My four-year-old stood confidently in front of her class and announced: “My mother’s job is to say hello and good-bye to all the people who come to visit her hotel.” She then placed one hand on her hip and extended the other, pretending to shake someone’s hand. “Welcome to Amandari” she said, beaming.
In this sentence, in one sweep, my entire career had been summed up as seen through the eyes of a child. My first instinct was to feel indignant… what about all of my training? The leadership? The late nights? The nuances of hospitality hidden in the detail? But, let’s face it. She was absolutely right. Welcoming people is what we do.
The hotel business was born from the spirit of welcome. Of course, I’m a great believer in thorough staff development – and maximising human potential – but the menu of today’s training programmes can often feel so dauntingly extensive to the point that it loses the warm essence of welcome. Protocol requires rules and regulations to be learned, and checklists to be followed, but my daughter’s summation of a career always reminds me to also make sure to keep the basics at the heart of every brand I work with. It makes everything so straightforward if you simply ask, at every turn, ‘is this providing our very best welcome for guests?’
Because you don’t get a second chance to make a first impression; to smile, to extend a greeting, to welcome someone in – at whatever point they may be in their relationship with your hotel. More and more, I really do believe that if we strip it back to the heart of our profession and focus on consistently delivering a greeting – a welcome and goodbye – that captures the warmth of your brand, then you are on the road to success.
We know guests are now more emotionally invested in their vacation time, and an emotional investment needs emotional contact to fulfil it. Arriving to smiles, to eye contact, to people knowing your name is an instant balm of security, comfort and positive emotional connection. And then, as if by magic, the state of feeling welcome lingers. It adds a rosy glow to your guests’ experience, it colours every interaction and opinion they will form. It allows you to start as you mean to go on.
But, while I’m here, it’s not only for the guests. The staff deserves to feel the same warmth at work, and it goes a long way towards creating a great culture behind the scenes. Take the example of Ed Mady, GM at The Beverly Hills Hotel. His staff walk to work every morning down their own red carpet, reminding them that they’re the true stars of the hotel. What a simple, but beautiful gesture.
And, for me, the ‘goodbye’ is just as important. The goodbye is tying the ribbon on top of the gift that is your hotel; the final chance to add those invisible threads of emotional connection that are so important in building true guest loyalty with your brand. This moment should never be an afterthought, or left to the valet. This is a key touchpoint with a guest – the last chance you’ve got with them – and its power should be maximised.
So, for today’s mission, I ask you to just take a moment to think through your hellos and your goodbyes. Are they shining through at every possible touchpoint? Is your initial booking communications full of a sense of welcome? Are your check-in procedures as warm and generous as they could be? Is your staff saying goodnight to guests as they leave restaurants? Are your management team making themselves available when guests are checking out? And, are you following up on goodbyes with messages to re-establish the next welcome??
Are you saying a true hello and goodbye?