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"What I Learned from Beer Tasting"



Life Lessons: Six of One Dozen of the Other- "What I Learned from Beer Tasting"


A few years back our neighbor came over and told us about his trip to Portland, OR. He and his buddies had just returned from a weekend of beer tasting. My husband Steve and I were intrigued, we had been wine tasting many times but never beer tasting. Later that day when I asked Steve what he wanted to do for his birthday, he immediately said he wanted to go beer tasting. I loved the idea of a new adventure and we booked our trip. I never thought that I would get to drink beer and experience a life lesson in the attitude of service all at the same time.


Steve and I have always laughed and said we can have fun with a bucket. When we travel, we never really research a trip. We like to find new things and meet new people- in short, we love a great adventure where the story rights itself. We knew we were in for a good time when as we checked in to the hotel, we were handed a bottle of local craft beer. Things were definitely off to a great start!


We had selected a historic hotel – the Heathman- which was centrally located in the city. It was great we could literally walk everywhere. We finally did some brief research and mapped out a walking tour of dozens of breweries, the first of which was 10 Barrell Brewery. This ended up being kismet.


We got to 10 Barrell Brewery in the early afternoon, right after lunch. The brewery was fairly empty and we took a seat at the bar. The bartenders were deep in discussion and since we were not in any rush, we started up a conversation with the guy sitting next to us. We told him we were in town for the sole purpose of beer tasting and he said we had come to the right place. He started telling us all the great places to try from breweries to restaurants to local adventures. The bartenders were still deep in conversation. He got up, went behind the bar and poured us two of what he said were his favorite beers. In all honestly, we were not sure he even worked there but were happy to get a beer and listen to his advice. He came back around from behind the bar and continued the conversation with us.


A few minutes later the bartender returned and looked a little confused that we had been served. Our new friend said not to worry the beers were on him. Thereafter it became obvious our friend had a connection to 10 Barrell- either he frequented the place a lot or he had some type of leadership role there. Either was fine with us after the free beer! As the brewery got busier, most everyone that came in stopped by to say hello to our new friend. I started thinking maybe our friend was the Mayor of Portland until one of the “stop and chats” congratulated him on their purchase by Anheuser Busch. Turned out our friend was one of the three guys who started 10 Barrell back in 2006 with the philosophy “brew beer, drink beer and have fun doing it!” Not a bad success story. Clearly our new friend was continuing to live up to their motto.


I was intrigued with our new friend. He had exhibited such a hands-on philosophy for the brewery despite their enormous success. He was ready, willing and able to roll up his sleeves and work. He’d shared when we talked that they had recently hired on a new crew. He said they could teach about beer, what they hired for was an attitude of service. This really caught my attention and as we toured other breweries that week I looked for this same attitude of service. I never found it that week in Portland. It actually started to be amusing to Steve and me. Employees at other establishments would not make eye contact with us to avoid taking our order- what I like to call “warrior eye control,” would sit and talk only to the local customers, would only talk to other employees, one server even commented negatively first about what we ordered then about “the Californians” – all within ear shot. The indifferent service gave us something to be amused about each day. I continued to be fascinated by how impactful an attitude of service was to us. In fact, not only did we go back three times to 10 Barrel on our trip to Portland. We also learned that 10 Barrell was opening a brewery in San Diego. We have been to San Diego a dozen times since, always going to 10 Barrell. (Sadly 10 Barrell in San Diego was closed in December of 2020.)


So what then is an attitude of service and how do you best cultivate it? It seems obvious that people will migrate toward businesses that provide an outstanding customer experience. Numerous studies have been done that show excellence in customer service is 80% attitude and 20% skills or knowledge. Clearly the “Mayor” of 10 Barrel was on to something! The right attitude provides an employee the approach needed to use their skills and knowledge to their potential, even if they are light on know-how. It will earn companies repeat business. It will build loyal customers who not only keep coming back, but also refer other customers. I had taught for years in customer service classes that when customers have a good experience, they will tell 3-5 people. When customers have a bad experience, they tell 12-15 people. Moreover, an attitude of indifference is the primary cause for people to quit buying a product or service.


Continuing my quest to study customer service, I had a recent experience with Marriott and Lowes Hotels attitude of service. I have been very loyal to the Marriott brand of hotels in my travels over the years and achieved their Titanium Elite Status. There is only one status higher than this for Marriott. I had become use to being treated with thankfulness and respect when I checked in to any Marriott property. I found this not to be the case at the Marriott on Coronado Island in California. In fact their service was so bad, it has become an on-going joke in our household. When I attempted to ask the front desk clerk about an available room upgrade or breakfast, she told me in a very exasperated tone they were not really a Marriott property. I actually turned around and looked out the door at the marquis and said “your sign says you are a Marriott, did that recently change?” She said no but the Coronado Marriott Resort and Spa was different. I was stunned. I had never been hit so squarely in the face with an attitude of indifference. This gal could care less if I stayed at their hotel or not- she still had her job and clearly it would be easier if she had one less customer to wait on. My mom used to say out loud and very loudly when someone had an attitude of indifference like this gal “well she is working here from 9a to 5p today, clearly it is fine with her if we’re here all day too. She will be paid all the same!” I absolutely did not feel like a valuable customer at this Marriott!


Based on this experience at Marriott, I decided to try another hotel on Coronado Island- this time a Lowes. I have limited to no experience with Lowes hotels over the years and certainly no status. Each experience I had with a Lowes employee on my first visit exhibited an exceptional attitude of service. From the valet, to the front desk clerk to the maid service- every encounter was so great it made me want another. I had such a great time I went back two weeks later. It was incredible and it kept getting better even after I checked out. I was sent a survey. I LOVE any kind of survey and am always happy when someone asks my opinion. Not only did Lowes take the time to survey me, when I responded that I loved everything except the long line to purchase a coffee in the morning I received a personal response the same day. The response was from the Assistant Front Office Manager. He not only took the time to thank me for sending the survey, he also committed to talking to the food and beverage managers to find a solution for the long coffee line. When I complimented him on his personal response and service, he responded “I genuinely care about the guest experience, after all it is you that keeps our doors open.” That is the textbook definition of an attitude of service. I will be staying with Lowes on any and all future visits to Coronado Island. I have already referred a dozen others to them!

The life lesson to me from these experiences is that an attitude of service involves:

· understanding expectations

· going above and beyond

· being a customer advocate

· demonstrating behaviors of helpfulness

· genuine interest

Delivering an attitude of service is doable with little if any technical training- after all it is 80% attitude and 20% skills or knowledge. What you don’t know can be resolved with a simple response. “That is a great question. I don’t know the answer. I will find out and get right back to you!” Always remember customers are a gift. You have a job because you have customers- both internal and external customers. Take the time to really listen to your customers and what they have to say. This will allow for continuous learning which will enrichen your days. Have the right attitude. Choose your attitude. Work to manage people’s perceptions. Choose to be in a good mood. Smile. Look at the good parts of life. See the glass half full. Good things will come to you personally and professionally!



What is Your Life Lesson….

1- Can you think of examples of bad customer service?

2- Can you think of the same number of examples of exceptional customer service? (Most people cannot, they remember the bad examples far more than the good examples!)

3- Are you able to choose your attitude?


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