5 Key Practices of Great Hospitalians

Having spent countless hours researching, training, and championing customer service in our 300+ employee company for the past decade, one of the most important lessons I’ve learned is the vast difference between service and hospitality.

Most people view them as interchangeable. They’re not. There’s a big difference  between the two and knowing the difference can give you a huge advantage in building both your business and your personal brand.

Service is what you do for somebody.

Service at a restaurant or hotel is hot food on warm plates, valet parking, or 24-hour on-call concierge. In my business, it’s fixing your car right the first time, having it ready when we said it would be ready, or offering free pickup and delivery within the city limits. Excellent service is important, but it’s not enough.

Hospitality is how you make people feel.

Hospitality goes well beyond service. It is impacting the way a customer experiences the interaction, delivering the emotional connection you make with your customers. Renowned restauranteur Danny Meyer describes it like this:

“If a waiter puts a spoon on the left side of the table I’m sitting at, this is service. But if a waiter remembers that I didn’t like the big spoon with my soup last time I was at their restaurant, that’s hospitality. Service is a monologue. Hospitality is a dialogue.”

In my business, it’s the service advisor who, while checking in her customer’s vehicle, notices a bumper sticker or something else in the car that indicates the customer has children in dance, or is a military veteran or a fly fisherman, etc. Or the salesperson who remembers the dream vacation his customers were planning the month after they picked up their car—and then calls to see how their trip went.

Great customer service doesn’t always feel good. But great hospitality AND customer service always feels good.

In the digital age, as more and more customer service becomes commoditized, hospitality is a powerful strategy to differentiate your business from the competition. It’s also the most effective way to build your personal brand. High hospitality people practice the following habits with passionate consistency:
1. They are curious, always asking probing questions and demonstrating genuine interest in others.
2. They are high in emotional intelligence, starting with self -awareness.
3. They consistently display optimism and kindness.
4. They demonstrate a high level of empathy.
5. They have a growth mindset, always willing to put themselves out there to learn new skills and make new connections.

Perhaps the best attribute of hospitality is that it can be employed by any business or individual, anywhere. Although it may seem simple, it’s not easy. Authentic hospitality requires the consistent practice of presence; of looking out verses looking inward, taking the focus off yourself. Danny Meyer could not have said it better:

“You may think, as I once did, that I’m primarily in the business of serving good food. Actually, though, food is secondary to something that matters even more. In the end, what’s most meaningful is creating positive, uplifting outcomes for human experiences and human relationships. Business, like life, is all about how you make people feel. It’s that simple, and it’s that hard.”

With the holiday season fast approaching, it’s a great time to start thinking about how being a “hospitalian” means presenting the best version of yourself; thinking of yourself less and putting others first, even family members who may get on our last nerve during holiday gatherings!

How can you put aside your need for affirmation and gratitude and commit to becoming a “hospitalian”? I’d love to hear your thoughts on it.

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    6 Responses to 5 Key Practices of Great Hospitalians

    1. Peter Low October 25, 2017 at 1:26 pm #

      Bill. This is so SPOT ON! I work part time doing warm calls with current clients. Creating a friendship/relationship is so much more a part of the success when setting appointments. I also follow up on service calls to insure clients were satisfied. It amazes me the goodwill that created when “hospitality” is practiced. Our success rate is remarkable and client retention Contunues to grow !

      • Bill Marsh Jr October 25, 2017 at 3:28 pm #

        Thanks Peter. Knowing your personality, I can easily envision you practicing exceptional hospitality. What I especially like about your feedback is it reinforces the fact that hospitality is not only the right thing to do, it contributes to the bottom line as well.


    2. Nick October 25, 2017 at 2:59 pm #

      Great distinction between service and hospitality. Thanks for another great blog, Bill.

      • Bill Marsh Jr October 25, 2017 at 3:32 pm #

        Nick, coming from someone who has practiced amazing hospitality throughout your career, that’s a real compliment!


    3. Elise Cleary October 25, 2017 at 8:41 pm #

      This completely on the money! I’m curious to know how you think this transends through online businesses or even online marketing for your business?

      • Bill Marsh Jr October 26, 2017 at 12:33 pm #

        Great question, Elise–thank you for your comment!
        Although it may not be as impactful online, I think there are opportunities to differentiate yourself and your business digitally. Ask yourself, “how can I make this transaction feel better?” Some strategies to consider:
        >Anticipatory Service – Can you provide digital access (a link, for example) to something that will enhance their experience or provide something extra and do it in a fun and winsome way?
        >Small Emotional Connections – Even in an email, it’s not what you say, but how you say it. Try to be more conversational, even folksy. Let your personality shine through.
        >Unique, memorable and personable experiences. Create a photo or fun video that speaks to your customer’s unique situation. Let them see you, not just read your texts.
        To see a good example, go to Southwest Airlines Facebook page. They do a great job of exemplifying their fun, people-first culture online.
        Hope this helps. Thanks again for reading my blog!

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