The Gestures of Service
By Roberta Nedry, President, Hospitality Excellence, Inc.
PLEASE light my candle! All the other table candles in the restaurant were lit, except ours. The time was twilight and we had a water view from our table. PERFECT timing for a lit candle. Our nice setting quickly became an incomplete experience. None of the waiters or waitresses noticed nor could we get their attention until several minutes later. Why use the space for a candle that only sits in darkness? We were disappointed that this little gesture was an oversight and a detail that did not seem important.
In Park City , Utah , the Peaks Hotel provides several nice gestures that make guest stays so much more enjoyable. When the newspaper arrives each morning, a welcome sticker is attached on the front page with the statement, "It is our goal to make your stay a comfortable and enjoyable experience." A further statement notes that receiving the paper is a guest choice, offers two newspaper choices, and the opportunity not to receive it as well. Many hotels do offer the newspaper selection and perhaps a "provided with compliments of" sticker but the Peaks Hotel's additional statement of welcome and their interest in creating an enjoyable experience, even with the small touch point of a newspaper, showed extra effort.
A second thoughtful gesture is door-to-door delivery of hot chocolate and huge home-made cookies. An enthusiastic staff team takes this delicious cart around to each room in the late afternoon, knocking on each door, and offering the goodies. Many hotels offer tea, cookies, and other items like this in the late afternoon in lobbies or other central areas. This extra gesture of Peaks Hotel staff, personally going door-to-door, taking the treats to guests, who may have just returned from a long, day of skiing or snow activities, showed extra effort and a sincere gesture for guests who may have been too tired to walk to the lobby.
At the elegant Stein Eriksen Lodge, in Upper Deer Valley , Utah , Todd Ronsenkrantz, Restaurant Manager, developed another wonderful way to make tiny moments into big memories. In the Troll Hallen Lounge, while guests enjoy appetizers and drinks, Mr. Rosenkrantz, visits each table to ask guests if they are enjoying themselves and if all is as they expected. He calls this the "table touch". He makes the rounds and "touches" each table which in essence is touching each guest experience with a personal and memorable welcome. He is warm and welcoming and makes guests feel like each short visit mattered. He is engaging, involved and enthusiastic, even though his role did not require that.
Todd Rosenkrantz is a leader by example, not just behind the scenes, but on the frontline and his staff reflected those same engaging and enthusiastic qualities. This was a little gesture by someone in management who recognized the value of the guest connection for his employees as well as his guests. Gestures like these don't take much time but they do take the cake!
At The Pierre New York, a Taj Hotel, Chef Concierge Maurice Dancer and his concierge staff take "gesture development" to a whole new level. Their level of personalized service through the most simple of communications makes a positive and memorable impact. In advance of guest visits, Maurice, a Les Clefs D'Or concierge, and his team, uncover guest interests and make many recommendations based on guest preferences. Upon arrival, when guests check in, guests receive individual and personalized letters from the concierge team, summarizing a recommended itinerary and those reservations that are confirmed for each day of the visit. If guests are celebrating a special event, a hand written note of welcome, personalized message and thoughtful amenity await in the room. These are little things but hand written notes, personalized letters and proactive communication efforts add the polish, professionalism and personal service commitment that make a difference.
Other thoughtful gestures at The Pierre keep adding to the guest experience. In the Café Pierre Bar , an elegant, complimentary snack assortment is delivered to each table while drink orders are made. Olives are part of the assortment. It's always interesting to watch guests enjoy olives and those hotels or restaurants that serve them. Most guests do not know how best to handle the olive pits. While eating olives can be delicious, there is that awkward moment of removing the pit from one's mouth and placing it "somewhere" where it does not look disgusting. If ashtrays are on the table, they get mixed in with "ashtray stuff". If saucers are on the table, they share space with the cups. Or, perhaps they end up back on the side of the serving dish they originally came from, quite unappealing. The Pierre provides an olive pit dish to solve the problem. It is small and unobtrusive but its purpose is clear. This small gesture, via this well thought out one inch round dish, made pit removal and placement more discreet and all olive and non-olive participants benefited.
In the elevators, The Pierre features elevator attendants who do a lot more than push buttons. They recognize their opportunity to be ambassadors of the hotel, even in such close quarters, and each time guests go up or down, guests feel like they have a personal escort. This small touch point opportunity becomes a big touch point memory. These employees know that little outreach gestures can mean a lot and they knew appropriately when and how to make the guest connections.
Even after guest visits are complete, Maurice Dancer and his team are still on duty. They make notes about important guest dates like anniversaries and birthdays and weeks or months later, may send a congratulatory note or card to show guests they are remembered and appreciated. Once again, a little gesture, little thanks, an email or a clever note, even after guests leave the premises reflects a service commitment above and beyond the daily routine. Guests pay attention to small gestures like these and reward hotels with their loyalty and referrals.
Who is in charge of "gesture development" in any hotel or hospitality environment? What are the existing services that can "grow bigger" in service impact with just a little bit extra thought and care? Making memories just a tad more meaningful at less than obvious touchpoints is simple once this strategy is mobilized.
Take a look at some of the following guidelines in considering a "gesture development" thought process:
- Challenge each department to define all touchpoints, all points of contact, for the guest experiences within their control.
- Evaluate each touchpoint and determine if there is any meaningful action, courtesy or communication that could make that point of contact more meaningful or memorable( hand written notes before, during and after a guest arrives, etc).
- Look for less than obvious ways to express interest in the guest. Explore solutions and ideas that add convenience and pleasure to the guest experience (like the little olive dish).
- Train employees to look for things that may be amiss or incomplete and then to immediately address them. These may change depending on the time of day (candles should be lit prior to sunset and kept lit!)
- Motivate management to keep gesture development top of mind and consider assigning that role to a different employee each month.
- Touch guests through words as well as actions. Take time to appreciate guests for their business and engage them beyond the routine parts of hospitality service ( "the table touch").
- Remember that small gestures of thanks, convenience or thoughtfulness toward employees can go a long way toward thoughtfulness toward guests. What goes around comes around.
Signal your intention and attitude for exceptional service delivery through gesture gyrations. Minor moments become major memories with minor efforts and major commitments. Light a flame of interest in this untapped area of service focus and experience the glow of appreciative guests.
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Roberta Nedry is President of Hospitality Excellence, Inc., leaders in guest experience management. Ms. Nedry has developed a unique 3D Service(sm) methodology to take guest service to the next level. Her firm focuses on guest, customer and client service, the concierge profession and service excellence training for management and frontline employees.More from Roberta Nedry
HEI Experience leaders have their fingers on the pulse of what matters in any Guest Experience and tune in to worldwide service excellence examples and strategies through their international work in exceptional service delivery. They provide Guest and Customer Service consulting, evaluation, design, education and training for those that seek excellence at every point of contact.
The Hospitality Excellence team understands all facets of Guest Experience Management and deploys their unique 3D Service methodology as a successful business strategy for internal and external service delivery in all industries. Services include experience analysis, mapping and design, onsite and online training, service evaluation, service standards and initiatives, recognition programs and service leadership. Contact us at 877 GEM-3D07( 877 436-3307) or [email protected] or hospitalityservicetraining.com.