The pineapple is a widely recognized symbol of hospitality. We see carved pineapples incorporated into architecture and used as decorative elements. I argue, however, that displaying this symbol of hospitality is not the same as displaying the actions and behaviors that truly define hospitality.
In all customer interactions, being hospitable plays a crucial role. This is especially important to customers when they are traveling. We all know from personal experiences that whether our travels take us to the next city or to the next continent, how we are treated makes or breaks our impression of that experience. It is our responsibility as business owners and managers to make sure we create a hospitable customer experience. Doing this will benefit our businesses by developing satisfied and loyal customers. There are effective techniques we can utilize to ensure that type of experience transpires. These techniques parallel how we treat guests in our home
Be Present. With our hectic days and multiple distractions we can easily forget the fundamental concept of being present when interacting with our customer. This means focusing completely on the interaction, tuning in, actively listening. In order to accomplish this we must temporarily tune out all of the other items bouncing around in our brains. When we practice this we show our interest and the customer feels respected and appreciated.
It is also incredibly important our employees understand the customer is always the priority. They need to be trained to recognize the importance of giving the customer their full attention and they need to know that it is not only OK, but preferable to put down the report (sweater, phone, etc.) and focus on that customer standing in front of them.
Set the Stage. When throwing a dinner or holiday party you are essentially striving to create a memorable experience for your guests. We can apply that same concept to our businesses. View the experience through our customers' eyes: What do the see? Smell? How does the interaction make them feel? Was it memorable? Today's customer is looking for more than a transaction; he is looking for an experience.
Impress them Coming and Going. Remember that we make the biggest impression on our customers when they first walk in, and again when they are leaving our establishment. If we look at this interaction through the lens of treating a customer in our business the same way we would treat a guest in our home, the pattern is pretty clear. We would greet them, escort them to where they need to go, and when it was time to leave we would walk them to the door and let them know we appreciate that they took the time to stop by. Same principles, different venue.
As with so many behaviors, exuding hospitality is an expectation we need to clearly communicate to our employees, and we have to model this behavior. These simple techniques can have a significant impact. Demonstrating hospitality, in other words showing customers, respect, graciousness and appreciation, will benefit the customers, the community, the bottom line and will allow us to display that pineapple proudly.
Johnston-Gingrich has been a business owner in the Lewis-Clark Valley for more than 15 years. She works as an independent trainer and consultant and is an adjunct faculty member with Lewis-Clark State College's Business Division. She may be contacted at www.rjitac.com.