The Strategist

Enlightened Hospitality in Business

10/23/2015 - 17:11

Some small companies establish very close relationships with customers. The leaders themselves take the initiative; they are open for contacts, genuinely care about people and are determined to keep the human element in business. According to Bo Burlingham, chief editor of the popular magazine about business «Inc.», these are the companies have a special magic, and thus succeeding. Here’s an inspiring example from new book "Small giants."
Columnist of the daily newspaper «PG» Marilyn McDevitt Rubin was firsthand familiar with the company «Union Square Hospitality Group», when once popped with friends for lunch into «Tabla». This is the fourth of Danny Meyer’s restaurants, famous by their creative use of Indian herbs and spices in American dishes. Rubin has already visited three others - «Union Square Café», «Gramercy Tavern», «Eleven Madison Park» - and found that the food is wonderful and the service is impeccable; the same she expected from «Tabla».

Yet perfect service is not the goal that Meyer pursues. His restaurants aim to provide what he calls "enlightened hospitality". Rubin got acquainted with this concept when making an order at «Tabla». She suddenly turned in her chair and came across a waiter with a tray full of glasses of water, which he was going to put on the table.

- Everything was like in slow motion: the tray bent over, water spilled from glasses and they flew down - then Rubin wrote in her column. - They hit the floor with a deafening clatter, but other guests kept quiet, did not turn around or look. And then, the restaurant staff came running from all sides, carrying mops and buckets, dustpans and brushes. Several people ran up to me with towels to blot the water that spilled on my back and chest... This flurry of activity took a few minutes, and soon the table was set again, there were glasses and elite champagne was poured as a gift from the restaurant, to smooth the impression of the dinner’s false start.  

In any restaurant, such a reaction would be a sign of excellent service, and Ruby was completely satisfied with it. But this did not stop. First, Meyer himself came to offer help. "I am guilty," - said Rubin. "I am sure that there is no fault of your own," - he said. Rubin knew that this is not so, but knew that Meyer is trying to release her from guilt, so that it would not have prevented her from enjoying the dinner. He succeeded. Rubin said they the dinner with friends was perfect: "We are delighted be threatened so friendly ..."

When they went to the dressing room, the waiter who dropped the unfortunate tray, came out of the kitchen and went to apologize for his clumsiness. "I had very sincerely assured him that it all happened because of me - says Rubin. - But, just like his employee, he denied me the right to a feeling of guilt and graciously took it on himself".

Rubin told about it almost a million readers of his newspaper. That is why the excellent service has always been so beneficial from a business perspective, by whichever means the target is reached. Excellent service is the source of the industry’s legends, admiring reviews in the media and word of mouth advertising, which is the most effective marketing tool for the company.

However, the version adopted by Meyer Service is a little different from the usual and comes from another source. "I realized that I have a strong, bordering on neurosis need to see people spend time in pleasure." "Enlightened hospitality" - so Meyer calls the process by which he delights customers.

Many great companies were founded by people who have a fad, around which they build their business. For Meyer, the enlightened hospitality is an emotional skills, which requires the ability to arouse in customers the feeling that you are on their side. This is mantra of Meyer restaurants’ staff: let them know that you are on their side. "Just like that", - he said.

It looks simply, yet in fact, it is not easy. Meyer’s ability to give instructions on enlightened hospitality is clearly limited. Yes, he can cite examples - for example, tell about a waiter who sees that customers cannot make a choice between two desserts, and brings a second dish free of charge. Or a manager who proposes to transfer a client’s forgotten purse by courier, not just store it until she would not go after it. Or a headwaiter, who puts a rose on the table number 27 for Knightley couple, knowing that they always book this table for wedding anniversary.

However, Meyer cannot afford to educate employees in the ability to put themselves in the shoes of others. He cannot teach them to feel how their actions affect others. He cannot impress upon them the desire to try their best to left the customers with an excellent impression - not only due to the good service, but also because they were "treated very kindly." Finally, Meyer is not able to give them desire to ensure that every customer is satisfied. So, Meyer looks for candidates already having these qualities and skills - ability to empathize and communicate, he teaches others. And Meyer always get what you want.

For excellent service, you need to show your customers that you value them. Enlightened hospitality - this is when you show them that you would personally take care of them. You want them to be not just satisfied, but excited.

It is beyond the scope of service and requires that the company has established an emotional connection with customers. And you do not have to engage in the restaurant business to establish such links.

based on Small Giants: Companies That Choose to Be Great Instead of Big by Bo Burlingham


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