The beginning of every new year brings with it a sense of reflecting back on the successes (and areas that need improvement) of the past 12 months, as well as an optimistic excitement about what the new year will bring in terms of opportunities and adventures. This annual tradition holds true for individuals – but also applies to running a company.
While in our personal lives we might call them “New Year’s resolutions,” they are known as business objectives and goals in the corporate world and describe what a company expects to accomplish throughout the coming year. Like resolutions, these objectives are based on past performance and analysis of what might need to change…and some goals will be realized while others will not by the end of the calendar year. But the long-term planning and creation of strategies to advance our mission help provide a road map and most certainly help drive our business decisions – which ultimately benefits our associates and patrons, both top priorities at Ambassadors Plus.
It is our hope that 2018 will bring exciting new opportunities and continued success for our company and those clients we are so privileged to serve. As we close the chapter of 2017 and begin another 365-day journey, may we all follow the wise advice of Albert Einstein:
“Learn From Yesterday
Live For Today
Hope For Tomorrow”
“Always be kind for everyone is fighting a hard battle.” ~ Plato
At Ambassadors Plus, we understand that parking cars is only a small part of what we do – particularly in the healthcare hospitality industry. Valet parking at restaurants or hotels is very different in nature, and often more of a luxury than a necessity. At our client hospitals, we realize that most patients and guests use our service because they have a real need for it. They either cannot walk from the parking lot to the building’s entrance due to physical limitations, or they are simply too weak or sick to travel any distance.
We have always considered our jobs, however, to be more than even addressing physical needs. The patients and visitors who come to the medical facilities we serve frequently need emotional support, as well. You never know what a smile, a warm greeting or an encouraging word might do for someone you encounter. Our associates are trained to be compassionate and to truly connect with our patients.
As a general rule, no one is going to the hospital – unless a baby has been born – for a happy reason. Either that person or someone they love is sick and/or hurting. We recognize this fact and accept the added challenge of providing hospitality services at healthcare facilities where creating a positive first impression during a tough period in the patient or visitor’s life is extra difficult. We may not be able to remove someone’s burdens…but we can certainly try to lighten them.
During this season, Ambassadors Plus is especially aware of the sadness that can accompany those patients and guests who must spend the holidays in the hospital. Please know that our associates are committed to making visitors’ experiences as positive as possible. We train our people to provide exceptional service. We teach them to be empathetic and supportive. We expect them to care.
But above all else, we want them to be kind.
We’ve all heard this old saying and understand its truth in many aspects of life. The valet parking and hospitality service industries are no exceptions: knowledge is power as it relates to what we provide our clients at Ambassadors Plus.
In order to deliver world-class service, we must be knowledgeable about our jobs and how we perform them. We must stay updated on the latest trends in the industry and maintain our focus on ensuring our associates receive the best possible training so that our customers benefit from the knowledge and know-how we’ve given those who interface with them.
But our real power – and therefore our clients’ real power when they hire us – comes from a different kind of knowledge. We strive to really get to know our clients and their needs so we can customize how we do business to maximize their return on investment. We are aware of what our competitors offer in the way of technology, for example, and we could provide those same services. However, not every service makes sense for every client. We resist cookie-cutter approaches and instead propose individualized plans for each client. That way, our clients aren’t paying for services they don’t need – and their patients and guests are getting exactly what they need from a customer service standpoint.
Amazon.com founder, chairman and CEO Jeff Bezos put it this way: “We’re not competitor-obsessed, we’re customer-obsessed. We start with what the customer needs and we work backwards.”
Rest assured that Ambassadors Plus always gets to know its clients and their needs first before designing an action plan – and this knowledge makes our partnerships with our clients that much more powerful.
We’ve said it for years. Many companies can park cars. Handle lot management. Operate shuttle vans and golf carts around healthcare facilities and campuses. And many, if not most, of those companies will identify themselves as part of the parking or transportation industry.
That’s where we are different. Ambassadors Plus provides valet parking, lot management and maintenance, shuttle van service, golf cart transports and more. And we do it all well. But we consider ourselves to be in the hospitality industry. And here is why…
If you look up the word hospitality in the dictionary, you will find such definitions as “the friendly and generous reception of guests, visitors or strangers” and “taking care of guests and anticipating their needs.” Sure, we train our associates to know proper procedures and safety techniques when we hire them to park cars, for example – but we take it to the next level by training them to provide unparalleled hospitality and customer-focused service as well. Because the patrons expect you to park and retrieve their cars safely, but what leaves a lasting and memorable impression is when you do that in a friendly, generous and caring way.
We believe that the hospitality industry encompasses more than the hotels, restaurants and tourist attractions that typically come to mind. Customer service is at the heart of all that we do at Ambassadors Plus, no matter what parking- or transportation-related job we are doing. Being hospitable is an important part of what we offer and an integral component of who we are.
We’ve been told that our customer service/hospitality-minded approach – combined with our proven experience with parking and transportation – gives us a competitive edge. Sometimes being a little different is a plus.
It sounds crazy to say that sometimes the best thing that can happen to your business is to receive a customer complaint. After all, isn’t the goal to have a perfect, spotless record and avoid uncomfortable interactions with clients at all costs? Perhaps, but that’s not realistic.
The reality is that every company will face negative customer feedback at some point – in spite of the best training, execution and intentions. We are only human, and humans make mistakes from time to time. What makes a business stronger is not running from these challenges but instead rising to meet them and recognizing that these situations are actually great opportunities.
- To improve your customer service skills.
- To strengthen your client relationships.
- To build customer loyalty.
But to turn these negatives into positives, you must do the following:
- Discuss the issue directly with the customer or client with the complaint, even if you have to initiate the conversation. Listen and make sure you understand what is being said – and make sure they know their voice has been heard.
- Remain professional and resist the urge to react in an emotional way. By controlling your response, you are controlling the situation. A negative reaction will only make it worse.
- Admit when you’re wrong. Don’t lie about or make excuses for mistakes. Apologize if you’ve failed the customer in any way.
- Tell the customer or client what you’re going to do to rectify the situation. Making the person with the complaint part of the solution process is key to resolving the issue.
- Fix the problem.
- Follow up with the customer or client to communicate that the negative situation has been handled and ensure that he or she is satisfied with the results.
In order to implement these steps in service recovery, businesses must also make sure they have properly trained their employees. At Ambassadors Plus, we place a tremendous emphasis on associate training to prepare our front-line people to handle any situation that may arise – good or bad.
The great news is that customers and clients are also human, so most will be reasonable to deal with if they feel they’ve been heard and action has been taken to correct the problem. Negative complaints offer us several positive outcomes: 1) the opportunity to learn from our mistakes; 2) the chance to create stronger client partnerships based on trust and respect; and 3) the prospect of more loyal customers who appreciate a company who listens and responds to them.