SPARK for Leaders - Simon T. Bailey

Over the last 30 years of being in the hospitality industry, I have had the opportunity to work with 6 different companies in 10 different jobs.  

Since then, after leaving my position as Sales Director at the Disney Institute, I have worked with over 1,700 organizations in 46 countries. 

One of the questions I’ve always asked myself is, “In thinking of all the hospitality entities I’ve worked with, what do they do to create customers for life?” 

After asking this question for over 30 years, I have come up with the answer. The answer is: every organization has a SPARK. That SPARK is a man or woman who has decided to go beyond what they were hired to do to create an experience that is second to none for every person they serve. 

SPARK is an acronym that stands for: 

  • See them as guests 
  • Personalize the service 
  • Anticipate their needs 
  • Respond immediately 
  • Keep them loyal with kindness 

 SPARK is an invitation to become the reason why customers become your unofficial marketing department for the experience that has been created for them. 

See them as guests.

When I worked at Disney, I was invited to have breakfast with the president. At one point, he turned to me and said, “Hello Simon, how are you?” And I said, “Hello Al, can I ask you a question?” 

I asked him, “What do I have to do to get ahead here at Disney.” He told me, “You need to know who you are, and you need to know why you’re here.” What I discovered is that as a new leader in the Disney organization, I wasn’t there to do a job. I was there to create a moment. 

And for the rest of my tenure, I began to understand the power of a magic moment. 

Disney was not in the theme park business – they were in the business of guestology: studying the guest and then building an experience that can be replicated and duplicated every day, in every way. Seeing them as guests ensures they walk away feeling like a part of your club, and they’ll be back again because you made them feel wanted. 

Personalize the experience.

Personalizing the customer experience literally is the game-changer for hospitality companies today. 

Personalizing the experience starts with studying the customer and finding out what makes them tick. What can you find out about what matters to them most, and then how can you show them through your actions that you care about what they care about?  

You can accomplish this through ways big and small. It doesn’t always have to be a grand gesture. You just have to drive home the message that you care about them as an individual. 

 Anticipate their needs.

The third letter in SPARK stands for anticipate their needs. This means: how can you predict a customer’s need or desire and deliver on it without them having to ask you to?  

Often times, the customer is not even aware of what their true needs and desires are. They usually know what their pain point is, and they take a guess at how to solve it from a surface level. If you can go deeper and anticipate what it is they truly need, you will create customers for life every time. 

Respond Immediately.

When you hear it, you own it.

Today, most unhappy customers will not bother to let you know they’re upset. They’ll just leave, and they won’t come back. The customer that gives you the gift of their negative feedback should be responded to right away.

When a customer is unhappy, an apology will increase their satisfaction rating from 34% – very low – to 74%. More than double!

Just the act of acknowledging a customer’s pain IMMEDIATELY goes a long way to saving the relationship.

Keep them loyal with kindness.

As leaders, one of the points of differentiation in creating a SPARK driven culture is kindness. Remember, when you treat your employees like customers, they become the SPARK you want your paying customers to experience.  

I believe kindness is underrated in business. 

Kindness is not just something you do; being kind is who you are at the core. Often we associate kindness with being soft or sweet, but true kindness is giving of yourself to others for their success and not for your own convenience. 

The final thing you need to know about creating customers for life is this: a leader is at the nucleus of creating a SPARK culture.  

Leadership is caught AND taught. How you behave, the habits you demonstrate, and the discipline that you have sends a far stronger message than hitting send on an email or standing in front of the room and telling the troops what to do.  

Every leader sets the tone for the culture that causes men and women to rise to the occasion and be high performers, deliver results, and create customers for life. 

To book Simon T. Bailey for your next event, visit his profile:
Simon is the author of several books including Shift Your Brilliance and Release Your Brilliance: The 4 Steps to Transforming Your Life and Revealing Your Genius to the World. To order copies in bulk for your event, please visit

Simon T. Bailey: Author, Catalyst of Brilliance

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