Southern hospitality pays off

Published 12:00 am Friday, February 19, 2010

NATCHEZ — Miss-Lou business managers were reminded Thursday just how good it is to hear “Ya’ll come back now, ya’ hear.”

The Southern Hospitality Academy kicked off with classes for owners and managers. The key speaker was Jim White, corporate vice president with Isle of Capri Casino.

“I think it is nice how this little town has pulled together to promote better customer service,” White said. “It gets the message out to the community about how important this is to business. I think it is a really strong step.”

Approximately 60 people attended the class, including Gia Shafer of Uptown Grocery.

“It reiterated important things you tend to forget as you get busy with your daily goals,” she said. “I’ve been taking notes, so I can give a good pep talk.”

Ruth Nichols, special assistant to the president of Alcorn State University, orchestrated the event as ASU’s gift to the community, she said. Nichols said just smiling is an important aspect in getting visitors to return to the Miss-Lou.

“The smile relationship the Miss-Lou has with the outside world is important to the economy — people will keep coming back and tell their friends,” she said.

The course is teaching techniques to improve relationships with customers, said Monmouth’s IT Director Joseph Bullen.

“I’m learning about how to interface better with customers, in real world examples,” he said. “It is important to remember how a customer feels.”

Patsy Smith, human resource employee at the Natchez — Adams School District, said the key was to remember customer feelings.

“People aren’t going to remember what you said or what you did,” she said. “They are going to remember how you made them feel. Making them feel good is the key to getting them to come back.”

White gave a presentation on how to give customers the feeling that makes them want to come back, while Diana O’Toole gave the state’s perspective, including the fact that tourism is the state’s fifth biggest industry.

“I think she was a hoot,” Natchez resident Bill Smith said. “She tells the truth in a wonderful way — she shoots from the hip with a smile.”

On Feb. 25, the Southern Hospitality Academy will return when it presents the same program to the area’s employees.

“Today was about promoting the course to the managers,” Nichols said. “So they would see it was not just a waste of time.”

Impressed by the course, Shafer said she would be sending her employees to the event.

To sign up, call the Chamber of Commerce at 601-445-4611.