Hospitality, what is it exactly?
Before we get to a definition, let’s be clear. Hospitality is not just something related to one industry which means it’s not just for hotels and restaurants. In fact, it’s not an industry at all. It’s actually an approach. And it’s an approach that can transform any business. It can rescue your customers from machine-like transactional experiences by making them more relational, pleasing, and human.
The dictionary says hospitality is “the friendly and generous reception and entertainment of guests, visitors, or strangers.”
But there is more to it than reception and entertainment. It is more service oriented. So, here’s an alternate definition: “Showing people they matter by welcoming and proactively helping them.”
The reason for this definition comes from my experience of a dinner party with friends, usually a very hospitable event and one to which most people can relate.
Imagine it. A door is opened to you, you come in and are greeted warmly. You are asked what drink you would like and are steered into a living room or family room to have some nice conversation. You genuinely feel that you are wanted. This is the essence of welcome.
Then appetizers come out and drinks refilled. Your host is aware and alert to guests’ needs. Even though they are participating in conversations, their eyes are constantly scanning for opportunities to fill a glass or offer more appetizers.
From there, you go to dinner where the treatment is the same. Your glass is never empty, and you are regularly asked if you want or need more of anything. The service, or help, is ongoing.
Finally, as you prepare to leave, you are thanked for coming. Again, you feel appreciated and wanted. It is a return to the welcome bestowed at the outset.
So how does this fit the definition?
The welcoming is obvious. All the way through the experience, you are made to feel as if you belong. You are wanted and appreciated.
And proactive helpfulness?
Proactive means creating or controlling a situation by causing something to happen rather than responding to it after it has happened. In other words, when it comes to service, needs are taken care of before someone must ask. In my dinner party, this was apparent in the watchful awareness of the host. The minute a glass was empty, they were there to refill.
When you consider this example, you can see how a hospitality approach can apply to any business. Hotels and restaurants are not the only places where customers can be welcomed and helped proactively. Take a minute to answer these questions in relation to your business.
- How do you make people feel welcome? How do you make people feel like you want them there?
- How do you extend your welcome to showing appreciation? How do you let people know you are grateful for them coming to you?
- How well do you proactively help people? How can you be more aware of needs and address them before people must ask for help?
Now share your thoughts with your team. Get their input. Put together a plan for bringing these welcoming, proactive helpfulness ideas to life. Keep talking about it, working on improvements, and practicing it until hospitality becomes part of your team’s DNA.
The principles of hospitality, namely welcome and proactive helpfulness, can be easily applied to any business and can dramatically improve the service your team provides. So take action. Be proactive. Do it.
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