I remember shopping for shoes in Edinborough, Scotland one year. As I concluded my purchase, the sales clerk laughed knowingly with his co-worker when he said “have a nice day!” We had developed some rapport during our purchase so I asked him why he laughed. He commented that it seemed like that was a required statement for anyone in America at the conclusion of a sale or service experience, whether the person saying the statement understood it , felt it or truly wished it. From their perspective, it had become a ‘cliché’ expression that really did not mean much. It does seem like “Have a nice day” has become an automatic and clichéd statement, and is rarely matched with the enthusiasm and sincerity of really wanting someone to have a nice day. In fact, many times it sounds more like the person wishing you the nice day….really does not care whether you have one or not! Where is the originality, the interest, the genuine intention of a parting wish as one closes out a service experience? Has this statement become a stereotype and an easy, simple way of moving on to the next guest or customer?
There are other phrases and expressions that fit the “automatic” mold as well. In Australia, the twangy ‘G’day Mate!” can also be thrown out at regular intervals so that it becomes expected instead exceptional.
What if hospitality representatives were trained to deliver more unexpected phrases that reflected more involvement in service delivery than scripted phrases? Hospitality leaders could and should inspire their teams to catch the attention and admiration of guests with sincere thoughts that make a memorable difference. Consider that most hospitality environments and hotels are hoping to make guests feel at home. Greetings and farewells should also make guests still feel like they are at home. If we have family over to our homes for a meal or activity, we don’t usually conclude that event with the phrase “Have a nice day”! We do usually express something meaningful that shows we care and have cared that they were with us.
Sometimes the absence of a meaningful thought or expression can also leave less than a pleasant memory. One reader recently shared that the phrase “you’re welcome” seems to be on the decline and expressions like “no problem” are more common, if anything at all as a response. It’s as if the service delivered was handled and the guest’s thank you should conclude that action. “You are welcome” is a statement, thought and expression that all hotel employees should have in mind throughout any service experience. Finding an opportunity to actually say that to a guest is a noteworthy goal and wonderful way to express gratitude. Acknowledging a guest at each step of service delivery is essential to fully creating an exceptional experience. These few little words can mean so much, when delivered sincerely, and yet they are often left out and the guest experience may be left unfinished.
Another expression often tossed out as a service transition or to conclude a service transaction, is “Is there anything else I can help you with?” This statement works when guests have satisfactorily addressed their needs and the employee reaches out to uncover any additional or not yet considered needs. Employees must be able to connect with a guest on the same wavelength and express empathy for whatever communication is taking place. However, it’s always amazing to be dealing with a service challenge or issue, without successful or positive resolution, and the next response is “is there anything else I can help you with?” This often adds insult to injury as most guests want to scream, “You didn’t help me in the first place!” But, employees are trained and scripted to make a positive statement without really connecting with what is happening or just happened. How about “is there anything I can do to make it better?”
While scripts provide useful guidelines in training new employees on possible ways to address and respond to guests, scripts do not provide emotional connection. That connection must be made by the trainer and in turn, the individual being trained. Emotion and real sincere communication are what impact us all the most and the same applies to guests and customers. The role of words and expressions as touch points in the service experience should be examined more closely and monitored even more. A parting comment, a caring question, an insightful thought or a courteous communication can be just the thing to exceed guest expectations. Thoughtful training and service standards will provide guidelines and a framework but they should also provide sensory awareness and understanding of how to genuinely connect with guests. Often used phrases should be highlighted in training with additional insight on how to ‘change it up’ and make them meaningful each time those phrases are used. If an employee plans to wish a guest a “nice day” then the true intent behind that thought should come through. Employees should be encouraged to modify and add to those often used words and expressions to make them more relevant to the personal encounter that just took place. For example, “enjoy your day” or even better, ‘enjoy your moments today” add more focused levels of expression, an active verb that conveys more active wishes for that guest. Or, “hope your day turns out as you wish”. Even, ‘have a REALLY nice day’, with more emphasis and emotion on the word REALLY can take those simple and common few words to a whole new level. Challenge employees to really think about their thoughts as they deliver each message. Encourage them to “keep it real” as they keep the big service picture in mind. Motivate them to choose words and phrases that will delight guests and create the degree of difference that makes service exceptional.
Use the phrase ‘you are welcome’ more often. Explain what ‘being welcome’ really means as a key theme in any hospitality environment. This is at the core of the legacy of the ‘innkeeper’. Convey the idea that a guest should always feel welcomed and be welcomed. Don’t use phrases like ‘no problem’ or ‘no big deal’. Don’t miss out on any opportunities to welcome guests and customers at the beginning, middle and end of their experiences.
Make sure service transitions actually transition guests to a greater place than when they started. If an employee is working with a guest and the solution is not immediately addressed or resolved to the guest’s satisfaction, do not obtrusively just ask, ‘is there anything else I can help you with?” Do say, “I apologize that we were not able to solve your concern right now” and do offer some way that the action may be pursued. Always offer an alternative to making the guest/customer feel better. Do not absentmindedly utter something off a script. Empathize with what the guest is upset about and relate to possible ways to make them feel better.
Make sure each phase of phrase delivery does not phase the guest experience into something less than the whole. Do express the need to be expressive during each touchpoint. Do synthesize words, language, expressions and phrases into a service framework that makes a commitment to communication.
“One of the hardest things in life is having words in your heart that you can’t utter,” … James Earl Jones.
Don’t miss out on uttering the utmost phrases that make the heart connection with guests that make the guest experience exceptional and memorable.