The Last Impression

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A lot has been written about first impressions and how important they are in business and personal encounters alike. But what about last impressions? After a guest checks out of the hotel or leaves the restaurant, how will they remember you? What will be their last—or lasting-- impression of their experience?

My son and daughter-in-law and their two children recently visited us in Savannah between Christmas and New Years. They opted to sleep at a nearby hotel and give our old row house, already filled with my daughter and her three children, a break. Since I was interested in their experience at the hotel, a new addition on one of Savannah’s newest squares, I made it a point to ask them every day what experiences they had and wrote about some of them in previous blogs.

On the morning they checked out and were headed back home, I asked how they felt about their stay overall. Despite some glitches, like the valet not being able to find their car keys for awhile and not responding quickly to a few requests, their stay was enjoyable. The location was great, staff was helpful, and the room was comfortable. But their biggest and best impression was that every member of the staff--from managers to wait staff to housekeeping to valets—would stop what they were doing, look up, smile and greet them wherever they happened to be in the hotel. Like a well choreographed dance number, each member was in step. An orchestra in tune, a fine piece of fabric, woven in seamless hospitality.

A hotel’s brand is not just their name; it is their character and personality. Guests form expectations of quality of service and product by the brand, and the more you profess to deliver the higher the expectations. A Ritz Carlton, Four Seasons or Ruth’s Chris Steakhouse have great brand recognition and a higher pinnacle from which to soar or fall. As an HR Director for several hospitality companies, part of my job was to train employees in customer service. Though the same guest may experience the front desk staff, restaurant, health club, laundry, housekeeping, room service, maintenance or security, each service encounter needed the same brand and level of customer service to give the guest an overall good last impression. The biggest challenge was to bring home that if one member of the team dropped the ball, it could negate the efforts of the rest.

What is your guests’ last impression? It will depend on the combined effort of each individual doing their job the best they can to standard and making the guest feel important by acknowledging them every time and taking care of their needs promptly and efficiently. When they leave with a good last impression, the guest will certainly come back for another delightful stay.

Mary Nestor-Harper, SPHR, is a freelance writer, blogger, and workplace consultant. Based in Savannah, GA, her work has appeared in "Training" magazine, "Training & Development" magazine, "Supervision," “BiS Magazine” and "The Savannah Morning News." You can read her blogs at, and on the web at

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