In a noisy marketplace, relying on a specific product and / or traditional service staple as a differentiator isn’t the best strategy to get your hotel or restaurant noticed. Most businesses are just part of the ether. Most are trading on the same set of old methods of operating so they offer little in the way of differentiation or a value proposition for their customers that is appreciably different than what their competitors are also doing. Practices like using customers names, knowing their preferences or offering a refreshed room or menu are so common that they have become baseline expectations.
If you’re looking to achieve uncommon results, your going to have to employ uncommon actions. After you’ve covered the basics of service interactions and making sure your place is clean, you need to work on upgrading the words and actions of your front line team to be far more anticipatory and genuine.
The words you use will define your style. I’m not talking about prescribing phrases here. I’m talking about ways to let your customers know that they are valued and that you’re projecting a sense of genuine care and attention. It’s about elevating the interaction to be more personable but at the same time relaxed and familiar.
There are two phrases and practices that you can start doing right away that will impact your service interactions:
We’ve been expecting you
This phrase seems obvious but it’s rarely used. Do you have a business where customers come in and buy something from you? Do you have the ability for customers to make reservations (or require them)? Then of course you’ve been expecting them! So why wouldn’t you start the interactions with “Welcome, we’ve been expecting you!”? Adding this phrase changes the customers perception of the service level. It immediately makes them feel cared for and that you’re anticipating their needs. It also has a way of diffusing a potential difficult travel day for a hotel guest.
If you know something about your customer, like a beverage preference, special occasion, etc, then proactively following up “we’ve been expecting you” with “we have your **** ready” takes it over the top.
Excuse yourself from eye contact
Body language plays a bigger role in communication than the words you use, and with that, eye contact is near the top. Keeping eye contact with the person you’re talking to shows that you’re focused and paying attention. It demonstrates that you’re actually listening to what they’re saying.
There will be times when you need to break eye contact to take notes, but instead of just doing it, let the customer KNOW that you’re going to take notes. You’re effectively asking permission to break eye contact but that you’re still going to be engaged in the conversation and the customer will appreciate your attention to detail. It’s subtle but very effective in conveying a sense of care and attention. It’s even more effective in recovery situations.
Using these, and other uncommon but anticipatory words and phrases, will change your style of service to be more personable and individualistic. The key is to understand their meaning, introduce them slowly in to the operation and then proactively action and communicate the services that feed off of them. Creating a service experience that feels as though it’s one of a kind is how hospitality focused businesses will win in the future.