This week, I was invited to speak to the girls of Princess Margaret Secondary School on the topic Choice, Not Chance, Determines Our Destiny. From the time guidance counsellor Corynne Haynes shared the topic she wanted me to speak on, I was excited; because that is exactly the kind of topic that stirs me up.
The session was very interactive; so I really didn’t need my incentives, aka bribes, to get them to participate. I told them that every choice in our lives had a consequence, and used visuals to share some of the results of the choices I had made in my life.
Of course, I had to emphasize that choices didn’t only lead to good outcomes; and I was pleased when I asked the group what happened when you made bad choices, and one young lady said: “Learn from them.”
I was sorry I only had a short time to speak, because I truly believe our students, primary and secondary, need someone from the outside to come in from time to time and motivate and encourage them in various aspects of life.
I’m not saying the teachers are not doing that now. I’m sure some are; but even from my small taste of speaking to several hundred students at once, I know that it can’t be easy. So I really commend the efforts of those who are trying.
On another note, it is quite amazing how the Internet has brought another dimension to our choices. Today, when we’re planning to go out to dinner or we’re travelling and we want to know which places of interest to visit or which shows to see, we now rely on Trip Advisor and similar sites.
This week, we took my mum out for dinner for her birthday. I was trying to decide which South Coast restaurant to take her to, since she’s on that coast, so the first thing I did was to check out their menus online and to look at their Trip Advisor reviews.
Based on the four and a half star reviews on Trip Advisor, I chose one that had been recently renovated, and the menu looked good.
I arranged a booking for 7:45 p.m., but I was running late because my son got home from football at about seven! Thankfully, he and my husband got ready in minutes, as men can do.
Since my sister was driving my mother there, I asked her to go in and wait for us so we would not lose our table. I also called the restaurant to say I was running late, and I was told: “No problem.”
I have to confess we arrived at about 7:15 and were asked to sit in the lounge where my mother and sister were waiting. I had no problem with that. However, after waiting about ten minutes, I was contemplating walking out, but I held my peace.
The fact we were not even offered a drink while we waited is what really put me in an article-writing mood.
What made it worse was that the host who came to take us to our table had no warmth in his greeting, nor showed any sign he was glad we had chosen to spend our hard-earned money at the restaurant that was employing him. In fact I was so put off by him, I already had the article formulated in my head with the name of the restaurant in the headline. Just joking!
I’m sure my editor would have rewritten that. Speaking of which, I have to slip in here that the photos of Henry Peter Simmons in my article last week would not have been of the character of the book Vaucluse which I’m writing, but of a later descendant of his by the same name.
Anyway, I digress. By the time we were seated, I was far from impressed. Granted, the decor was lovely, and we had a waterfront table as I requested; but so far, the service deserved a one-star review.
Thankfully Andrew saved the night from ruin. Andrew was our server, and from the time he came and introduced himself to the time we left, our whole experience changed.
Andrew knows how to make you feel welcome and how to make sure you have exactly what you want in such a genuine and uncontrived way that makes you feel comfortable and catered to.
When I ordered the jerk pork tenderloin, he cautioned me that it was very spicy, and suggested the pork ribs instead. When I told him that I really wanted the accompanying sides of plantain and sweet potato mash that went with the jerk pork, he told me no problem; he could have them switched to come with the ribs.
Similarly, he assured my daughter that she could have potatoes instead of the sticky rice that came with her meal. (I’m giving away hints now.)
He kept us well informed on what was happening every step of the way; and then he did something that I have never experienced in all my years of dining out. It blew me away! I was unfamiliar with the Merlot I had ordered, and while it was okay, I had had better. So when we were about to switch to a different wine for the second bottle, he asked if we cared to sample the reds that were on the list.
Since there was a somewhat limited selection, we said yes; and, sure enough, he brought out three sample glasses for the table to try. We ended up staying with the first one.
I have to say that the meal was great: from the freshly baked bread that we started with to the desert that my mum had with the firework in it.
Our server even brought a spoon for my daughter to sample her granny’s desert without her asking. All of that, together with the wine, totally transformed my mood. Needless to say, I was moved to give Andrew a very healthy tip when we were leaving.
I share this experience to let businesses, particularly those in the service industry, know that the customer now has many choices (unless you have a monopoly) and many ways to decide on those choices; so it is imperative your service is on point, or you will suffer greatly from the power of that choice. Worse yet, the customer will get on Trip Advisor, Facebook and Instagram and tell everyone.
Choose your staff carefully, especially the ones that will give the first impression. Remember that skills can be taught, but the desire to serve and excel has to come from the heart; so check out their hearts before you hire them. As we seek to compete for tourist dollars in a global arena and for local dollars in a tough economy, we need all the Andrews we can get to make our businesses stand out from the rest.
(Donna Every is an author, international speaker and trainer. She is also the Barbados Ambassador for Women’s Entrepreneurship Day and the Barbados facilitator for the InfoDev WINC Acceleration Programme. Email [email protected] Visit www.donnaevery.com and www.facebook.com/DonnaEvery1)