Having the honor of writing these features, over the last several months, has been a lot of fun! Not only do I get to sit down with some interesting/involved locals every week, but I also have the opportunity to meet new people who simply came to know my name through reading the blog. So, if I don’t know you but you’ve decided today to check out my work…hello! I’m glad you’re here! This may be a good time to share something about myself. Let’s see….oh! Here’s something! I absolutely love staying at a nice hotel! There’s something about a cozy hotel room that really sends me into a state of relaxation and peace. Maybe it’s the soft beds. Maybe it’s the fact that someone else will come in and take out the trash. Maybe it’s the entertainment that comes with basic, satellite TV. I don’t know. There’s just something about the entire experience that I love! In fact, for my birthday a couple weeks ago, my step-daughter’s dad and step-mom gifted my wife and I with a night’s stay at our local Marriott for a little “stay-cation.” Oh, what a peaceful weekend that was. The room was pristine, and the overall service by the staff was fantastic. And this random fact about myself is actually a nice transition into the introduction of this week’s featured individual, Matt McCarty. Matt is actually the general manager of the aforementioned Marriott Townplace Suites. And to him, customer service is everything!
Matt served on the Chamber board of directors for ten years. He served on government affairs for fifteen years. He is involved with Scouts at a couple different levels. He is involved with Lions Club. And Matt also sits on the institutional advisory council at Great Basin College. He wears a lot of hats! But going all the way back, Matt has worked in the hospitality/travel industry for about twenty years. So, when we talk about good service, this man knows it well. “Every job I’ve had, since picking up dog poop in a kennel at fifteen, has been about customer service. It’s something I enjoy. I like being able to help people and fulfilling a need someone may have. I moved up to Elko when I was too young to remember. I moved here with my dad who was a firefighter for the Nevada Division of Forestry. We lived out in Spring Creek, up on the hill. And I literally grew up at a fire station. And I think that’s what developed my sense of giving back. His (dad) job was to give to the community. So, moving forward, that was just natural to me. During my sophomore year, I moved down to Reno with my mom. She was having a tough time and I thought I could go down and help her and be the hero. So, I moved down to Reno and immediately hated it! Compared to Elko, there were problems at the schools all the time; it just was not Elko. So, when they built Galena high school (South Reno), I thought that could be ok because it’s zoned for Washoe Valley which meant maybe more cowboys, ranchers, and agriculture! That makes sense to me; that’s who I would associate with. The first day, two school police officers are there; I walk up to say hi and they both reach for their guns. When somebody starts walking up to them, that was their stance…but I wasn’t used to that. So, I made the best out of high school as I could. I met my oldest son and daughter’s mother, we got pregnant a little bit earlier than we would have liked. I didn’t feel like I could raise a family in Reno, so we moved to Elko, had our son, and started life. I started working at my Godfather’s mechanic shop. but after the birth of my son (and real life hit) working only one job just wasn’t going to work, so I went to work for a mining supply company during the day and Khoury’s Market (Springcreek) in the evenings. K’s-Market is what we called it back then. I went from cashier to supervisor to unofficial loss prevention. That’s how I met Mike Hachquet (Red Lion General Manager). His wife, Cheryl, was an assistant kindergarten teacher, came in regularly, and at that time there were not a lot of options for field trips in Springcreek. I offered to show her class around the store. So those tours, for the kids, happened somewhat regularly. Well her husband came in onetime and I addressed him by name and asked how if the family was etc. Well, a few months later I ran into Cheryl and she told me that her husband was looking for me; I needed to call him. So, I did and he told me I needed to come work for him at Red Lion as an assistant manager of slots. I explained to him that I didn’t have any experience in the gaming industry; I didn’t know anything about that space! He told me I didn’t need to; we can train you…I go into Khourey’s twice a year. Yet, you knew who I was. You said my name. You asked about my family. That’s customer service, that’s what I’m looking for.” After working for Red Lion for a time, Matt moved to Montana but returned to Elko shortly after. He returned to Red Lion to work as a restaurant manager (Misty’s Fine Dining, now Aspens). However, it wasn’t long before his quality customer service reputation caught up with him again. “I got a call to go over to the High Desert Inn and work as the GM over there. I told them that I didn’t know anything about hotels! But they said that was alright. I had a good work ethic. I had what it takes, and they would walk me through everything else. That’s where I got to learn how corporate hospitality worked; it was pretty cool and that’s where I met my current wife.” Matt then left hospitality to work for Casino Express (airlines). How? Simply repeat how his phone calls went as he got into gaming and hotels! Not to simplify Matt’s talents and know-how, but it’s incredible how far having great service and care skills can take a person! “After about a year, I went to the Hilton Garden Inn to work as an assistant GM; I missed hospitality, so I went over there. Mike Hachquet moved from the Red Lion to Gold Dust, and he called, after a few years, and offered me a job in security and surveillance; I did that for another few years. And finally, Ruben, the GM at the Hilton Garden Inn at the time, set up a call for me with Marriott to work as the GM of their new Elko hotel…and, seven years, later, here I am!”
Again, not to oversimplify things, but it’s fascinating how those seemingly small interactions in Khoury’s Market (remembering someone’s name. Saying hello. Asking about their life) led to this life-long journey for Matt, doing what he loves! That’s very inspiring. ” I try to pass that (the value of great customer service) on to my employees. I respect our employee’s; they worked extremely hard and this not meant to be taken disrespectfully, but I tell them that trained monkeys could do the “job” part of our jobs. But trained monkeys cannot give great customer service!” And, hopefully, your employees won’t thrown their poop like a monkey! But, back to the topic at hand. Providing great service is one thing…but providing great service in the Elko area, that could be a very unique task. Let’s talk about that reality. “I think customer service has a poor reputation across Elko, generally. I hear people say how bad the customer service in Elko is. I think part of that may be because we’re small enough that we go to the same places again and again. So, one bad experience at one place (because there are not a lot of other options) we focus on that negative. We all have bad days. The people who are working in the Elko customer service industry (generally not definitely) are working that space for two reasons. 1. They couldn’t get hired on at the mines and make 80-90 thousand dollars a year. Maybe they don’t have the skills. Maybe there’s something from there past. That’s option one. 2. The people who work customer service work in that field because they really care about providing great customer service. The second group of people, you’re going to get great service from them because it’s their life. The first group you may not always get the best service from them because they may be a little jaded from their reality or they just might be tired. They couldn’t get the one job that pays 70 thousand a year so they have to work two jobs to afford what they want to afford. I think as a community or even as a culture in America, we forget to focus on others around us. And I see this, especially in the customer service business. People want everything given to them with zero compassion towards the person on the other side. We all make mistakes; we’re all human.”
This is really insightful, and almost convicting, stuff to think about, Matt. So, how can we better care for those in the customer service industry who show up every day to care for us? “We wear name tags for a reason; so you know we’re identified with what ever business you’re in. But It’s amazing how few people actually use our name. When I go somewhere else and I make a connection with someone by using their name or saying their name, there’s usually a surprised look on their face. It’s disappointing that it is a surprise. When you go out next, look at their name and thank them. Using their name adds that connection. And also, we are a terrific community. And there are a thousand ways to get involved with our community. I think, sometimes, people are afraid to get involved because of maybe the time commitment. Some people may be glad the motorcycle jamboree is no more, but the main reason why it went away was that we didn’t have the volunteers. We almost lost the balloon festival a number of years ago because we didn’t have the volunteers. Scouts, 4H, going into the schools and helping…there are so many ways we can give but we’re afraid to put ourselves out there. Maybe because we’re afraid that “they” may not like us or that we may have to do a little more work than we were expecting. But it’s ok to say that you only have one hour a week, but instead of playing this video game or surfing on Facebook, I can go out there and I can help. I have never seen an organization say that they don’t need help. Use a name and be willing to get involved!”
Thank you for your time and experiences, Matt. You’ve done a lot for our town and your desire to make people feel seen and served is very evident! And the pillows at your hotel…like sleeping on baby clouds!
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See you around, Elko! I can’t wait to know your name!