Or what are our business’s strength?
Sometimes we have days where things just don’t go as wished. Unfulfilled expectations, misunderstandings, failed interactions and loads of precious time wasted on things which could have been easily prevented. Not sure if I was simply unlucky (or maybe too picky?!) but that is exactly how my last week went.
Having worked in tourism and hospitality industry for almost 15 years, I find it difficult not to notice poor customer service or stop myself from comparing how the things are done in other industries. So after the range of events, such as, a week long missing reply from the dry cleaning company, the postal package left in the rain by the delivery firm, ignorant shopping assistance in the bookstore, insane waiting times and inefficient service at the bank, and a few others to top the experience, I felt the need to share this posts. Although we, in hospitality industry, are imperfect in many ways, and could surely learn from others, there are certain things we could also teach.
Feels Like Home Concept
The feeling like home is probably the most common expression and business ambition in hospitality industry - to provide the comfortable, trusting and warm environment for our guests. Even though, due to the type of product or service provided, this is not directly the case in many other industries, the concept of it - is still relevant. To feel like home doesn’t need to mean the actual place, but more the feeling we create for the customer. That implies the warm welcome when we enter the business premises, reaction to the customer’s presence and enthusiastic offer of assistance. If after entering the shop, car dealer office or any other business establishment employees choose to stay “busy” with staring at their laptops, tidying inventory or even disappearing out of sign, the chances of creating the feeling of welcome is pretty low.
Why not to try being more hospitable instead? My husband still remembers the butcher he used to shop at years ago, only because he always felt so welcome there. Not only the man was friendly and attentive, always greeting with the big smile and a loud hello, he also made an effort to remember my husband’s name (from a sneak peek to his credit card while paying ) and his buying preferences, so he could make him feel special and appreciated. Taking into consideration my husband still speaks about the place - I would guess it worked.
Service and guests’ care is the life-hood of our industry. We all know, that even when having the best product in the world, business might fail because of poor service or lack of hospitality itself. So we invest and focus on embracing the right mentality and achieving the excellence. But when dealing with other industries I often wonder, why this is not always the case.
Taking care of the customer should be in the heart of any business, be it public transportation providers, retailers or online stores. The prompt assistance, delivery on expectations and even going an extra mile should be a norm. The ability to sense and react, starting with listening carefully, communicating and asking questions, paying attention to details and always demonstrating interest in individual needs, is something could benefit representatives of any industry.
The photographer who does the research about your business prior the meeting and sends the Things to Remember list before the photoshoot, to ensure you do not miss anything, will surely gain more clients’ admiration. The dog trainer, who comes to pick up the dog herself, because you mentioned being short of time before your business travels, would also probably earn an extra tip. Or the team in the petrol station, who washes your windows while you gas your car, will likely encourage you come there more often. If service mentality and going an extra mile for your customer is the norm in your organisation, choosing you will become then norm for your customer.
Personalisation and human touch
Today’s consumers are bombarded with offers, choices and possibilities. The decision of choosing one brand or business over another often depends solely on…the feeling. In the world of technology and artificial intelligence, we desperately seek for the old good feeling of humanity. Unique experiences, non generic offering, socialising and the honest human touch can make people feel more special and appreciated in every industry. Personal hand written note (just like the one often encountered in hotel rooms on arrival), the small surprise present for anniversary, or the simple after purchase call to check if everything is well (just like the follow-up reception call after settling in the room) - could easily be adapted in other industries.
Assume you have a cleaning company. Notice the customer is almost out of toilet paper, washing liquid or even dog food? Why not leaving a personal message before you leave notifying them about the matter? Or maybe you sell kitchen furniture? Giving a call to your customer after the purchase simply to ask if they are happy with new installation could leave a lasting positive memory about your care.
Guest experience is the real buzz word in hospitality industry for quite a while already. Primarily because the “product” itself in our industry is often the experience. Secondly, because we understand, that guests’ happiness, satisfaction and loyalty can’t be guaranteed by success of single interactions, but must be holistic and cover the whole guests’ journey. Same applies for other industries. Cleanliness in data centres, entertainment in retail stores or efficient parking by the local bank office - it all matters. Despite them not being the primary offering of the listed business, these things add to the total impression, so shaping the holistic customer experience. The last time I visited the car dealer for the service check they had this lovely relax area with TV, magazines, free coffee and tea and even some cookies to enjoy while waiting. That surely wasn’t the main reason I came there for, but it definitely improved my waiting time.
Also sensory experience - usually well practised in hospitality establishments - are often overseen in other places. Humans are sensory beings and the environment that is favourable for our senses is not only more satisfying, but also influential for certain decisions, such as purchasing, for example. So the way you design, build and plan your place, the sounds you use or the smells you create will also add to the total perception of your customer’s experience.
Hospitality industry might not be perfect, and, there are lessons to be learned from other industries as well. Nevertheless, I dear to say, that we are one of the masters when it comes to customer service. The care of the guest, good-will and building connection are the essence of our industry. It can become the core of yours as well!