Great Discussions: Be sure to read next month’s issue when we catch up with general managers from Preferred Hotels & Resorts, who gathered in New York one icy, cold day for some great dialogue on customer service.
Would you rather get advice from someone who is standing before you in a confident posture, speaking with authority on a topic they’re clearly well versed in? Or, is your preference to receive direction from someone who is a bit meek and diminutive in their stance, suggesting hesitantly where you might like to dine, shop or take an expensive airplane ride to?
Those examples are a bit extreme but they illustrate how the style of luxury service has changed. When I met with Andaz executives in December in New York, Sara Kearney, senior vice president of brands for Hyatt Corporation, said that Hyatt’s research shows that the public is seeking out a peer-to-peer relationship from those who deliver service to them, rather than the more traditional subservient manner of communicating with customers.
“People are looking at those in certain roles saying, ‘You know more about this than I do, so I would rather hear what you have to say,’” said Kearney.
I’m aligning this trend with how social networking has taught us not only to share, but to listen to everybody else much more willingly, without reservations. I emphasize everybody because it seems everyone is looking for input, particularly on travel, from everyone else these days. It could be from your friend’s college roommate who spent his junior year in Barcelona six years ago. Or maybe you’re on Facebook with your second cousin twice removed who was always considered a bit odd but has traveled quite a bit—at least it seems so from all those photos he’s posted. Or, if you’re tweeting that you want advice for traveling to Prague this spring, you might be getting advice from some giggling guy sitting in a dark room providing feedback about the imaginary vacation he took last year. Everyone assumes everyone else is an expert these days and that’s not necessarily a good thing. It’s all a level playing field these days and your sage wisdom is needed more than ever.
But back to the real world and peer-to-peer service from legitimate experts. That’s still the backbone of a service society and you want to be sure you are delivering it right.
How are you dealing with your clients? When they pepper you with questions, do you hold yourself down, not wanting to be too pushy because they’re spending a lot more money on their vacation than you currently have in your bank account? Perhaps you feel tiny because you’re so young and they’re as old as your parents. Or are you sitting up straight, with an air of dignity and strength, speaking in a forthright manner about their best options, steering them away from what you know they will dislike? If you’ve properly vetted their travel desires and you’re confident of all the facts of the itineraries you’re offering up, there is no reason for you to be meek and overly humble.
Test your style. Do your clients speak over you and start challenging your knowledge before you’re even done presenting your thoughts? If you’re speaking to them, peer to peer, they’ll be much less likely to do so. They’ll be more willing to listen. They’ll still Google everything you offer them but that’s the norm today. Now, for more on the Andaz gathering, see pages 28 through 31.