CUSTOMER SERVICE: Lessons from the hospitality industry

There’s no other industry that demands high levels of customer service quite like hospitality – especially if you’re working in Las Vegas. I know. I worked in the industry for a handful of years until I leapt over to the small business sector in 2000 (although I would describe it more as more of a quick darting action rather than simply a leap.)

While I admit that I enjoy no longer working for “the hotel man,” I often miss the deep-rooted understanding hospitality workers employ when it comes to providing great customer service. Perhaps it’s why I find it amusing that so much focus in today’s new business environment is on how to provide clients with great customer service when every business should have been doing it all along.

The secret? Constant communication and results. Really. It’s that simple and it’s that difficult. Yes, difficult.

For many, maintaining customer service can be a daunting task because it takes effort, which, translated for most, means moving out of their comfort zone.
For me, it’s a bit of a game. (I know how mental I sound. Thanks.) It’s fun, challenging and you’re always on your toes. I think I’ve done a pretty good job at keeping folks happy over the years. That being said, people often ask me how I get things done so quickly, or how I’ve been able to get in touch with someone and get results when they were unsuccessful at doing the same for so long – just a couple of examples which have enabled me to keep clients satisfied.

You’re out of luck if you’re looking for secret tips from Tony Robbins. Instead, I humbly offer suggestions that have worked for me over the years and have enabled our company (as many here share these philosophies) to maintain a high level of customer service:

Get results: It’s the primary reason your clients are with you. If there are no results, there will be no clients to provide customer service to. (Flattering the client only gets you so far.)

Understand how each client communicates: This is of growing importance as the workforce employs different generations of workers who prefer to communicate in various ways. The rule of thumb: If you’re the vendor, communicate with each client as they prefer. This is how you make yourself convenient and responsive to their needs. After all, they’re paying you to work for them.

Do not use email as a primary way of providing customer service: Yes, it helps, but I view email as, primarily, a means to get things done. Face-to-face interaction, phone conversations etc. are what help solidify and grow client relationships. I enjoy the flexibility email provides, but no one should underestimate the power of a phone call or meeting.

Always be pleasant, but get to the point: Pleasantries are appreciated, but everyone works frighteningly fast and although you have a great relationship with your client, they don’t want to read (rather “weed”) through your novel-length emails or listen to 10-minute phone messages. Make your statement and move ahead. And please, avoid being a repeat “email forwarding” offender. If you’ve done the legwork and need a question answered, do not forward email threads to coworkers and clients stating “see below” and expect a timely response – if any response.

Ask if you’re doing a good job: It’s valuable to your client satisfaction levels. It doesn’t have to be a formal affair. Just ask them, “Are you happy with us?” You’ll learn if they’re happy or if there’s an issue you need to address to improve the relationship.

Be the expert: Nothing’s more frustrating to a client than having them feel as though they’re having to tell their hired expert how to do their job. While it’s a working partnership, never forget that they’re looking for your advice and ideas and that, ultimately, your job is to ease their pain and help them succeed.

Just as in the hospitality industry, responding to guests (i.e. clients) is at the heart of great customer service. Moral of the story: communicate!

Amber Stidham is the Director of Strategic Planning at Imagine Marketing
Contact Amber at
astidham@imnv.com

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