Little Polish on the Skills

So it has been a busy week already. I have had so many meetings that I got that feeling that I ain’t getting anything done and considering I have a lot to do before going to the WAA Conference next week, that ain’t good.

But I have been learning some new things…

Monday I had a meeting with the head of Human Resources. I am on a committee to hire an assistant for myself. The Human Resource department has to look over the questions we are going to ask and approve of them. This is partially to make sure that we aren’t asking any questions connected with the forbidden topics like race, martial status, creed, political affiliation, religion, etc. We didn’t have any of those type of questions, but the head of HR wouldn’t sign off on them because he didn’t feel they would elicit effective answers.

I have to admit, he did have a point. Some of the questions other committee members had submitted dealt with how a person felt about certain situations like meeting new people or their philosophy on customer service. Part of the problem he had was that none of these things were part of the KSAs (knowledge, skills, abilities) of the job description. He encouraged us to rephrase the questions as situationals–what have you done in such a situation or what would you do?

He said that it doesn’t matter how people feel about a certain job as much as how they would act in a situation. His point was that people often hate to do certain aspects of their jobs, but they recognize the value of doing it and doing it well so dismissing them for how they feel might result in you discarding a valuable person.

On the other hand, if they mention they ignored a customer’s complaint because they were incessant whiners when you ask about their experiences, you know how they feel and how they would act.

I never thought of these issues before. So even though it was rather annoying to have to rewrite the questions and couch them in a manner that would satisfy the head of HR and still serve to get the information about the candidate’s personality, I have to admit his way can prove to be more valuable.

Yesterday I attended a meeting of the Performing Arts Presenters of Hawai’i (earlier mention of what they are all about here). We were discussing what our plans were when we attended the Western Arts Alliance Conference in Spokane next week. Not everyone was going so we were making a list of the groups everyone might be interested in presenting so we could check them out and approach agents, etc.

I had been warned to bring an extra suitcase so I could carry presskits and other materials back from the conference. A few weeks after I return, we will all meet again for a marathon review of videos, etc of likely prospects.

Then today I met with a representative of a local hotel chain with whom I am hoping to house most of my visiting performers. I was really reminded of the power of good customer service. I had contacted representatives of a number of chains, but she was the only one that decided that she could better serve me by having me come out and see her properties and treat me to lunch. Of all the others I contacted, only one other has even responded with the information I requested.

The thing is, none of them need my business, especially the woman who took me out. Right now tourism is excellent and there are hardly any rooms to be had on O’ahu. Even though I am bringing a fair bit of business, the hotels can make better use of their time wooing tour operators and travel agents than me. This is especially true because I am asking for kama aina rates (discounts for locals) in order to help me stay on budget.

This woman spoke to me, assessed my needs and then picked the mix of properties of the 20 or so her company manages on my island that would best suit my needs. She stayed away from the really economical places that might prevent jet lagged artists getting off a 5+ hour flight from getting rest and also avoided the ones that were too upscale. My time wasn’t wasted looking at the wrong places.

Every hotel we went to, the general manager came out and met me like I was an important account. They showed me around the rooms personally, offered me water and wet towels to refresh myself. The woman showing me around took me out to lunch at their flagship property where my car was valet parked and returned to me swiftly with my A/C and radio set to create a welcoming environment in my own vehicle. Now perhaps they do much more for travel agents, but they could have done far less for me.

I still have to be conscious of price, but if they end up being a few bucks more a night than another quote I get, they will certainly be getting my business. They know that good customer service means good service to everyone and they know that it is the little touches like the way the valet delivers your car that matters. They also probably know that good word of mouth is the best advertising. Not only will I speak well of them on my island, but because they have properties on the other islands, I will be saying great things about them to the other members of the consortium.

It just verifies my feelings about the importance of customer service and underscores how important it will be for me to rectify all the impediments to customer service at my theatre.

About Joe Patti

I have been writing Butts in the Seats (BitS) on topics of arts and cultural administration since 2004 (yikes!). Given the ever evolving concerns facing the sector, I have yet to exhaust the available subject matter. In addition to BitS, I am a founding contributor to the ArtsHacker ( website where I focus on topics related to boards, law, governance, policy and practice.

I am also an evangelist for the effort to Build Public Will For Arts and Culture being helmed by Arts Midwest and the Metropolitan Group. (

My most recent role was as Executive Director of the Grand Opera House in Macon, GA.

Among the things I am most proud are having produced an opera in the Hawaiian language and a dance drama about Hawaii's snow goddess Poli'ahu while working as a Theater Manager in Hawaii. Though there are many more highlights than there is space here to list.


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