Everyone on your team should take total ownership of guest experiences, with the understanding that creating positive emotional connections can result in customers for life.
When I travel, I pack extra empathy––making a concerted effort to experience all my encounters not as a hospitality professional, but as an ordinary guest. I believe this mindset is crucial to building a world-class product where guests know your priority is them.
There is often a fine line between exceptional and lackluster service, but how a guest feels about this service is dramatic. It’s like the difference between silk and a burlap.
One comforts. One hurts.
On a recent trip to San Francisco, I experienced both varieties of hospitality. And the difference was startling.
These experiences were magnified given the expense of the Bay Area. When you pay a premium price, you assume premium accommodations and services. If there’s a failure to meet your expectations, the disappointments go deep, and the sour memories last long.
If you doubt this, wear battle gear and read Yelp. Dissatisfied customers are ruthless and loud!
Hospitality applies to management and every guest touchpoint. It’s critical everyone on your team takes total ownership of guest experiences, and understands that creating positive emotional connections can result in customers for life.
How we make guests feel matters most. Hospitality is a not a part-time job.
Don’t be a ‘BPO’
At an iconic San Francisco hotel, on Saturday afternoon, I gave a list of local restaurants recommended by a friend to the concierge. I asked if he could find a reservation for us. The concierge questioned my optimism in requesting a reservation at a fine restaurant five hours before dinner. I stayed calm and reminded him the job of a concierge at an iconic hotel was to fulfill requests.
He rolled his eyes and began making half-hearted calls. “I don’t suppose you have anything at the last minute for a table this evening,” he said. He went into battle waving a white flag. As you probably guessed, he was unsuccessful in helping us.
I informed the hotel’s head office of the concierge’s lackluster attitude and performance. I call people like this unhelpful concierge “BPOs”–– “Business Prevention Officers.”
And BPOs are poison to your profitability.
Hospitality that delights
Fortunately, I had also been given a tip for a new restaurant named Nightbird, under the chef/patron ownership of Kim Alter. We secured a birthday celebration reservation.
We arrived and were seated at a superb window table, with a birthday card waiting to be opened. The card was signed by Kim and her kitchen and serving staff. We enjoyed an evening of a wonderful food journey––Kim even prepared an additional course. Our service was attentive, and Kim came to our table for a 10-minute conversation. She and her staff made it a night to remember. I will work with Kim in some capacity in the future, perhaps to make a guest chef appearance.
We cannot sing the praises of Nightbird enough. It is the epitome of a restaurant that practices hospitality that delights guests.
On our trip to Napa, we experienced both ends of the hospitality spectrum again. At two wine estates, we were greeted with smiles, open arms and incredible hospitality. We discussed wine making with vintners, sampled product and bought many bottles. The experience was welcoming, and we’ll have warm memories whenever we hear the estate names or see their labels.
I reported back to all my properties to immediately stock these fine wines, and I will always order them if they on wine lists where I dine. I’ll also happily tell other wine lovers about them. Both wineries earned my enthusiastic ambassadorship, thanks to their superior products and hospitality.
Consider the power of one satisfied guest amplified across all his or her social channels. That’s the ignition for sales growth.
We also had the opposite experience––like vinegar compared to sweet wine.
We visited another wine estate and were greeted with cool indifference. Granted, we had no appointment, but the guest relations woman was unfriendly. I had been a fan of this wine maker, and asked to join an existing tour and sampling. She met my request with a flat refusal. I gave her a card and explained my credentials as a trade customer who could buy from them.
She was unimpressed, and almost pushed us out the door. She was a BPO.
Imagine the damage this woman does daily with her inhospitable nature. She is creating negative perceptions that will last long after she leaves. Just as positive experiences are amplified, so are negative ones––and trying to convert negative perceptions is a costly proposition sure to erode profitability.
Your goal should always be simple: serve guests in ways that they will feel better about themselves when they interact with you. Strive for guests to be happier on departing than they were on arrival.
That’s hospitality that works, creating guest experiences that ensure many happy returns!
Euan McGlashan is co-founder and managing partner of Valor Hospitality Partners, a hotel development and management company based in Atlanta and London that owns and operates properties in the U.S., Europe, and Africa, with an additional 10 sites in various stages of negotiation, development, or construction. Additionally, a related company—PMR Hospitality Partners based in Cape Town—operates several hotels and resorts in Africa.
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