothes for the weekend and get serious!

DO invest in a conservative two-piece business suit (or two). Try to get a solid black, dark blue, or gray suit.

DON’T wear too much jewelry. Avoid wearing multiple accessories and bright colors. One ring per hand is more than enough for a man and for a woman (and yes, you can wear your watch). Also, if you wear earrings, men, take them out. In the same way, women, wear only one set of earrings and avoid large, ostentatious jewelry.

DO wear clean, polished, and conservative shoes. Ladies, choose shoes with a conservative heel. Men, choose dark lace-up shoes with dark socks.

DON’T carry a purse, ladies. Use a briefcase instead. If you really must have a purse with you, then use a small one.

DO have a well-groomed hairstyle. Get a haircut and a fresh shave. If you have facial hair, be sure to keep it neat and trimmed.

DON’T fiddle with your hair during the interview. You’re not only showing that you’re not serious about the interview, but you’re also conveying that you’re nervous and unsure of yourself.

DO keep your fingernails neat and trimmed. If you must wear nail polish, use clear or a conservative color such as a nude or a muted tone of pink or red.

DON’T bathe in cologne or perfume. A small sprinkling is acceptable, but nobody likes to walk into a cloud of cologne or perfume!

DO cover any and all visible body piercings (nose rings, eyebrow rings, etc.) and your tattoos. They are seen as unprofessional.

DON’T pile on your makeup, ladies. Simple and small amounts of makeup are just fine, but please don’t look like a clown (unless, of course, you’re trying to snag a job as a clown!).

DO leave your gum, candy, cigarettes, and cell phone behind.

DON’T answer your cell phone during the interview! This should be a no-brainer, but it needs to be stated regardless!

Remember to keep calm, dress your best, and WOW your interviewers! If you follow these tips, you are bound to do well in all of your interviews. Best of luck!

Humor – Good For The Soul AND For Your Business!

There’s no doubt about it – humor is definitely good for the soul.

In fact, studies have been showing that a healthy daily dose of hearty laughter in your life will do wonders for your physical health and mental health, too! Laughing puts us in a positive mood, gives us a fresh perspective, and can even burn calories!

Did you know that humor and laughter even have a place in the workforce?

I appreciate a good dose of humor in places of business. It can calm down a nervous customer, bring a customer out of a negative or depressed mood, and it can easily keep your customers coming back for more.

For example, during a lengthy hospitalization, my dad was having a problem with persistently low blood pressure. For two nights, we had struggled to keep it over 75.

One night the nurse came into his room and said, “Mr. Johnson, I just don’t know what I am going to do with you. You know, we really need to get this blood pressure up. If we can’t, I’m going to have to do something drastic.” Everyone in the room froze. She then said, “If we can’t get it any higher, I’m just going to have to show you your hospital bill. I know that will definitely get it up!” We all laughed, even my Dad, and we felt the first sense of relief since he’d been admitted.

There is room for humor in almost every industry, in most situations. Humor helps create an atmosphere of comfort, familiarity, and friendship. All of these elements are necessary for a successful business relationship with your customers.

Here’s another example of humor in the workplace – one local construction company gives a fortune cookie to each of their customers, but instead of the typical fortune or saying, inside the cookie is a joke. The company rep whom I spoke with said that their own workers never hesitate to ask, “Aren’t you going to give me MY fortune cookie? I could use a good laugh, too!”

You can easily keep your customers coming back to you when you use humor in your business dealings with them. The key to success is to balance expectations with humor.

For example, if something goes wrong (maybe your customer’s order got mixed up or you accidentally tripped and wound up dropping the fresh baked goods your customer wanted), humor can help dispel the dissatisfaction and can help your customers let go of their woes and bring them into the present moment. Remember, laughter gives our brains a rush of feel-good endorphins!

Humor establishes rapport. Think about it – pretty much everyone loves a good laugh. Non-offensive, easy-going jokes can easily establish likeability and trust with a potential client. A joke related to a difficult situation can help disarm deliver “tough medicine” to a client (very much like the hospital experience with my dad that I mentioned above).

But be careful when you use humor in your workplace! Certain types of humor aren’t always appreciated (for example: sarcasm).

When you start a new relationship with a new customer, try using light humor or humor geared toward an existing situation. Veer away from jokes about politics or anything that could easily offend people (jokes about religion, “dirty” jokes, etc.). Gage how your customer reacts to your jokes, and try to take their reactions as a guide for your progress. Remember to do all that you can to make your customers fell as comfortable as possible so that they’ll come back to do business with you in the future!

What humor can you bring to your company?

Hey, IHOP! Perception is Reality!

 

So I will publicly admit, I LOVE my chocolate chip pancakes. And frankly, the more chocolate in the pancakes (with a ton of chocolate chips on top), the better!

So I ventured off to IHOP last Sunday for some of those delicious pancakes. It was Sunday morning, so I knew that it would be crowded. I was expecting the usual Sunday morning 20-minute wait.

I put my name in and waited. There were probably twenty people or so waiting. So I decided to sneak off to the restroom before I was seated. As I was coming back from the restroom, I could not help noticing that there were seven tables opened, cleaned off, and ready to serve. So, I went back to the waiting area and waited. And waited. And waited. AND WAITED.

Curiosity got the best of me. I went up (nicely) to the three hostesses who were standing around the podium talking and said, “I just have to ask – you have all of these people waiting and you have seven open tables. Can we be seated?”

She was very polite and said, “We are waiting for the kitchen to catch up.” I thanked her and sat back down.

What I couldn’t grasp was the fact that all of the people standing around me were asking the same questions (perception). What else could IHOP have done to make my waiting experience better? Hey, how about offering me something to drink (for which I would end up paying for when I was seated)? Or, I don’t know, pacing the seating a bit better?

Look, I am sure not complaining about the kitchen here. There is only so much room to cook so much food. My thought is that maybe IHOP (and others who make you wait) could rethink the whole waiting process.

I will say, our waitress was very good (and it was her first week), and the food, well, those darn pancakes are always great.

Remember – perception is reality, no matter where you go for Sunday breakfast!

Way To Go, Lambert Airport, For WOWing Your Customers!

 

It’s no secret – everyone loves exceptional customer service, especially at times in which you least expect it or really need that extra smile and attention to detail. And while we may recognize and remember poor customer service (Negative stories sadly tend to make better conversation.), we should definitely do the same for excellent customer service that exceeds our every expectation.

Lambert-St. Louis International Airport did just that last month. The airport celebrated its second year of their “Catch Us Giving” Program in which the airport recognized customer service leaders, the unsung heroes of the airline industry.  Recognized were more than 100 airport employees during the reception.

The first ever “Catch Us Giving” Ambassador of the Year award was given to Samantha Hammock, who works at Starbucks as an employee of HMSHost. But why was she chosen? Well, her customers and colleagues strongly felt that she deserved the award because she exemplifies her non-stop energetic, positive attitude in the workplace, day in and day out. Her demeanor and helpfulness embodies the mission of excellent customer service at Lambert-St. Louis International Airport.

Here are all the other winners for February’s “Catch Us Giving” program at Lambert Airport:

*Jessica Stepke – Southwest Airlines

*Millie Ocasio – Lambert Information Booth

*Tom Worshaw – Midwest Elevator

*Carmelle Costello – HMSHost

*Jacqueline Parker – HMSHost

*Yolanda Edmondson – Super Park

*Keith Burleson – International Ram

*Donnie Pool – Lambert Airport

*Jacie Price – Continental Airlines

*Samantha Hammock and Mekdes Sirage – HMSHost

*Mae Mahone – Lambert Information Booth

*Mildred Dee – TSA

*Brennen Hurt and Darian Callion – HMSHost

*Leslie Granadillo – Lambert Airport

*Reuben Jones – United Airlines

*John Conrades – TSA

*Reginald Rice – Lambert Airport

*Roland Brown – Huntleigh

*Lamont Rice – Lambert Airport

*Marilyn Sanders – Lambert Airport

*Angela Arms – Lambert Airport

*Anthony Capone – Air Tran

*Steven Rhodes – International Ram

*Dearest Wynn – Huntleigh

*Stephanie Morris – Lambert Airport

Congratulations to all the winners this month! I’m sure your company is exceptionally proud and thankful to have you as a member of their team.

And faithful readers, if you by chance are at Lambert-St. Louis International Airport in the near future and you see these great employees, be sure to congratulate them on a job very well done!

Hallmark – Really Sends the Very Best (Service, That Is)!

Hallmark - Really Sends the Very Best (Service, That Is)!I am a card girl and have been my entire life.  I believe that sending a handwritten card is something that everyone enjoys receiving.  It might be for a new grandbaby, an ill relative or even a “just because” card.

Of course, one of the best card selections is your local Hallmark store.  I should have taken out stock in Hallmark, given as much money as I have spent over my entire life!

My list for cards was large, so it was time to venture on to Hallmark.  The closest Hallmark for me is the Collinsville (Illinois) store.

As soon as the door opened, I heard a friendly voice say, “Welcome to Hallmark!” as she made eye contact with me.  She asked if she could assist me, and I explained my list of cards.  She graciously took me to show me where each type of card was.  I also mentioned that I would like a balloon bouquet and without missing a beat, she listened and whisked away to take care of what I needed.

You know, I am all about time management, so someone who was able to multitask with me is someone who is a WOW in my book.

I gathered my cards and in turning the corner, I heard one of the sales clerks explaining to another customer that clearance is 80% off.  Yep, so that got my attention.  I was perusing the deals and another clerk said, “If there is something in particular you are looking for, just let me know.”  Just about that time, the clerk arrived with my balloons and said, “Thank you for your patience.  I apologize for your wait.”

Wait?  I didn’t even feel like I was waiting!  To me, that is the true trick of having to wait – not feeling like you are waiting because the organization has helped with that wait time.

As I checked out, they reminded me that I could order my chocolate covered strawberries.  Mmmmmm.  I really wanted to but refrained (simply from a caloric point of view).  I used my debit card to pay for the transaction and I intentionally had not signed the back of the card.  The clerk asked for my ID. All of the staff were very friendly and clearly, high customer service expectations had been set for all.

Kudos to the owner of the Collinsville Hallmark.  YOU get it!

Wow Your New Customers With These Eight Fantastic Tips For First Impressions!

You only have three seconds to make a first impression. That’s right. THREE.

Don’t believe me? The next time you encounter a stranger, start the countdown and decide how long it takes for you to form an impression of them. And within that nearly non-existent amount of time you too will be completely evaluated, the person on the receiving end will be scrutinizing everything from body language, mannerisms, physical/verbal, and every other little detail from your haircut to your shoes.

It’s only human nature to do so. We’re visual creatures, and the visual perception leaves a strong imprint. How come so many people blow it? Well, because we have many opportunities to blow it – via telephone, in person, or even on the Internet.

Consider the following example, which happened many years ago in a jewelry store. I always make it a point to support small businesses whenever possible and had decided to make a planned purchase at a local jewelry store rather than a large franchised operation.

I entered the store, a small but empty showroom where no one greeted me. After several minutes, an employee finally emerged from the back room. I could hear the television playing and it sounded like a commercial had come on. She asked if she could help me. I said, “I am looking for a heart necklace,” and she showed me the case where they were displayed.

It was then that the phone rang. From the tone of voice and conversation, it was obviously a personal friend. I heard that her daughter had a problem with a teacher, that she had forgotten to take the hamburger out of the freezer, and the fact that oh-how-she-wished that she weren’t at work.

At the end of her phone conversation, she returned to the back room for some reason. When she returned after a short time, she asked, “Have you made a decision?” I smiled and said, “Yes,” and I turned around and left the store.

Now, what’s wrong with this picture? Several things. See how you can avoid making those mistakes; check out these following eight tips on how to give your customer a great first impression:

1. Never, ever, EVER chew gum. And I mean never. While chewing gum itself may freshen your breath, the act of chewing gum shows contempt for your customer.

2. No matter how bad you feel, smile. It won’t kill you! Your customer may feel lousy, too, or they might be having a horrible day. Maybe their dad is in the hospital or their dog just died. But a smile and a warm greeting from you may be the thing they need right now, and it will keep them coming back.

Oh, and by the way, smiling makes YOU feel better. Try it. Right now. See? Don’t you feel better now?

3. Remember – every customer who walks through your door should be the most important thing that has happened all day. Be sure to treat them that way!

4. Even if you’re busy when the customer arrives, acknowledge their presence and let them know you’ll be with them shortly. There’s nothing worse than being ignored when you arrive and made to feel like you are a secondary consideration to the important task at hand!

5. If the customer needs to wait, ask if they would like anything to drink while they wait like water, coffee, or tea. They’ll feel more at home.

6. Engage your customer in small talk, but be sure to not talk TOO much. They don’t want to hear about your life story or the latest information about your surgery or health.

7. Learn to love your customers and enjoy having them around, and DO NOT look or act bored! Whether you think the customer is important or not, THEY think that they are. Don’t let them think that they’re not important!

8. If a customer comments on the beautiful weather, NEVER reply with, “Yeah, too nice to be working!” These comments reflect badly on the company and make the customer feel uncomfortable.

If you follow these tips and keep in mind that the customer is #1, you will be amazed at how your customers will respond. And who knows? That very customer may tell all their family and friends how great you are, and you could generate even more business. Remember, it’s ALL about the attitude!