When it comes to customer service, perhaps no industry serves as a better litmus test than hospitality. Think about your own experiences--which hotels or restaurants have truly made you feel special and welcome? Or, which ones made you want to pull out your hair and vow never to return?
Micah Solomon, author of "The Heart of Hospitality," which hits the shelves October 11, has dialed into the secrets between the two ends of the spectrum. Here are a few things he says highly-rated brands have figured out about nailing customer service.
1. Customers want to feel appreciated.
Restaurateur and hospitality legend Danny Meyer--responsible for the worldwide expansion of Shake Shack and the banning of tips at his restaurants--knows the key to getting return business. It's all about communicating to customers that they are not anonymous. Figure out how to make yours feel appreciated and paid attention to when they interact with your brand, missed when they're gone, and welcomed back when they return.
2. Fantastic customer service can only be delivered by empowered employees.
Stellar hotels and restaurants empower their employees to proactively fix customer problems without waiting on anyone's approval. This permission to be creative, and even spend money, on behalf of customers, is a master stroke in hospitality. Consider The Ritz-Carlton Hotel Company, where even hourly employees have permission to spend up to $2,000 per guest to solve any customer problem.
3. Only certain personalities are great at serving customers.
As such, you need to make sure you're hiring the right kinds of people who are empathetic, warm and conscientious. Skills can be taught. Personality is set in stone.
Celebrity restaurateur and Top Chef judge Tom Colicchio puts it this way: "We're looking to find people who naturally enjoy this work. The best way I can describe the people we want is like this: There are some people who throw great dinner parties because they really want to take care of their guests, and there are other people who are lousy at it because everything is a chore, everything is a problem. We're looking for that natural host, the person who is always looking to make people happy and who doesn't find it to be a chore."
4. Scripts don't work.
Millennials, in particular, can sniff out a fake a mile away. Authenticity is valuable currency. Think of Richard Branson, whose Virgin Hotels brand intentionally avoids rigid and phony customer service. He believes if your treat people robotically, they'll go elsewhere to find a brand which feels more "at home."
5. Brands which rock customer service foster a culture of "yes."
Think about your own hospitality experiences. When you ask for something, and you get it--doesn't that feel nice? It's opposed to when you ask for a simple thing, and it's not available, or it goes against policy.
Rather, a truly customer-centered culture sounds more like this: "The answer is yes! Now what is your question?"