magnify Click image to view more.

Service Station: Holiday Hospitality

Eric Weiss - December 4th, 2013

Once again, service consultant Eric Weiss steps in to help you guide your team through holiday hordes, making sure each and every guest receives undiminished personal attention. Weiss is the founder/president of Service Arts Inc.

Simon Cowell, watch out! Hospitality has its own “X” factor.

It’s that time of year, when throngs of partygoers come to us celebrating the season. In addition to logistics, perhaps the biggest holiday service challenge is remembering that each of our guests is an individual with a name, a story, and a unique persona. When there’s a party of 300 coming through your doors at the same time asking, “Where are the bathrooms?” or “Can I have lemon with my water?” it becomes difficult to provide personalized service.

When large groups are checking into hotels and resorts during the holidays, lines can be longer than those at Disneyworld. Eliminate the command, “Next!” guests are not cattle coming in to be prodded. They deserve to be treated with a smile and a warm, sincere greeting. “Good afternoon,” “Thank you for joining us at…,” or “Happy to have you here.” Ask your staff to come up with at least 20 appropriate greetings and make sure they rotate them at the front desk or at the table.

A person who actually walks guests to a restroom or a banquet space really impresses. If that’s not possible, the next best thing is to walk them part way. Perhaps asking a fellow team member to accompany them is a possibility, and as a last resort, indicating the way with an open hand. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been given the pointed finger (and that would be the index one), when I ask for directions in hotels and restaurants. It feels like I’m back in pre-historic times with a fur-wrapped caveman grunting and pointing to my next dinosaur feeding. Whether it’s indicating a menu item, clarifying a charge at check out, or guiding someone to a destination, the upward palm is a powerful symbol of welcome.

When it comes to seating guests, make sure you’re available. Pulling out chairs speaks volumes to guest’s primal needs—feeling important, being coddled, belonging. If staff members are talking amongst themselves, there is an unconscious message being sent—they are more important than me, the customer. When team members “swarm” and approach a table together, the positive feeling is multiplied by 10.

Making direct and warm eye contact with everyone at the table or at check-in generates a sense of comfort. Yes, it could be distracting if it’s Gisele Bundchen or Brad Pitt. However, inclusiveness is crucial. Each person is important.

Clearing only when everyone at the table is finished is a major issue. Remember, this service faux pas has moved into first place on diners’ complaint list.

The greeting and farewell are the most impactful moments of any hospitality experience. Make sure that a staff member is present both to welcome and bid your guests farewell. The more someone acknowledges their arrival and departure with a “Thank You” or an invitation to return, the more connected they will feel.

First impressions, last impressions—they are usually what people remember. The word “memorable” is used constantly, referring to dining, travel, and living the good life. There are many restaurants with top chefs, state-of-the-art wine lists, and architecturally stunning dining rooms. We see a plethora of hotels with award-winning spas, the latest in technology, and 1,000-count Egyptian cotton sheets. But teaching our staffs to remember that each guest is unique is hospitality’s “X” factor.