Last summer we dropped nearly 5 bills on a “once-in-a-lifetime” experiential date. The concept in and of itself is pretty rad. A local oyster company hosts “farm dinners” where (for a not-so-small fee) guests travel by bus (and boat) to an oyster farm, enjoy an in-water raw bar and dine on a delish multi-course meal (whipped up by a 5-star chef) on a private strip of sand in the middle of Narragansett Bay. 

Overall, the experience was... good. And frankly, good is not where I wanted it to be after dropping serious dough. There were so many things that went right - the weather, eating freshly shucked oysters while drinking an icy IPA, spending some QT with my own cutie and so on.

The bad though was there from the very beginning to the bitter end . The bad was our host, Jen.

Jen was obviously super comfortable in her role as host. She had an air of “this ain’t my first rodeo," that we noticed as soon as we pulled into the parking lot. Clipboard in hand, she asked for our last name and barked “Hustle up!” impatiently. This greeting set the tone for the evening and it literally just got worse from there.

The problem with this is - the host from hell is what we remembered, not the heavenly experience. And it wasn't just us. About a week later a friend told me she went to a farm dinner. Guess what the first words out of her mouth were - not how tasty the oysters were - how rude Jen was and what negative impact she had on their night as well.

Here are 3 ways your staff could be railroading your brand and how to fix the situation ASAP: 

1. ) They’re uh...unique. Remember the Sesame Street bit - which one of these things does not belong? Well, your bestie stands out like a sore thumb. Whether she’s chatting it up with certain customers and ignoring others, wearing inappropriate clothes or checking her phone constantly, you (or worse, your customers!) can tell that she’s more than an employee - she's entitled.

Quick fix: This is where your brand bible comes into play. You know what’s on-brand and offbrand in your company and it’s time you enforce it. Your brand bible includes your brand voice / personality / mission and all those marketing gems that make your business shine. Ideally, your staff is a living-breathing extension of your brand (at the very least, while they’re on the clock!) and if they’re not, now is the time to show them how to become a brand superstar. 

2.) Your premium experience is had by all. When you’re offering premium goods or services, you need to make sure your operation is high and tight. Even if your brand is as laid back as Bob Marley, your staff should be busy ensuring your clients have fun, not the other way around. When Jen cracked a beer before she finished offering them to the guests, it felt icky. It’s sort of like boarding a Disney ride where the ride conductor sits down next to you and buckles up. Um - are we in danger? Will Jen's mood get even more irratic now that we add alcohol? Are we supposed to tip her or is she off the clock? Is she still our guide? It just mixes everything up.  

Quick fix: Experience your experience. This one is tricky, but critical. It’s actually only tricky if you try to pull off an Undercover Boss-stealth mission and disguise yourself. An easier way to truly experience your experience is to have a trusted friend (one that your staff doesn’t know!) go undercover as a paying client and promise to give you honest ( yes, even critical - remember it will positively impact your biz) feedback about the experience.

3.) The chain of command is unclear. In a perfect world, no one would know that your BFF is actually the waitress at your restaurant (for instance) because they are straight killing as your star server. At our farm dinner, we didn’t know if Jen was part of the family, a close friend or what. We just knew that the vibe she put out was that she was special, entitled and (even as the “host”) her needs and wants for the evening were numero uno.

Quick fix: Get ahold of your ship, captain! Your clients need to know there’s someone in charge, someone who cares about their experience. Frankly, your income depends on their satisfaction. Survey your clients after their experience (a quick, open ended survey with an incentive for completion!) and monitor the trends. If we were given a survey after our farm dinner, I would have voiced my opinion there instead of here (or Yelp or Facebook or Google or... you get my drift.)