Please Use the “F” Word!!

By Roberta Nedry President & Founder, Hospitality Excellence, Inc. | May 06, 2018

Relax! Not that 'F' Word!  This 'F' stands for Feelings, which are critical to any service interaction or guest experience and they must be front and center to make meaningful emotional connections. Whose feelings you might ask? Yours, theirs and ours!!!

How you perceive your guests are feeling as they arrive, experience and depart can make a powerful difference in the feelings they remember. Once that perception is made, the next step is how to respond and deliver behaviors that will make those feelings positive. How can hospitality leaders orient their teams to do this and deploy an "F" word strategy for each touchpoint in the flow of service delivery? How can this 'F' word lead to more repeat guests, referrals, increased loyalty and a better bottom line?

My son and I have sampled Subway restaurants all over the United States but have not typically been huge fans and go simply for convenience. Brandon is an employee at the Subway near our home and may have changed our minds based on the 'F' word. Each time we come in for my son's pre-basketball workout special, He makes us feel remembered and special.  He takes enough time to chat with us while also being efficient with the order and sensitive to other customers even though he is the only one working. He takes pride in the quality of the food and can describe menu items in detail. He is attentive to my 16-year-old son's specific tastes and spends time explaining the food quality to me. He makes the experience fun, efficient and engaging through his eye contact, his body language, his tone of voice by simply understanding our feelings and delivering what we need.

I will go out of my way to go to this Subway and probably only this Subway because of Brandon and how he makes us feel.  I watched him with other customers and saw him adapt and adjust according to each customer's feelings. He "gets" how to use the 'F' word in these brief sandwich-making moments and customers leave with positive vibes and perhaps a different perception of a fast food experience. We are proof of the 'F' word as a profitability/loyalty strategy as we repeatedly go back to be served by Brandon.

On the other hand, lack of feeling by an employee and misunderstanding how a guest is feeling can cause the opposite effect. While checking in for a Delta flight, the agent never looked up, did not make eye contact, performed her duties in a perfunctory and uninterested way and took much longer than normal to process our information. Our whole experience with her had NO 'F" word, no concern for us getting to our flight on time, no desire to engage us or make us feel welcome or valued as regular Delta passengers and no feeling of concern that our documents were correct. There was no 'F' word in her greeting, her delivery or her farewell; basically, there was nothing and complete indifference.

As we went through security, the boarding passes she processed did not work and we had to rush back to another agent, causing us anxiety, delay and concern. That's when we met agent Samuel, our new 'F' word king! He greeted us with a warm smile, even as we expressed our dismay. He took our concerns seriously, sensed our feelings of anxiety and immediately reassured us he would take care of things. He still needed to do his job and make sure all our information was correct, but he did so in a caring and efficient way. He knew the feelings he needed to address were our feelings of anxiety and frustration. He figured out how keep us calm and take care of what we needed while adhering to the airline's rules, regulations and standards.

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Coming up in April 2019...

Guest Service: A Culture of YES

In a recent global consumers report, 97% of the participants said that customer service is a major factor in their loyalty to a brand, and 76% said they view customer service as the true test of how much a company values them. And since there is no industry more reliant on customer satisfaction than the hotel industry, managers must be unrelenting in their determination to hire, train and empower the very best people, and to create a culture of exceptional customer service within their organization. Of course, this begins with hiring the right people. There are people who are naturally service-oriented; people who are warm, empathetic, enthusiastic, pleasant, thoughtful and optimistic; people who take pride in their ability to solve problems for the hotel guests they are serving. Then, those same employees must be empowered to solve problems using their own judgment, without having to track down a manager to do it. This is how seamless problem solving and conflict resolution are achieved in guest service. This willingness to empower employees is part of creating a Culture of Yes within an organization.  The goal is to create an environment in which everyone is striving to say “Yes”, rather than figuring out ways to say, “No”. It is essential that this attitude be instilled in all frontline, customer-facing, employees. Finally, in order to ensure that the hotel can generate a consistent level of performance across a wide variety of situations, management must also put in place well-defined systems and standards, and then educate their employees about them. Every employee must be aware of and responsible for every standard that applies in their department. The April issue of the Hotel Business Review will document what some leading hotels are doing to cultivate and manage guest satisfaction in their operations.