Does your business growth depend on your ability to gain loyalty with customers? Is it essential that your customers return over and over and enthusiastically recommend you to others?
If that is true, your business may be more like a high-class hotel than you think – and perhaps a touch of hospitality is just what the concierge ordered.
A hospitality mindset can improve the customer experience at many kinds of businesses, including banks, grocery stores, pharmacies, doctor’s offices, hospitals, insurance companies and manufacturing businesses. When was the last time you felt that the dentist had “rolled out the red carpet” in anticipation of your arrival?
Hospitality is defined as “treating guests and strangers in a warm, friendly and generous way.” Every business can benefit from a hospitality mindset and a focus on a warm, caring, reassuring environment that immediately makes customers feel comfortable and want to return with friends and colleagues.
In the business of hospitality, we study the art of service which at a minimum includes rolling out the red carpet: the literal red carpet, the virtual red carpet and the emotional red carpet. To build loyalty in the hotel business, it takes much more than a clean room, efficient team and reasonable price. It is the human element that truly makes the difference – and the only aspect of the guest experience that even has a chance to make a valued emotional connection.
The key is to treat your customers like they are guests, and a great first impression is crucial. Great hotels greet you with a grand lobby and polished brass details, but the impression begins long before one sets foot on the marble floors or even leaves home. It starts as soon as a potential customer begins their search for a hotel, bank, dentist or pharmacist. Your marketing is the first impression: Are you marketing with a hospitality mindset; have you rolled out the electronic red carpet for a potential guest?
If your customers contact you prior to arriving at your site, what is that experience? Are they greeted with the open arms or are they routed through a series of dial tones and automated responses?
The rebirth of the concierge is another example to take from the hotel business. A good concierge is able to make you look like a hero by scoring tickets or reservations that you could never manage to get yourself. Identify what is truly valuable to your customer.
Details make the difference. This is why we do things such as place a mint on your pillow. What are the equivalents of these “pillow mints” in your business?
The final impression is even more important than the first impression. How do your guests leave your business? Are they exiting unescorted and without a proper goodbye and invitation to return, or are they touched and invited back? Are they asked to bring friends or refer your business to others?
Do I fear for the future of hospitality? Do I worry that checking in and checking out of a hotel can be automated and that there will be no need for the folks – and me – who stand shoulder to shoulder each day? No way! I have seen guests walking away from automated kiosks to pursue a hand-served cup of coffee, a genuine smile and friendly conversation.
Take a moment and “check in” with your business. Maybe it’s more like a hotel than you thought.
Denise Maiatico, general manager of Bethlehem properties for Meyer Jabara Hotels, manages Hyatt Place and Courtyard by Marriott. She also is an adjunct professor of hospitality at Northampton Community College.