“Make yourself at home.”
How many times has someone said that to you, and a small voice in your head says, “yeah, right. I’m a guest, I don’t live here” as you take your first look around and wonder where the bathroom is, and how soon you’ll need to escape to it.
A platitude as short as “Make yourself at home” is also as far as many managers get in training their staff on the delivery of hospitality, telling them to give their customer exceptional service, and asking them to be gracious about it.
The giving of hospitality is something that managers must teach, train, and coach their staff to do, and sadly, this doesn’t happen nearly enough. Service might be taught, but not hospitality, for managers make the faulty assumption that as long as their people “play nice” and are kept in good spirits, they will be nice and share their good spirits with the customer, something that is not necessarily true.
As a young manager I struggled with this too, until an aha! moment I had one day as I stood in front of a class of new recruits ready to tell them about the “Three Steps of Service” our hotel company had built our reputation on.
Three Steps Of Service
- A warm and sincere greeting. Use the guest’s name.
- Anticipation and fulfillment of each guest’s needs.
- Fond farewell. Give a warm good-bye and use the guest’s name.
I was with The Ritz-Carlton Hotel Company.
We were ready to open a new hotel, and my corporate curriculum was set, but what I saw in those faces looking back at me expectedly was that they’d need a bit more from me. I was confident that they would learn the service part easily enough, everyone did. The part that was always trickier to accomplish, was the hospitality part; in our obsession with service, it was easy to overlook the spirit of ho’okipa that would make our flawless execution of service truly warm and intimately special.
My aha! moment? I’ll tell them what mom taught us as kids, and ask them to help us do the same thing here.
“You stick by their side and make them feel comfortable. Find them something they can do with you, and be there to talk to them when they feel like talking.”
Leaving a guest to fend for themselves and somehow make themselves feel at home was unthinkable, and well, it was plain silly, for it was our home, not theirs. How could they possibly know what to do, and how to fit in without us? Not only that; why on earth would they want to be in our house alone?
This simple thing called comfort with company is so blatantly missing in our customer experiences today. My mom was right, and in every class going forward, that is what I would teach, by asking my staff, “What can we do to make people comfortable? When should we be with them?”
It made the world of difference, both for our customers, and for my staff, who understood how needed they were.
Additional Reading: Please visit the March archives for this posting I shared on Danny Meyer’s definition of the difference between service and hospitality. He is so right, and beginning to separate the two words in your own language of intention will help you greatly. Managers who are exceptional trainers and coaches use the right words, and they use single words that are clear in their meaning each time they are said.
“The beautiful choreography of service is, at its best, an art form, a
ballet. I appreciate the grace with which a table can be properly
cleared. I admire the elegance with which a bottle of wine can be
appropriately opened, decanted, and poured. There’s aesthetic value in
doing things the right way. But I respond best when the person doing
those things realizes that the purpose of all this beauty at the table
is to create pleasure for me. To go through the motions in a
perfunctory or self-absorbed manner, no matter how expertly rendered,
diminishes the beauty. It’s about soul—and service without soul, no
matter how elegant, is quickly forgotten by the guest.”
distinction between service and hospitality has been at the foundation
of our success. Service is the technical delivery of a product.
Hospitality is how the delivery of that product makes its recipient feel. Service is a monologue—we decide how we want to do things and set our own standards for service. Hospitality, on the other hand, is a dialogue.
To be on a guests’ side requires listening to that person in every
sense, and following up with a thoughtful, gracious, appropriate
response. It takes both great service and great hospitality to rise to