Giving Customer Service is NOT the Same as Offering Hospitality
Customer Service means taking care of the needs of a visitor. Hospitality means taking care of the visitor, (irrespective of their needs).
When someone comes through your doors, they expect to receive a solution to their problem or want, and, assuming that said solution received is equal to what they expected to get, they go away satisfied. But will they come back? That is determined not by the service you do for them, but more from HOW you provide that service….. Your HOSPITALITY.
Yet, most businesses continue to focus solely on “service”, and the results go wanting…. There are some fundamental flaws with this drive for offering Customer Service, and businesses that want to separate themselves from their competitors should understand what they are and strive to things differently. These are five (5) problems with merely aiming to reach this low bar:
Customer Service Problem #1 – It’s the same everywhere
First, every business has similar steps in their customer transactions. As a result, customers have become accustomed to receiving the same behavior wherever they go. It is nothing special when visiting an office to be greeted, shown a seat, and given a drink, because it is basically the same routine at every business. It is only noticed when it is absent.
Problem #2 – It’s Only Delivering What is Expected
Second, this behavior is actually just standard courtesy that we are taught to give and get in our society anyway. After all: Why WOULDN’T I greet a visitor at my door and show them in? Why WOULDN’T I offer them something to drink? Why WOULDN’T I check to see that the room temperature was comfortable? They are in line with social customs we have been taught in school, scouting, church, athletics, and social groups – Take care of others as you would want to be taken care. Even advertising shouts a similar mantra:
- “Be nice”
- “Do unto others as…………..”
- “A Scout is…………..,………, helpful, friendly, courteous, kind……”.
- “Be a good neighbor. (State Farm Insurance)….
Problem #3 – It is a Transaction
Every service business, somewhere in their employee manual, has a section espousing the importance of taking care of customers, and their front-line staff are likely trained on a routine to “properly” welcome them in. Stressing that importance, many businesses might follow up with customers after the experience asking them to complete a survey about how they were received and how they felt. Sample questions might be:
- Did the receptionist or other staff smile and say, “Hello” when you entered the lobby?
- Were you seen to and shown in within a reasonable amount of time?
- Were you informed where the restrooms are located? (if applicable)
- Did the staff offer you a beverage (water, coffee, tea, soda, etc.)?
- Was the temperature, seating, and ambiance of the waiting-room comfortable?
The emphasis is usually about whether the team DID something (that there were supposed to do) for the customer.
Problem #4 – Delivering Customer Service is Delivering a Routine
It will be hoped that the guest feedback is positive, and the team receives a good score for completing their ‘duty’ of caring for the customer. In branches or locations where scores are bad, management will address the deficiency with the team, and the staff will probably get additional training on what to do and what to say to guests to create a more positive experience in the eyes of the customers (read: improve the survey score). It might go so far as the staff being issued guidelines on what to do for their guests – often in the form of a checklist of tasks to complete:
- Smile and say, “Hello”. (If possible, greet the guest by their name).
- Show the guest to a seat in the waiting room or meeting space.
- Offer them a beverage.
- Point out to the guest where the restrooms are located.
- Ask them if they need anything else.
- Inform the guest how long the wait will be.
Problem #5 – Management Often Only Cares When It’s Missing
Ultimately, there becomes a ‘right way’ for employees to act in welcoming guests, and every front-line staff is graded on whether they complete these (same) deliverable actions. Concern arises only when said behavior is absent. In other words, when these actions are provided, the team is “off the manager’s ‘watchlist’” because they are deemed to be giving their customers service. If they fail to do so, they are back on ‘probation’. Manager focus and action hinges only on whether the threshhold of the minimum level of performance is attained.
Obviously, measuring the level of service, particularly whether service staff is underperforming, IS important. If a store, hotel, clinic, or other establishment is not providing a satisfactory minimum level of service, it cannot compete against its competitors. But the ironic thing is that the presence of customer service may not mean anything or even be noticed by those receiving the treatment. It is only when it is missing does a red flag go up – customers complain and managers get involved.
How to Stand Out from Competitors
So if every business is essentially offering a similar commodity (this packaged solution) in their lobby, and most deliverables are what constitute common social decorum, a question arises. How can a company separate itself from its competitors in its customer care program? Counter intuitively, it is by not giving them customer service. Rather a business and its team must deliver HOSPITALITY.
Three Key Elements to Hospitality