The hospitality industry is one that, as defined by its name, must deliver a cut-above customer experience on a daily basis. Accommodating and delighting customers is not a goal; it is a continuous expectation. And brands such as Disney continue to raise the bar with an almost fairytale approach.
Here are 5 hospitality industry best practices that span all industries when it comes to the goal of delivering an exceptional customer experience:
1. Smiles everyone, smiles! One thing that Disney teaches us about delivering an exceptional customer experience is the magic of always being “on” when you’re representing a brand. Studies have shown that even when people can’t see you, they can still perceive your mood through your tone.
Always treat customers as you’d like to be treated (the golden rule still rules), and even though it’s difficult, don’t take personally the frustration or anger that customers can sometimes vent. Keep smiling and accentuate the positive.
2. Call customers by name. A tried and true standard of major hotel chains is calling a customer by their name to make them feel important. As a tip across all industries, ask early on if you’re unsure of the pronunciation of a customer’s name, and in emails or other written forms of communication, take care to always make sure that you’re spelling a customer’s name correctly.
3. Watch your language. Ever wondered why Chick-fil-A uses the phrase “my pleasure” instead of “you’re welcome”? Chick-fil-A founder, Truett Cathy, was inspired to institute the phrase after a visit to the Ritz-Carlton. When Cathy said “thank you” to front desk representative, the response was “my pleasure.” Even though his business was fast food, Cathy felt it important to reply to his customers as if they were at a luxury establishment.
4. Be proactively polite. Disney team members are trained to be “assertively friendly.” For example, they will ask a guest who has a puzzled look on their face if they need assistance or will offer to take a photo of a group when someone is being left out to snap the picture. Guests who let Disney know they’re visiting on their birthday are given special name badges so that when they have an interaction with a Disney team member, they are recognized by name and wished a happy birthday by all.
Creating a proactive customer experience rather than simply offering reactive customer service and support can be a key differentiator across all industries, and it can be as easy as recognizing a customer’s service or purchase anniversary by looking at their history. Going above and beyond this is the stuff of hero stories that define a company culture.
5. “Do what you do so well, they’ll want to come back and bring their friends.” Strive to accommodate or better yet delight customers whenever possible so that they will be loyal to your brand. Small acts of kindness or thoughtfulness go a long way. For example, the Ritz Carlton delivered to a couple celebrating their first anniversary a bottle of sparkling cider instead of champagne because a staff member learned that the wife was expecting. They noticed another guest enjoyed jogging each morning, so when he returned from his run the next day, a staff member greeted him with a warm towel and bottled water. Apple adopted the hotel chain’s guest greeting and goodbye methods to extend a proactive warm welcome to each customer and then end the experience with a fond farewell and an invitation to return.
It’s these small acts of proactive hospitality that evolve into customer service differentiators. Said J. Willard Marriott, who set the hospitality and customer service standards for his namesake brand high from the beginning, “If we wait until we have to compete, it’s too late. We must keep up and do as well as – or better than – the others do.”
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