When people think of great businesses, the concepts that most quickly come to mind are generally industries like finance and technology, suits and high-rises, Amazon and Google, etc. Rarely does one initially think of a restaurant, hotel, or other facet of the hospitality industry as the prime example of business success — but there is much to be learned from this seemingly parallel industry that is just as beneficial to law firms and businesses as it is in serving guests. If you haven’t heard of the New York City restaurateur and CEO of the Union Square Hospitality Group, Danny Meyer (odds are, if you’re an Academy Member you certainly have), then it’s time to pick up a copy of Setting the Table: The Transforming Power of Hospitality in Business. Meyer is far from the only leader in the industry, but has made it a mission to share highly applicable “tricks of the trade” in a way that can most certainly transform any business for the better. As a Hospitality School graduate myself, here are my big three takeaways from the service industry, as can be applied to your very own.
The Difference Between Service and Hospitality.
While Meyer defines service as the “technical delivery of a product,” hospitality is “how the delivery of that product makes its recipient feel.” We’ve all been to a restaurant where maybe the food was great but the service was lacking or downright unpleasant — the odds are, the food wasn’t good enough to make you go back. Oftentimes we feel that if we “do our job” then our clients have nothing to complain about, but this is an unrealistic expectation in any industry. Your clients or customers are always going to care about how your service made them feel, and the quality of the product you deliver will likely do little to offset those feelings. Whether it be the atmosphere of your office, the tone of the receptionist, or the lack of prompt replies to inquiries made; it is equally worth investing in improving these things if they are the methods by which your clients experience the hospitality of your business.
Mistakes do happen. We’re all human. No business functions flawlessly 100% of the time, but the way in which you handle them will determine if you have a life-long client, or a nasty review on Yelp. Meyer suggests using “The Five A’s for Effectively Addressing Mistakes: Awareness, Acknowledgment, Apology, Action, Additional Generosity.” Consider arriving to a hotel after a long day of travel, and the front desk agent apologizes and lets you know that unfortunately your room is not ready yet. However, they have arranged for your bags to be stored and are prepared with a complimentary spa pass for you, or you’re welcome to enjoy a meal in the restaurant courtesy of the hotel, where someone will come to personally inform you when your room is ready. Now, imagine the same circumstance, your room is not ready and the front desk agent lets you know with a shrug, informs you that the hotel was really busy last night and they are short staffed on housekeepers so suggests you come back later. Both of these scenarios stem from the exact same problem of your room not being ready on-time (an inconvenience nonetheless). However, the feelings you experience will likely be very different. At the end of the day, your clients will appreciate action over excuses, apologies issued before they need to ask for one, and the initial cost of doing something a little extra to smooth over any negative feelings will almost always pay off in the long run.
Know Your Strengths.
You’ll rarely find an incredibly successful restaurant where the owner is also the manager, the cook, the server, and the hostess — the same can be said about almost any business. The reason for this is that different roles require different skillsets, and although it may be physically possible to fill in all of the roles adequately (you may be very talented), the odds are they won’t all be done exceptionally. If your strength is practicing law as the firm’s managing attorney, then it is important that you acquire the help of others whose strengths are in the areas you need such as marketing, office management, accounting, etc. Even small firms or businesses can make the most of a couple key staff members, players in their network, or outsource certain tasks to freelancers online. If you’re the cook, your time is best used in the kitchen.
Although some of these concepts may appear to be common sense, we have a tendency to believe that hospitality is something reserved for the service industry, and areas of business such as law or finance are exempt from having to focus on such things. However, we can conclude that no matter where we go when doing business, we all want to feel as though we are valuable. Employing some of these hospitality concepts to your firm or practice will only elevate the experiences you create for your clients and the success you grow for your business.
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