NATIONAL REPORT—What does great customer service mean to you? If you work in hospitality, the first thing that comes to mind might be the standards you’re expected to adhere to at your job. Do you answer the phone before the third ring? How efficiently do you check guests in? Are you remembering to upsell when booking reservations?
But exceptional customer service runs so much deeper than day-to-day tasks and standards. Great service involves critical thinking. It requires you to think strategically about each interaction and deliver the service that reflects what each customer is looking for in that moment.
As an industry, it’s time we start taking a more personalized approach to providing great experiences for our guests. In other words, it’s time to ditch the script. Instead of simply going through the motions, use these five tips to consistently deliver game-changing service with every interaction.
- Consider the full context of the situation
Amazing service involves much more than just the time spent with the guest. It’s important to step back and consider what happened in the period before and after that specific interaction. Your guest may be a frequent business traveler or they might be on a family vacation. Their mindset in each situation is going to be wildly different depending on the context of the trip. The service you provide needs to be tailored to these circumstances. Being intentional about preparing for and then assessing customer interactions will foster continued growth and improvement.
- Customize every interaction
Provide a personalized experience every time, with each and every guest. Be authentic. People can tell when you’re obligated to say something versus when a compliment or smile is genuine. Sometimes forced interactions are worse than no interaction at all. It’s important to be present, assess the situation, and respond appropriately.
- Set expectations
Adequately communicating expectations to guests is what sets the customer service superstars apart from the rest. Excellent service communication involves addressing the who, what, when, where, and why—but also the what else. The what else might be notifying a guest about the road construction they may encounter on their way to a destination. Or it could be suggesting popular shops to stop by on their way home from dinner. The what else is whatever makes the experience better or more special for that particular guest.
- Treat service as a two-way street
Recognize that great service isn’t one-sided. There’s a real person on the other side of each interaction, and that person can have any number of things going on in their life outside of this moment. They could be your hotel’s biggest fan or they could be waiting for an opportunity to jump ship and go straight to a competitor. Your job is to consider the full context of the situation and adjust your responses based on their specific needs in that moment.
- Master service recovery
Service recovery is your opportunity to turn satisfied customers into brand evangelists. You may feel tempted to shy away from these difficult situations, but studies show that there are huge payoffs for service providers who properly prepare for when things don’t go as planned. Mistakes are bound to happen, but if you take responsibility and ownership to make it right, customers will take notice. They may even become more loyal to your brand as a result.
In an increasingly automated world, there’s more pressure on service providers to resolve the issues technology can’t. Better training is required to prepare service personnel to handle these complex problems. The Cornell University Service Excellence On-Demand Training provides organizations and team members with a framework for critical thinking and techniques that can be adopted by customer-facing employees in any role.
Learn more about the Cornell University Service Excellence On-Demand Training.
—Elizabeth Martyn ’07, course author, Service Excellence On-Demand Training