Let’s face it: many businesses nowadays fall short when it comes to hospitality. It may seem like just semantics, but we tend to think of hospitality as something that lives in restaurants and hotels, and every other interaction with customers is just customer service. But being hospitable, by definition, is making strangers or guests feel welcome, making them feel comfortable and at home.
Hospitality in business, in part, has given way to the era of speed and efficiency wherein experiences have become more and more automated. As much as we would like to believe that technology alone is the answer to everything, technology can’t replace the emotion of human interaction. We might think “There’s no need to worry about x, y, z because technology will take care of it.” But the latest tech should be used as a tool to streamline your business and add contemporary flair, elevating the customer experience. Technology isn’t the customer experience. Because experience isn’t about just one, singular thing. Experience is holistic.
What, then, are its parts? Experience is how we go about understanding and engaging with the world around us. It’s input and output. It’s cause and effect. It’s discourse. It’s relationships. It’s everything we are and everything we do. Our aim with technology should not be to usurp human experience but to reinforce it.
Just show you care
Building a loyal consumer base starts with showing up for them. For our restaurant and retail customers, investing in point of sale systems, sound systems, and digital signage is an enormous benefit for them when it comes to ensuring comfort and efficiency for employees and consumers alike, but all of these technology pieces would still not replace the hospitality. The technology doesn’t replace the hostess or sales associate greeting you with a smile and asking if there is anything else they can do to make your experience the best.
Ti Adelaide Martin in her Nation's Restaurant News blog discusses the subject at length and defines it as follows: “Hospitality is everything that any person, business, or organization does to affect how our guests, clients, customers or users feel. Everything.” she says, further adding “We are all in the hospitality business.”
If hospitality is a skill that is lacking in your shop or restaurant, take due diligence to hone it. People are naturally drawn to connection, so emphasize its importance to your employees. Take care to be mindful of how things can be perceived on your guests’ end and make an effort to create a positive experience for them. ( Likewise, keep in mind that people tend to remember negative events more strongly and in more vivid detail.) There’s no need to force or overthink it. If you operate through the lens of empathy, the rest will follow suit. The common denominator of good customer experience is simply whether or not someone demonstrated that they care.
Connection is key
Bob Phibbs (Retailwire) found in a survey conducted from a pool of over 1,000 consumers that nearly 80% do not feel they are provided with a personalized shopping experience. Further, more than half reported feelings of anxiety, stress, and aloneness. In short, people are feeling disconnected. The answer to resolving this disconnect is to, well, connect. It sounds obvious, but if the statistics are anything to go by, it’s vastly overlooked and underestimated. Talk to your customers. Ask about their experience. Investigate how you can be of better service. Be curious. Assure them that you can be a safety net when technology has reached its limits, and your business will go far.
Use Technology as a Tool, not a Crutch
Our help desk at Newgentek supports hundreds of restaurants, retailers, and corporate offices across the country. We use several technology tools to streamline and help our customers. For example, we have a customer portal where our customers can log in and create a service ticket, check on the status of an existing ticket, and interact via messaging with our support team. This is a great tool for our customers to have visibility, but most of our highly rated customer service surveys are from phone conversations they’ve had with our support team, like the one below:
“EXCELLENT CUSTOMER SERVICE!!! This guy is always able to help me out and always with the most positive attitude!! Thanks, Newgentek!!!”
The idea is to use your technology tools to enhance the customer experience and streamline your business for efficiency. Even the best technology can’t replace a positive attitude!