Organizations love to throw around the word hospitality.
Don't get me wrong - I love hospitality. To me it evokes a deeper spirit of service that goes above and beyond in a meaningful way.
Now hospitality is the fundamental tenant of successful service cultures, but it take a thoughtful approach to make it successful. Just throwing around the word and hoping for the best is not a strategy.
Hospitality, by definition:
Centers on providing a service or product in a kind and generous way
Is friendly and cordial
Hospitality starts with people.
Many organizations have lost sight of the fact that all things come back to people. A deep focus on customers and those who serve them is a key to ensuring a culture that values service. This requires that organizations think past the widgets they sell and the productivity they seek, and dial in on the overall experience. When leaders prioritize their team’s experience it creates a chain reaction of care that drives superior service moments. This also means that the best organizations will ensure that teams understand why great service matters, what it looks like, and how they can personally impact the happiness of customers. This is often about story-telling around what success looks like and how their actions positively impact the lives of those they serve.
Hospitality goes beyond being nice.
So often people think of hospitality as simply smiling and giving friendly service. That is certainly important and by all means, smile and be friendly. But remember that customers want authentic service coupled with high quality and ease of use. Businesses that focus on consistency are far more likely to drive repeat business. That is why certain brands tend to excel even within the reinvigorated "local" business focus in the marketplace. People like to know what they can expect and that they are going to get value for their purchase. Today's consumers are also interested more than ever about your social conscience and your community involvement. Customers want the whole package and insist that organizations include these considerations within their definition of "hospitality."
Hospitality is authentic
When you think about great service, it often feels personalized and genuine. It is a scripted service moment that feels anything but scripted. That is the real trick of amazing service - enough process to drive consistency along with enough latitude for teams to let their personalities shine through. You need a centralized customer experience team to ensure that your guests are kept at the center of your organizational design and thinking - and to distill their needs into behaviors that your teams can execute. When you embed those behaviors into your selection and training processes, you can then ensure that you are being clear about expectations. The great part about this level of intentionality is that it allows you to then give your team the freedom to execute in a way that feels genuine to them. They have to stay within the guard rails and ensure the key moments are executed, but that doesn't mean they can't do it their way. Your customers will ultimately see your brand as more approachable, "real," and relatable when your teams can couple consistently with authenticity.
Finally, hospitality is often fueled by your history and values.
What drives your organization and where did you come from? It is dangerous for businesses to forget about their roots and not occasionally look back on their history. Now it is important that you respect your past without becoming so enamored with it that you don’t stay relevant in a changing world. Change will always be necessary to drive customer and consumer value; however, that doesn’t mean that you should ignore your past. There is magic in your history and teams that know where they came from feel ultimately more connected to organizational purpose. Chances are the founding of your business was done by a single person or group of people who had a passion for the product, service, and people. Think about the power of an organization that draws strength from the intrinsic nature of the organization while remaining innovative in the modern service culture.
These moves will help you embed hospitality into your organization. Just remember that your strategy must be aligned with the set of specific behaviors needed to make the culture a reality.
Big thinking is great and often needed to set bold goals - but big thinking will amount to nothing without a realistic idea of what it takes to achieve those goals and a plan to get there.
Because hospitality is truly the art and science of keeping your customers at the center of everything you do.
Tony Johnson, CCXP
Customer Experience (CX) Leader | Author | Speaker | Consultant
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Tony Johnson is an international speaker and author on the topics of customer service, leadership, and performance. Tony speaks to thousands annually and has also been featured on ABC News. He is available for custom keynotes, leadership workshops, and employee service training.
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