Hospitality First

Technology is by most accounts wonderful. But, it also changes the game…radically. Internet and device advances have leveled the playing field and lowered the barriers to entry in almost every category. And along the way, the power of influence and control has shifted from the company…to the buyer. It’s easier than ever to create something remarkable and bring it to market. It’s also easier than ever for your product or service to be duplicated, made more cheaply or worse…obsolete. All of this happens at lightening speed, creating an environment of market confusion…lots of similar products. Just look at what’s going on in the new “lifestyle” hotel category or computers and pda’s. And, while most are so busy trying to outdo the other guy with better design, bigger buildings, more pixels, etc., we’re forgetting what most people really want…to be engaged.

Being different and remarkable isn’t a matter of having the best product. It’s a matter of delivering the best experience. And, it’s the delivery part that most companies don’t do so well…because they choose not to. It’s easier to focus on the physical aspects of anything…once you make the part, the building, the drapery, it’s done. No training, coaching and counseling necessary. But, while design and function are important, the delivery is often what makes an experience so interesting and memorable…or, when executed poorly, doomed for failure. The artful and meaningful delivery of anything, i.e., hospitality, requires engagement…people interacting with each other. And, that’s complicated…lots of emotion to manage and many moving parts. There are personalities to deal with, illness, varying degrees of aptitude and a myriad of other issues out of your control…on both sides. No doubt about it…it’s the toughest part of business. But, if you get this part right, you win…every time. That’s what gets talked about, and, more often than not, that’s what people want. 

Your job (and mine) is to bring to light how important hospitality is to any business…to show examples of longstanding organizations who win because of people and service, not because they make something that’s faster or cheaper. Our job is to introduce ideas, processes and principles which bring hospitality into focus. Here are a couple of things you can start doing now to get ahead…

  1. Stop selling (what you make), and focus on the person you’re dealing with…on the phone, at the counter, in line or whatever. Ask engaging questions (other than, how are you?), make a kind remark about something they’re wearing, etc. Show them you’re interested in them first, then worry about what they want on their sandwich. It doesn’t need to take ten minutes…thirty seconds will do. If your company doesn’t allow an extra thirty seconds, find a new one. 
  2. Listen and observe…everyone gives clues about what they want…if they’re in a hurry, had a bad day, etc. But, too often, we’re so interested in getting through our own script, we fail to pick-up the clues and to improvise…to take it where the customer wants it to go. Listen well.

Engaging with people is your best chance to be different. But, as is often the case with the best things, it’s the hardest part to get right. So, most companies fail. There’s your chance.