I had it all planned out. elect a subject that I was really passionate
about — something topical, current and relevant to our industry, do the
research and submit an article.
Then it hit me right between the eyes. My “subject,
research and passion” works alongside me nearly every day. His name is
Artis Williams (Artie to all who know him — and you will too, if you
read on). Many of you are blessed to have an Artie on your team. Some of
you wish you could find an Artie.
I firmly believe in hiring for attitude and training
for skills. You can educate someone on the particulars of a job, but you
can’t teach them to love a customer. Artie loves everyone — clients,
guests, patrons, you name it. Outrageously great customer service is his
mantra. His story is one for the ages.
From the Head and
His office is the Vicksburg Convention Center and the Vicksburg
Auditorium, where he serves as operations coordinator. He has no
computer and rarely carries paperwork. “It’s all up here,” he says,
pointing to his head. I think that it comes mainly from here — pointing
to his heart.
We work in the hospitality and service industry, but we
tend to forget that as we focus on the lines: deadlines, headlines and
bottom lines. But Artie never forgets it. He is everyone’s “go-to-guy”
in the City of Vicksburg, Miss. — from the fire chief to the last person
cleaning up at a local restaurant.
If Artie is on the scene, there’s nothing to worry
about. All the details are covered. Room sets are dead on, air
temperature and lighting details are perfect, and he’s there at the door
to greet you with a smile — a genuine, permanent smile that’s as broad
as the Grand Canyon. Simply put, it’s contagious.
Never at a loss with a kind word, he lifts your day and
buoys your spirits while doing his job. Then he goes the extra mile —
and then some. He’ll carry guests’ packages, exhibit materials,
audio-visual aids, signs and even purses with great aplomb, all the
while holding the door for the client and welcoming them to the
“Customer service,” he says, “is what we do — taking
care of our people!” In the course of an event, he has operated the
stage curtains, run the spotlight, mopped the restrooms, unloaded the
trucks and, in some cases, popped the lock on the car that you left your
When we receive client evaluations that ask them to
rate their satisfaction for service delivery, Artie’s name appears in
several places. Handwritten comments such as “The BEST!” “What would we
do without Artie?” and “Above and beyond the call of duty” are
synonymous with, but never taken for granted by, Artie.
Artie in Action
At one ribbon cutting a few years ago, our team was assembled at the
back of the lobby where the dedication took place. Our mayor arrived.
After some observation, he pointed to our team, looked at me and
quizzically remarked, “What are you feeding these people? Why are they
always smiling?” Without missing a beat, Artie jumped in and replied,
“We love our jobs!” I just stood there speechless while sporting an
Even on his day off, a national holiday, Artie learned
that volunteers with the Independence Day Celebration were schlepping
bags of ice from one place to another. He began loading ice from our two
venues, bringing it over in a pickup truck, delivering equipment, wiping
down a rain-soaked stage laden with sound, lighting and band equipment
and picking the equipment back up while asking if anything else was
Standing around six feet tall, Artie never looked as
large as when I saw him lean down to help a guest in a wheelchair or
assist a small child in tying his sneaker. To say that he excels at
great customer relations would be a gross understatement. He’s simply
the best at it. I wouldn’t be a bit surprised if when I looked up “salt
of the earth” in a thesaurus of well-known phrases, there would be a
photo of Artie grinning from ear to ear.
Recently, Artie assisted a bereaving family who held a
funeral service for a family member at our auditorium. The brother of
the deceased is a colleague of mine. I told him that Artie would take
care of them and that they should want for nothing. That man told Artie
how highly I spoke of him. Artie called and left me a voicemail thanking
me for the compliment that I gave to him. Artie said, “Any day you can
get your boss to speak of you like that is a great day! I just called to
say thanks.” Even in accepting praise, he was doling out some of his
Find Your Own
My boss, Steve Peters (IAAM’s current president), once told me that I
was the “Second Experience.” By that, he meant that one has certain
expectations when you go to an event; then something extra and totally
unexpected happens to enhance and add positives to your initial
experience. If I am the “Second Experience,” then Artie is the “Total
One of my favorite movie lines, repeatedly spoken by
the father of the bride in My Big, Fat Greek Wedding, is “Put some
Windex on it.” If you’re seeking fabulous customer service, “Put some
I hope you all have an Artie that you can lean on and
learn from. Here’s to the Artie in all of us. May it shine brightly
every day in all that we think, say or do — lest we forget who we serve
in our business lives and who we ultimately serve in our everyday lives.
CFE is a vice president for VenuWorks Inc, which provides professional
management, consulting and event services to public assembly facilities.
He is also the executive director of the Vicksburg (Mississippi)
Convention Center and Vicksburg Auditorium. You can reach Larry via
e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.