Wow! The crowds are really coming to the island. From my desk at the Chamber I can see the line of vehicles backing up behind the curve on Washington Street near the American Legion Hall. The NRTA buses pull into the Greenhound parking lot every 15 minutes to unload their passengers. Cars, cabs and hotel courtesy vans are circling the private parking lot next to the Harbor Stop & Shop to pick up friends, relatives and guests. Bike racks are filling up. And I can hear the steady rumble of wheeled-suitcases rolling up the sidewalk along Main Street.
The season is upon us and with it, the opportunities and challenges of providing exceptional hospitality and customer service. With an economy so heavily dependent on tourism and a “high season,” island businesses and organizations understand the need to provide the best in service to our guests. Shoppers are greeted by shopkeepers with a smile on the face, not a cell phone in the hand. The areas around our front doors are kept neat, clean, and tidy. Shop windows are smartly decorated. Conversations begin with “How may I help you?” And end with a sincere, “Thank you.” At least those things happen if you want your customers, visitors, and guests to return.
I heard an interesting statistic today. If someone has a good experience with a service provider or business, s/he tells three people. If it’s a bad experience, s/he tells five people. I guess that’s a case where I’d rather have fewer people talking about my organization!
The same sense of customer service and hospitality extends to each and every island resident. We are all ambassadors for the island and for each other. Greet that wave of people crossing Broad Street at the crosswalk with a smile! “Welcome to Nantucket!” See someone reading a map? Stop and ask them how you can help them find their way. Know where the public restrooms are, or where to get a cup of coffee or an ice cream cone, and the locations of some of the island’s playgrounds. Do you know where the ATM machines are located? Those are the types of questions we receive at the Chamber and that I’m asked when I’m walking around town, in Sconset, or in the mid-Island area. I love to stop and help someone who looks like she might have a question. I’ve met people from all around the country and the world. I hope they tell three of their friends!
The Town – through the new office of Tourism and Culture – has created an Ambassador Program. Volunteers will walk around town in pairs, identified by their blue hats and tee shirts, for two hours/week to be available to give directions and information to visitors. Anyone can sign up at Visitor Services at 25 Federal Street. The Town is participating in this program by allowing employees who work downtown to take two hours/week to be an Ambassador during regular work hours. The Chamber staff will follow suit and serve as Ambassadors, too. I hope some Chamber members will also encourage their employees to become Ambassadors. This kind of focus and emphasis on hospitality will make a lasting positive impression on Nantucket’s visitors.
Janet Schulte is Executive Director of the Nantucket Island Chamber of Commerce.