A Friendly Touch

June 19, 1994|By Dail Willis | Dail Willis,Ocean City Bureau of The Sun

Ocean City -- As the song says, little things mean a lot.

In a resort, a little thing like "thank you" can mean a lot more business, and to that end, the businesses in Ocean City want to become "The Friendliest Beach."

"Sometimes we all just need to be energized," says Angela Reynolds, general manager of the Hotels at Fager's Island.

Two recent seminars for employees at local businesses have put a lot of energy into area employees, she says, and are helping business people here reach their goal of "The Friendliest Beach."

The seminars, sponsored by area businesses and the Maryland Department of Economic and Employment Development (DEED), were given earlier this month. About 900 employees, most of them seasonal workers, attended. Among them were bartenders, front-desk workers, housekeepers, waitresses and bellhops, all employed at area resorts.

The seminars were led by Dr. R. Edward Turner, president of an Annapolis performance-management company called the High Performance Group.

"These people really have to develop an enthusiasm and a passion for what they do, or it isn't going to work," says Dr. Turner. "They are at the line. The success depends on the quality of service guests receive."

The seminar setting was upbeat, with Beach Boys music and a free T-shirt with "The Friendliest Beach" logo on it given to all attendees. Their employers paid the $15 fee for the seminar.

"I thought it was great -- very informative," says Paul Mahoney, 25, a bartender at Castle in the Sand, a seminar sponsor. "It brought out a lot of stuff that we knew but maybe weren't using all the time."

"I thought it was very good," adds Teri Rowland, 19, another Castle in the Sand employee. "I've never been a waitress before -- it made me aware of little things. Like smiling and talking, and eye contact."

"We'll continue to promote the idea of 'The Friendliest Beach,' so it's fresh on their minds," adds their employer, Adam Showell of Castle in the Sand.

The two seminars capped months of planning, Mr. Showell says. Although it's the second year such "hospitality training" has been brought to Maryland's beach, the theme of "The Friendliest Beach" is new this year.

A committee of area business owners and managers, and representatives from DEED conceived the theme earlier this year. Next, Mr. Showell says, the group held a daylong seminar for owners and managers billed as "training the trainers." Mr. Turner was the leader at that seminar, too, Mr. Showell says.

"It was to teach them how to train their employees," Mr. Showell says.

Then came last week's seminars.

"We try to hold the seminars early in the year to give employers and employees the skills they need for the summer," says Mr. Showell. "June is usually early enough for that."

"It's an investment in our business," says Ms. Reynolds. "We went through what's important about guest service -- what takes it from normal guest service to outstanding. That's not always easy because we have so many part-time employees, so making the employees feel they have an investment was what Dr. Turner wanted to get across."

Dr. Turner, who holds a doctorate in communications, devoted his presentation to what he calls the "ABCs" of outstanding guest service.

"Achieve a relationship, Boil down the issue and Create action" was his message. That means looking at the guests, listening to what they say and acting to help them, Dr. Turner says, adding, "We had some fun and there was a lot of working together."

The "Friendliest Beach" theme will continue to be developed throughout the season and the year, says Andrea Ford of DEED. The seminars and the training arose after the area's businesses recognized the need to say "thank you" to their visitors.

"Guests aren't always right, but we have to let them think they are," says the Hotels at Fager's Island's Ms. Reynolds. "If you can get in their place, it helps."

And a little thank you can reap a lot of rewards for individual employees. Outstanding service can bring better tips and return visits, she says.

"It pays in the long run."

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