Monthly Archives: August 2011

Downburst Aftermath

I darn near cried as I called our building’s owner to tell her a downburst took off a third of our roof and ensuing rains damaged 10 of our 13 offices/rooms. Calls to my Board chair and staff were more composed but difficult to share that our office was completely ruined.

What do you do? BBAs, MBAs, CDMEs, CSEEs and countless state tourism conferences don’t prepare you for this. You’re a marketing or sales person. Not a disaster specialist. While Steve Perry and Butch Spyridon could probably share much more as a result of Katrina hitting New Orleans and flood waters overtaking Nashville, these simple thoughts on dealing with a disaster are this month’s Five at 5:

You won’t do anything… meaning you won’t do any regular things for at least two weeks ’cause you’re dealing with insurance, adjusters, disaster specialists, landlords, and board members. Then there’s the interested parties that drop by that you be kind to and give tours. (Maybe I was just too kind.)

That being said…

Get up and running… nothing will help “ease the pain” better than getting back to work. I had personal emails for all the staff (Gmail, Yahoo, etc.) so I was able to communicate longer messages than text would allow. We had updated our computers to laptops with wireless capabilities. Now they didn’t need an office. And having recently switched our CRM to iDSS, sales was able to access everything since iDSS is a web based program. Cell phone and laptop, you’re in business!

Document everything… you can’t take enough pictures. I bought an SD card specifically for this disaster so as to not loose a picture. One appraiser appreciated the ease of transferring the pics that way instead of me emailing dozens of pictures. And receipts are your best friend! Anything you purchase and remotely hope to get reimbursed for needs to have a receipt.

Move once… I heard this over and over and over again as we considered our options of a temporary space vs. a permanent move. If you serve as a welcome center especially, the last thing you want to do is say, “We’ve moved to 123 Elm” and then six to nine months later direct visitors to yet another address.

Keep your Board up to date… I’ve received compliments from Board members about how much information I’ve shared. Regular emails detailing the damage, what insurance is doing, where I’ve looked for new space, pros and cons of one space over the other, the fact that staff is still working, etc. While they may not respond, they do what to know what is going on and I believe it’s brought one or two members closer to the DMO and staff.

Naturally the best hope is you never have to go through something like this but if you do, this might have sparked a few thoughts to help navigate through a similar experience. You get through it and it’s a great learning experience. Not one I wanted to learn in the midst of launching a website, staff changes, preparing for our annual luncheon, launching a hospitality training program and…

Feel free to leave your suggestions or comments below. Thanks for reading!

Are We As Bad As Automated?

I called to have our phone lines moved. Went through the automated system. Gave Mr. Computer my account number and address. First thing the live customer service representative asked for? Yep, my account number and address! I laughed and asked her if that hadn’t popped up on her screen. She said no. I then asked (nicely) then why did I have to give all my information to the computer? She said she didn’t know and shared they wonder themselves.

It got me thinking… are we doing the same thing? When someone calls in, they may share information about their conference or reunion or anything so we can decipher who to direct the call to. Wonder if they’ll appreciate a simple “I apologize, but in order for Joe to help you best, you’ll probably have to repeat your information.” It might at least deaden the sting.

What do you think?

Do The Disney Thing

Did the Disney thing! My son loved the Star Wars themed weekends and my daughter was giddy to meet all of the princesses and of course, Mickey and Minnie. Don’t tell my wife, but the trip was partially a reconnaissance mission for me. And I was marveled again by the exemplary example Disney provides to the others of us in the travel/entertainment industry.

It probably helped that in April I had just heard about Customer Service “Disney Style” as part of NASC’s CSEE program. The speaker offered action plans to build loyalty in our offices, delivery systems that enhance service and service plans that promote quality. All great systems but really, it was some very simple things that amazed me – easy things we can “steal from Disney”, do every day and impact our operations and destinations.

Name Tags… I’m certainly not trying to infringe on the Name Tag Guy’s domain by mentioning Name Tags but man, everything Scott preaches about approachability is dead on at Disney with EVERY cast member wearing a name tag! It became very comfortable to call them by name, feeling like you knew them for years and guilty if you didn’t call them by name! I came back realizing name tags aren’t just for trade shows. It’s required wearing helping not just the visitors but your community partners feel they can approach you and be comfortable doing so.

Research… the gentleman that spoke in Greensboro at NASC’s Symposium shared how Disney had done research to learn the average person will walk 27 paces with a piece of trash before they throw it on the ground. Thus, there are trash cans every 25 paces through out Disney. And trust me, I counted. Not all of them but from time to time I would pace it off and sure enough, 24, 25, 24, 23, 25… How well do we know our visitors? Are you constantly collecting secondary research? Monitoring TTRA or USTA’s MOF… Are you collecting any primary research? Heck, pick one question you’re gonna ask every visitor that walks in your Welcome Center this summer. No it may not be absolutely scientific, but I’ll be you know how far your visitors will walk with that empty cup looking for a receptacle!

Speaking of Trash… the cleanliness of Disney parks are legendary. But the cleanliness is real! They’re spotless! Okay, there was a napkin or something from time to time but it was shocking to see anything on the ground. What I was impressed with was the managerial staff that walked around with the ‘trash pick up tools’, ‘garbage grabbers’, prongs, whatever they’re called. Trash wasn’t beneath anyone. Which leads me to wonder if picking up the can or paper or empty cup in the parking lot or on our downtown sidewalk is below us? It’s not just individual efforts either. Can our DMO’s organize a clean-up day before a major event in our community? Disney set the trash bar high. Any trash in our communities is less than what is expected by our visitors. Both the individual and group efforts might be contagious.

Three simple things we can steal from Disney. I’ll bet there’s more. Feel free to leave your suggestions or comments below.Thanks for reading!