It’s end of year, which means trying to get my life back into focus. As an example, over this past Christmas holiday, I spent some time getting our new home in order. Interspersed with all the yuletide merriment, I decided to get medieval on all the unpacked boxes and disorganized clutter that had accumulated over the past six months.
The psychic rewards of this end of year cleaning blowout have been great…not only do I know where things are, I found a lot of items I had been searching for recently, including some past issues of my favorite magazines. Last night, with a glass of shiraz in hand and the girls in bed, I sat with the September 2006 issue of Fast Company which happens to be focused on customer service (it’s the one with Lewis Black looking like he’s in the first stages of trying to pass a kidney stone).
Inside the issue is an article on Danny Meyer, a successful New York restaurateur, who believes his winning edge comes down to hospitality. Big deal, right? We might expect a restaurant, as well as a hotel, spa, or even theme park to focus on hospitality. But, take a minute to fully consider Danny’s concept of hospitality:
Virtually nothing else is as important as how one is made to feel in any transaction. Hospitality exists when you believe the other person is on your side.
Danny encourages us to elevate the idea of a transaction beyond the usual impersonal financial payment for a product or service. All that typically gets us on the corporate side is a headache where the customer demands ever-increasing levels of service because they’ve handed over their hard-earned money. And who can blame the customer anyway? Many companies have done their very best to betray their customers’ trust by focusing only on the business’ end of that transaction (read: bottom-line profits). In the end, this narrow view of the transaction simply devolves into the all too-familiar customer/corporation antagonism.
Instead, what would happen if we think of the transaction as a binding force for a relationship? How would our business change if we acknowledged that a transaction is not only a financial exchange, but also an exchange of feelings, hopes, and dreams? What if instead of sitting across from our customers at the table, we chose to sit on the same side? A fella isn’t just buying a new silk shirt, he’s buying an image that makes him feel more attractive. A group of friends aren’t just eating dinner, they’re paying for an experience that accentuates their time together. A non-profit organization isn’t purchasing for a new piece of software, they’re buying a tool that will help them be more successful at delivering on their mission. There’s so much more to the customer’s side of the transaction, but it’s up to the business to learn what it is and make the attempt to fulfill it (fully bearing in mind that this ideal isn’t always possible).
As you begin plotting out business goals for 2007, consider the impact of sitting on the same side of the table as your customers. If you have a disgruntled customer or client, ask what it would take for them to believe that you are on their side.
What are you doing today to create an active spirit of hospitality?