How much does a first impression really mean?

Mumbled greetings. Lack of eye contact. Delayed service.

These are the kinds of things that can turn off a weary traveler within seconds of arriving at a hotel — or anyone arriving anywhere, for that matter. After waiting in security lines only to be rushed into an overcrowded airplane, the one thing a traveler desires as they arrive at their hotel is a bit of humanity.

When a guest walks through a hotel’s doors for the first time, a greeting from a friendly face can make a guest forget all about the pain of the previous few hours.

I know this goes without saying — we all should make great first impressions. Our parents have been instilling that into all of us since we were young. Yet I find that people forget this little life lesson, and as hoteliers, it’s our responsibility to make our guests feel as welcomed as possible.

Imagine this scenario. After taking a red-eye, cross-country flight in the middle seat at the back of a plane, a business traveler steps into a cab for a 25-minute ride that is spent answering the constant stream of emails and texts he received while on the flight. He finally arrives at his hotel. This is the end of the guest’s travels. The hotel represents the light at end of tunnel. How do you think this traveler will feel if he is greeted with a bellman that won’t carry his bags, front-desk employees that ignore his or her presence and a lobby feeling that is stale? You can bet the next time he comes to that city, he or she will be spending his time and money at a different hotel.

In our industry, we do everything we can to provide comforts of home at our properties. And here’s a little secret to having satisfied guests — it only takes the tiniest bit of effort to impress an exhausted traveler. Many of you will say, “Yeah, no kidding,” or, “Tell us something we don’t already know.” True, but how many hotels out there are actually are making sure it is happening? My guess is far fewer than you think.

If someone opens the door, offers a warm greeting with a smile and handshake, or asks how someone’s day is going, that person might have just made someone’s day — or better yet, created customer loyalty. By properly welcoming a guest into your hotel, you can have a satisfied customer before they even step into their room.