Not the Service Exception, but the Rule


We do not always practice what we preach. Moreover, we tend to get mired in the minutiae of our jobs that we forget who drives our industry – people. We do a wonderful job of understanding the mechanics but lousy at internal communication and execution. It is refreshing, then, when an establishment is firing on all cylinders. An organization that not only discusses the service basics, but also weaves them into their culture and executes them. I had the pleasure of visiting a Marriott hotel a few weeks ago in Massachusetts in which the staff exuded hospitality. They not only made my day, but also still have me talking about them.

The Welcome

A proper welcome sets the tone for the entire stay. It has the potential to establish immediate rapport with the guest. This foundation is critical to create an honest, real-time feedback loop that serves to improve the service experience. An improved experience based on guests’ actual wants and needs leads to higher conversion rates and repeat business.

Conversely, ignoring the guest makes a bold statement as well. However ,it is not one most organizations would choose to make. Even a delayed welcome conveys a negative message that colors the guests’ experience. The guest becomes guarded and on the lookout for anything and everything to go wrong. When the inevitable occurs to whom does one turn? The inattentive staff member who ignored the guest during the “welcome?” Not a compelling reason to spend any more money at this establishment.

The 15/5 Rule

A widely used principle in the hospitality industry is the 15/5 Rule (or 10/5 Rule). The rule stipulates that an associate should make eye contact and smile at 15-feet and greet the guest with a professional yet friendly tone at 5-feet. The rule ensures that every guest is acknowledged with appropriate body language at any touch point. This positive communication will encourage guests to share concerns or celebrate successes. Although the rule is simple enough in concept, so few hoteliers and restaurateurs reinforce it. Lost opportunities to connect with our guests abound and ultimately lead to lost business.

The Daily Stand-Up

When I was a general manager, I used the daily stand-up as way to gather my team members and reinforce the service basics. Reviewed 260 times over the course of every year (weekends were reserved as a means for review and practice) it is only natural that it becomes part of the culture, additionally reinforced vis-à-vis coaching. As a service culture develops a hospitable atmosphere is palpable and becomes a place where guests want to gather and frequent. Similarly associates enjoy coming to work, function at higher levels, own guest issues, assist team members and will anticipate needs. All of which lead to a richer experience.

The Effect

I was genuinely impressed with the staff at the Marriott I frequented. I should not be so impressed because their execution of the basics should not be the exception but the rule. However, it is evident that not only does management understand the importance of communication and the methods in the which we communicate, but also they have taken the time to explain and reinforce the concepts to their entire team. The result is undeniable – a genuine feeling of hospitality and a desire to return soon.

How do you communicate with your team and your guests?

In the spirit of hospitality…

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