It should not be a surprise to anyone that in hospitality our guests are our bread and butter. We say and hear this all the time, and yet, do our actions back this up? Do we go out of our way to make sure our guests feel welcome, comfortable, and important? Several years ago I stayed at the Dunes Manor in Ocean City, MD during the off-season. Upon entering the elevator, a maintenance man greeted me, and then inquired if I was enjoying my stay. When I said I was, he replied, “We’re very happy you’re here. If it weren’t for you, I wouldn’t be on the schedule today.” You may have heard this story before. I’ve told it a million times. And I went back in the off-season for the two years following that encounter, each time with two other couples. With one sentence he made me feel like the most important person in the hotel, AND they’ve gotten lots of word of mouth advertising, repeat business, and new guests.
One of our jobs, if not the most important, is to successfully show genuine interest in our guests, and in what is important to them. Making that connection will pay off in dividends we can’t foresee. Which hotel would you rather stay in, the one where an associate fails to make eye contact, barely acknowledges your existence, and spends more time talking with colleagues than paying attention to you? Or the one where you receive a warm smile, the associate’s undivided attention and concern to your well-being, and for a few moments makes you feel like the most important person on the planet?
Here’s a couple of ways to express interest in others that will make your encounter stand out:
• Acknowledge people. An associate should never pass guests without acknowledging them with a smile, eye contact, and a verbal greeting.
• Make your greeting special. The key here is to take 10 seconds and make them feel like they are the only person in the room. Look them in the eyes with warmth and offer a friendly greeting.
• Ask how they are, and how their stay is. Despite what it may feel like at times, most people will not speak up if there is a need that is not being met. Listen carefully to their response, and ask a follow-up question if their tone of voice reveals a concern.
• Listen with interest. We’ve all been caught answering with a reflexive reply that does not match the other person’s statement. Listen, process, and respond appropriately.
• Offer genuine compliments. There is a crossing guard in my neighborhood that makes a point of greeting me everyday on my walk to work. Always included is an appreciation of my outfit, my smile, or just a comment that she is happy to see me on that day. I have an enormous amount of respect for this woman and look forward to seeing her everyday.
• Be encouraging. Learn something about why the guest is visiting so you can encourage them. “Good luck on your job interview” or “I hope things go well for you today” makes all the difference in the world.
Of course, all of these suggestions apply to our relationships with our colleagues as well. We should be treating each other with the same high standards that we apply to our guests. When you show an interest in others and the things that are important to them, they will show an interest in you and the things that are important to you.