Organic Service: Adapting Experiences to the Experience
By Roberta Nedry President & Founder, Hospitality Excellence, Inc. | February 09, 2014
Organic! That word is everywhere in today's world. Consumers are seeking Organic food for healthier lifestyles. Restaurants are showcasing more Organic menu creations and even growing their own organic gardens. People are choosing more Organic lifestyles and exploring ways to simplify their lives and become healthier. Organic farming means no drugs, synthetic chemicals or hormones are used. Organic business growth means new business that comes from existing business or customers. Organic organizations are known to encourage and respect the teams within and encourage new ideas and teamwork; to encourage employees to perform at their best! So…. what about Organic Service? How would we apply today's big "O" to daily interactions and service delivery to guests?
Two back-to-back restaurant experiences prompted the focus of this article and how spontaneously wonderful and perhaps different service delivery can be when what I call " an organic moment" takes place. "Vivi" at Tee-Jay Thai Sushi in Fort Lauderdale knew we were in a hurry when we sat down. We only had 30 minutes to enjoy one of our favorite meals and let her know. She reacted instantly with positive understanding, captured our requests quickly, succinctly recommended some new items and then flew off to the kitchen to mobilize the chefs to get our orders quickly. She returned with our first plates and even more enthusiasm, wanting our 30 minutes to be as wonderful as they could be. She checked our water and drinks, brought the rest of the plates and then left us to enjoy some moments alone.
About 25 minutes into our meal, conscientious of the time, she brought our bill before we asked for it, thanked us profusely and invited us to come back and stay longer. She created our experience organically, in direct response to the circumstances, what we needed and the anxiety we were feeling. Instead of what could have been frustrating for both server and guests with the initial rush and anxiety, Vivi reacted to the moment and "organically" created a wonderful 30-minute experience with the circumstances presented to her at that moment. We now go out of our way to eat at this restaurant, stay longer, spend more and always ask for Vivi. Organic service pays off.
The very next night, we met Liz at the Chart House who gave us a different type of "organic" experience. We had time to have a full dinner experience and took our time figuring out menu options and ordering in stages. Liz read our moods instantly and seemed to adapt her style to fit ours. And while I don't exactly remember the items we ordered, I do remember this feeling of warmth and relaxation Liz created through each of her interactions with us. She was sincere and interested in who we were and our particular tastes. She engaged in witty conversation when we asked her a few questions and shared some of her unique life moments with us. Her "Organic" style was to simply relate to us and add to the moods we were in by being in that mood as well. It almost felt like we had a family member who really cared about us serving us. It was unexpected yet surpassed our expectations in what we thought might be a traditional restaurant experience. It was an experience about "feeling good" as well as satiated. It was Organic because her thoughts were organically reactive to ours and we all benefited.
Part of being organic is being able to quickly adapt to change and in both of these cases, adapting to the emotions, moods, personalities and circumstances of the guests who had arrived IN THAT MOMENT. In both cases, these servers did not follow a script or routine and instead used soft skills of excellence in making each experience meaningful. They did not know what to expect with these guests before they arrived nor were they trained specifically for these two individual guest circumstances. What they did know is that had only a few moments to react and act and in turn, 'create' a unique experience within some very normal and routine restaurant server roles and actions.
The term, organic organization, created by sociologist Tom Burns and G.M. Stalker in the late 1950s, shows the power of personalities and relationships and that strict rules for procedures and communication don't always work. More important is the ability to react quickly and easily and to be adaptive. They noted that "decisions arise from the needs felt by individuals in the group, who propose changes to the group, either by discussion or by changing behavior or operations without discussion. " Interesting that they also note "the weakness of the model is that it requires co-operation and constant adjustment from all the members." This is a powerful point for hospitality and service leaders. The most memorable and effective service is that which is tailored to those experiencing it so that 'adjustment', which makes it organic is essential. The co-operation part means that employees who are empowered to be 'organic' and have leadership that encourages and role models those adaptive adjustments will have the strongest impact on guest satisfaction.