Tag Archives | hospitality

Rules of Engagement: 3 Disciplines of Exceptional Customer Service

For most of my 32-year business career, I have been a student of customer service. I’ve read numerous books, listened to countless podcasts and recently attended a workshop entitled “Memorable Customer Service” by Ritz Carlton, one of the world’s top customer service organizations.

In distilling all the content I’ve consumed together with the real world experience of operating our automobile dealerships, I’ve discovered there are three key ingredients–three solid pillars upon which exceptional customer service is built. Regardless of size and scale, from “solopreneurs” to multinational corporations, creating a true customer-driven organization rests on these foundations.

1) Conspicuous Hospitality. Have you ever walked into a place of business–perhaps your favorite restaurant, grocery store or cafe–and immediately felt like you were at the home of some close friends? As I shared in a recent post, there’s a difference between service and hospitality. Good service has become a consumer expectation, but hospitality goes much farther by making an emotional connection with customers. Conspicuous hospitality sends the signal that says, “We are so glad you’re here,” laying the groundwork for a lifetime relationship. World class restauranteur Danny Meyer goes so far as to describe his eateries as “hospitality boxes.” “We’re not selling food,” he says. “We’re selling happiness and emotional comfort.” That’s conspicuous hospitality.

2) Genuine Curiosity. I recall a well-known sales trainer saying,“The most interesting person in the world is the one who makes you think you’re the most interesting person in the world.” That’s a great description of curiosity. Genuine curiosity begins with looking outward verses inward. Psychologists refer to this as “social awareness,” or the ability to sense the feelings and perspectives of others. One of the most important examples of genuine curiosity is simply noticing things. In my business, it’s the service advisor who, while checking his customer’s car, notices a bumper sticker or another detail that indicates the customer has children in dance, is a military veteran, loves to fly fish, etc. Or it’s the salesperson who remembers the dream vacation her customers were planning the month after they picked up their car—and calls to see how it went. The best way to measure your own level of genuine curiosity? After your next social engagement, compare the amount of time you spend talking verses listening. (That can be very convicting for most of us!)

3) Radical Responsiveness. How many times have you been on the receiving end of broken promises or unmet expectations from service providers? From missed deadlines or unreturned phone calls to a feeling of indifference you often sense from untrained customer service reps, a lack of responsiveness can sabotage even the most loyal customer connections. True customer service pros, however, give off a perceptible but subtle sense of urgency in their communication, sending the signal, “I know how important this is to you, and you can count on me to do what I say I will do.” Radical responsiveness is keeping your customers consistently informed, checking in unexpectedly, and anticipating your customer’s unexpressed needs.

Great customer service organizations have an intuitive understanding of these three behavioral attributes. One of the best in the world is Seattle-based retailer Nordstrom who built their iconic brand around amazing stories of customer service heroics. Check out the Nordstrom video and as you watch, notice how each of these three customer service skills are displayed.

How would you rate your business–or yourself–in practicing these three skills of great customer service? What would it mean to your success to radically improve the level of customer service you currently provide?

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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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Be a Hospitalian To Present the Best Version of YOU

In his popular TED Talk, “Be a Hospitalian,” Bobby Stuckey, owner of the renowned Frasca restaurant in Boulder, Colorado, shares a humorous holiday story of trying to please one of his relatives while hosting Thanksgiving dinner:

 

Bobby’s talk highlights the critical difference between service (“What you do for someone”) and hospitality (“Changing how they feel”). His point: From serving customers in a 5-Star restaurant to hosting your neighbors for a backyard barbecue — while excellent service is important, authentic hospitality is the real difference-maker.

As many of us prepare to spend the Easter holidays with family, Bobby’s message serves as a great reminder. There’s bound to be someone you’ll encounter who rubs you the wrong way…  be it that crazy uncle, know-it-all brother-in-law, or your sister’s boyfriend who drives you nuts. Being a “hospitalian” means presenting the best version of yourself, or, as Bobby says, “looking out instead of looking in.” It’s thinking of yourself less and putting others first, even those who irritate us.

So during this Easter holiday, take a cue from Bobby: Before the craziness begins, put aside your need for affirmation and gratitude and commit to becoming a “hospitalian.”

And if, at any point over the holidays, you’re tempted to slip back into the lesser version of yourself, get out your Bible, take a deep breath and let the true message of Easter inspire you:

Then He said to them, “Thus it is written, and thus it was necessary for the Christ to suffer and to rise from the dead the third day, and that repentance and remission of sins should be preached in His name to all nations, beginning at Jerusalem. And you are witnesses of these things.” (Luke 24:46-48)

What was your experience celebrating Easter with family growing up? Was there tension or peace? How has that affected your approach to the celebrating holidays and family functions? How can Bobby Stuckey’s message of hospitality help you enjoy the coming days?

This post has been adapted from my previous post for the Christmas holiday.

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Be the Best Version of YOU this Christmas

In his popular TED Talk, “Be a Hospitalian,” Bobby Stuckey, owner of the renowned Frasca restaurant in Boulder, Colorado, shares a humorous holiday story of trying to please one of his relatives while hosting Thanksgiving dinner:

Bobby’s talk highlights the critical difference between service (“What you do for someone”) and hospitality (“Changing how they feel”). His point: From serving customers in a 5-Star restaurant to hosting your neighbors for a backyard barbecue — while excellent service is important, authentic hospitality is the real difference-maker.

As many of us prepare to spend the holidays with family, Bobby’s message serves as a great reminder. There’s bound to be someone you’ll encounter this Christmas who rubs you the wrong way…  be it that crazy uncle, know-it-all brother-in-law, or your sister’s boyfriend who drives you nuts. Being a “hospitalian” means presenting the best version of yourself, or, as Bobby says, “looking out instead of looking in.” It’s thinking of yourself less and putting others first, even those who irritate us.

So this Christmas, take a cue from Bobby: Before the craziness begins, put aside your need for affirmation and gratitude and commit to becoming a “hospitalian.”

And if, at any point over the holidays, you’re tempted to slip back into the lesser version of yourself, get out your Bible, take a deep breath and let the true message of Christmas, the true story of God’s intervention into our world that brought new life, hope and unprecedented access to the Creator of the Universe, soften you:

“For unto us a Child is born, Unto us a Son is given; And the government will be upon His shoulder. And His name will be called Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.” (Isaiah 9:6)

What was your experience celebrating Christmas with family growing up? Was there tension or peace? How has that affected your approach to the celebrating holidays and family functions? How can Bobby Stuckey’s message of hospitality help you enjoy the coming days?

Merry Christmas!

by Brigitte Tohm | pexels.com

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