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Service or Hospitality?

Today’s blog post is a part of a series that I will be sharing this week related to what I learned at the Agilysys Inspire User Conference in Las Vegas, March 18-20, 2024.

I learned the distinction between service and hospitality.

Service is the action of helping or doing work for someone, whereas hospitality is the friendly and generous reception and entertainment of guests.

Service is associated with well-run businesses that display operational excellence. In this type of business, you can expect cleanliness, organization, and competent staff. The result is often transactional efficiency. Well-run businesses are known to be strategic, organized, and process driven.

Hospitality is associated with well-loved businesses that make an emotional connection with customers. In this type of business, employees offer personalized customer service, recall preferences, anticipate customers’ needs, and exceed expectations. Well-loved businesses can charge more, attract and retain more customers (and employees), and often have a compelling mission, vision, or purpose.

And what you’ll notice is that it’s not zero-sum, well-run or well-loved. You need elements of each to realize your company’s potential.

There are many outstanding hotels in Las Vegas, but Caesars Palace is my favorite. Caesars, in my experience, runs like a well-oiled machine. Although it’s a sprawling facility with dozens of restaurants and bars, retail shops, pools, casinos, and theaters, it’s spotless, organized, and the staff is highly competent.

There are many systems, policies, and procedures that enable Caesars to operate as a well-run business. This includes protocols that dictate the “official” beverage selection. Even so, an engaged service provider can offer hospitality (a hallmark of a well-loved business) by making an exception and going out of her way to fulfill a guest’s preference.

I had my 40th birthday party at Caesars Palace. My father-in-law rented a cabana on the pool deck and ordered an array of appetizers and beverages. At the time, Caesars was a “Pepsi house” and my father-in-law expressed disappointment that there was no Coke. Our server, Rose, located a 6-pack of Coca-Cola and delivered it to our cabana, delighting my father-in-law and leaving a positive lasting impression. (After all, I still recall our server’s name—and that was 17 years ago!)

So, the key is to locate the sweet spot where your service offering, transactional efficiency, and employee competency merges with a heart of hospitality, emotional connection, and employee engagement. In other words, to be both well-run and well-loved!

Order Delight Your Customers: 7 Simple Ways to Raise Your Customer Service from Ordinary to Extraordinary by Steve Curtin or purchase from select retailers, including Barnes & Noble.
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