A True Story of An Authentic Hospitality Welcome : 4Hoteliers

While on the road training for Camelback Resort in Pennsylvania's Pocono Mountains, I was able to experience an authentic, warm welcome.Let me share some details about my expectations and what happened before I tell you the rest.Being a frequent business traveler, I usually arrive at 6pm with my suit jacket in hand and a roll-aboard bag.I arrive at the front desk and am greeted by the familiar phrase "Checking in?" At least 70% of the times I'm greeted with this greeting. I try to control my cynical side from saying, No, I'm not checking in. I stopped by your lobby to see the artwork. Another 20% of the time, I get greeted with a version of Do YOU need a reservation? (making it seem like I don't belong in such an environment). I will need an ID and a credit card. It is rare that I feel welcomed.While I have all the respect for those who do it right and my expectations, I expect even lower levels when I check-in at 11pm. I know that I will either encounter the shift staff at 3pm or 11:30pm who are tired, hungry, and ready for me to wrap up and go, or the Night Auditor who just woke up and is getting their first cup of coffee.These were my expectations when, on Sunday night at 11 pm, I arrived at The Camelback Resort. Let me now share my thoughts.It was one of the most memorable days of my entire life. I had seen my daughter walk in the Commencement Ceremonies at Fordham University in Bronx, NY with her 2020 Class, but it had been a year since her Zoom graduation.The ceremony started at 2pm, and we decided to stay for some photos with our friends. This was her first day back at campus since her Spring Break departure in March 2020. She expected to return within a week but she ended up finishing her Senior year virtually.Planning this trip, I knew that I would be leaving campus at 4pm. I would then drop her off at her Queens apartment and drive the 2 hour to Camel Back Resort, where I would start delivering 5 days of back-toback training workshops. As I wanted to arrive in time to start this important training engagement with a new client, my plan was to leave by 7 p.m.The ceremony was beautiful, and we took lots of photos. As we walked along her beautiful campus, she wanted selfies with all of her friends and families. She wanted them to be taken from every angle. Although I admit to looking at my watch, and beginning to worry about the road, she said Dad, Im not ready to go yet. I stopped staring at my watch ever since. It was almost 8 p.m. when we left the campus. I dropped her off at Queens and checked my GPS. I was now arriving at 10:10pm. This is a lot later than I had planned.I navigated New York City's West Side highways and found myself exhaling on the final stretch of I-80 West. Traffic slowed down, the sky became darker, and exits became scarce.The Check Tire Pressure light was on. It was a risk I thought at first. I was sure I know how to change a spare. It is likely to be a little low, not flat. Then I remembered all the road debris and potholes I drove through and that all I had was my phone flashlight. I decided that I didn't want to be roadkill and pulled off at the next exit despite the delay. There weren't any gas stations. I could see that the tires weren't flat but that one looked low.I finally found an open station with an air pump and was able to find it a few exits later. I was furious at the rental car company for doing this to me.The rest of the drive was a blur of anger, frustration, and anxiety. I had to still unpack, iron my shirt and shine my shoes. It was difficult to get enough sleep in order to be prepared for this important engagement.So it was when I arrived at Camelback Resort lobby, 11pm, expecting to experience a transactional check in.Kala was my superhero right away. Despite it being the end of her shift I noticed her warm, welcoming smile and she replied, "Good evening, welcome!"After letting me tell her all about my daughter, she asked, "So, how was it driving from New York?" She did not ask with a scripted tone. Kala was there for me every step of the way, even as I shared my story.She was very supportive of my feelings and listened to me when I mentioned the low-air light.It wasn't the first time I had shared a tale of travel drama with a front desk employee. If a guest arrives late, there are usually stories to tell about mechanical delays, lost luggage or bad weather. But such a reaction is rare as Kalas. Instead, I receive a weak, disingenuous explanation such as Mr. Kennedy, Im sorry. Here's the key.Kala's genuine empathy helped me feel relieved from my travel burdens. My anger also subsided after I was validated.This conversation took just minutes. Kala, a multi-tasker and skilled at multitasking, read the arrival comments. She noted that I was being charged all charges but did not ask for a credit card, as many people do in this situation.She was aware that I was going to be there for a meeting and gave me a helpful tip. All meeting rooms are located on the fourth floor, Mr. Kennedy. However, you must press 4R in your elevator to exit the back doors.These details may seem small to some readers. But it is the smallest details that can make all the difference.Kala said something simple, but it was hard to do. Be present with your guests and not use a scripted greeting.Many hotel managers confuse guest service and hospitality these days.Human kindness to strangers is the true essence of hospitality.Kala was my hero that night, even though her cape probably had to be neatly tucked into her uniform jacket.The Kennedy Training Network, Inc. is the President of Doug Kennedy. This company provides top-quality hotel sales, guest service, front desk training, and mystery shopping services via telephone for the lodging and hospitality industries. Doug is still a regular on the conference circuit for hotels, brands, and associations.Doug's monthly articles on training have been published around the world since 1996. He is a well-known authority in the hospitality industry. Visit KTN at www.kennedytrainingnetwork.com, or email Doug directly at doug@kennedytrainingnetwork.comDoug is the author So You Really Like Working with People? - Five Principles of Hospitality Excellence.