‘Guest Service’ is the Real Myth

Jim Sullivan dishes on the ‘12 Myths of Customer Service’ found on the very useful website www.fohboh.com.

Like every other list out there, it includes some gems and some filler that is clearly there to just make sure the list has a round number like 5, 7, 10, or 12.

What bugged me most about this list is the use of the word ‘Customer’.  Don’t we get it that what separates hospitality from product-driven businesses like retail is that our customers are guests?

Picayune point?  Maybe, but if a coworker said, “The customer at table 22 needs more creamer,” or “I have a customer in treatment room #3 that is ready for their scrub,” you would know that your coworker was a fish out of water.  If a front desk staff member at a hotel said aloud that they had 75 customers checking-in that night, they would probably be fired…and deserve it. Ironically, the only time the word guest is used in this article is in a quote by Danny Meyer!  Point made.

If you want to heed the advice offered in this informative column, start by making sure everyone in your hospitality organization forgets the word ‘customer’.  Shoes stores and cell phone companies have customers.

Now to the list.  Number 7:  “People are our most important asset,” is the one that I think the author hit the nail on the head. The “right people” are the most important asset, not just any people. Just yesterday, I spoke with a representative of the company that checks our furnace once a year. My first thought was that this staff member has no business answering a business’s phone. The voice was so monotone, so drab, I actually thought I was being put-on, that it was a joke.

When I wanted to leave a message to say that I would be unavailable for one hour of the four hour window they needed to inspect the furnace, the staff member literally took down every word I said.  It probably took 4-5 minutes, but it seemed like forever.

Anyway, this same staff member called me back later that day and in the same perfectly monotone, drab voice, rescheduled the inspection. This time though, the staff member cracked a joke, and then thanked me mightily for being flexible about the reschedule.  It ended positively.

Is this the “right person?” Probably for the company, but for the customer? Not so much.  However, a mystery shop with a recorded call would make it clear, that one particular piece of the performance needs improvement. If that piece can be fixed, then yes, they are the right person, and the company has, in my opinion, the responsibility to develop them.

That brings us to this poster on the Crazy Hotel Workers website, who titled their post, “A Clerk’s Manifesto,” which brings new meaning to “People are Our Most Important Asset.”  While the author has a wry flair for the dramatic, I hope I never pull into this hotel needing a room.

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