The reception counter was large enough for three or four greeters to stand behind it in wait. There was only one. And she was scowling.

I was with two friends as we approached the Greeter at the neighborhood location of a rapidly expanding restaurant franchise. Maybe the mere size of the desk, staged as an enormous barrier rising between would be patrons and the promised land should have given us a clue. But it didn’t.

The Greeter spoke one word: “Hello.”

That’s it.

We were, however, on a mission. We wanted beyond that wall. So once clear that progress was up to us, we boldly requested a table for three.

With a tone that seemed to indicate her desire to be almost anywhere else, she mumbled an inaudible response (and I have good ears!). But I repeat —  we were committed. So I apologized, and indicated that I had not understood her instructions.

With what I interpreted as measured disgust, she repeated, “name?” That’s what she said. What her tone communicated was that I had somehow offended her sensibilities, and was interrupting the practiced rhythm which should already have her tending to the interlopers next in her line.

My transgression was atoned for, and we were escorted to a table. To be fair, the rest of the evening was pleasant enough. Food, refreshment and conversation served, for the evening, to overshadow first impressions.

But the experience lingers.

And in a highly competitive hospitality market that offers easy access to dozens of alternatives, here’s the problem: the in-real-life message of the sergeant-at-arms posing as restaurant greeter was so poignant that it dominates any other aspect of the experience.

The Convergence of Marketing and Experience

What the neighborhood restaurant has yet to learn is that the Greeter is a member of the restaurant’s Marketing and Sales team. This is not news. No great insight. But without respect to industry, the enterprise that still views Marketing and Customer Service as silos that operate independently is ignoring reality and missing opportunity.

In an increasingly competitive marketplace, the smart organization understands that every opportunity to deliver an experience to clients / customers / prospects is far too valuable to trust to chance.

Add the impact of word-of-mouth and social media, and the message should be clear — the experience you deliver may be the most important marketing you do. Anyone doubting this reality may be entertained by the infamous United Breaks Guitars saga.

Where might marketing and the customer experience intersect today?