It’s the small things that matter. Big things come in small packages… it’s the little things that count. This is especially true in the hospitality industry. The littlest efforts can make the biggest impressions. They show a degree of caring in the most simple and mundane of gestures and that everyday life moments matter… even when away from home or office. I call it “Pineapple Service” based on the pineapple serving as a symbol of a warm welcome and hospitality tracing all the way back to the days of Christopher Columbus and early days in the Americas.
The pineapple served as the extra effort and special treat a host or hostess could extend to visitors. As the pineapple was introduced in Europe, it became even more desirable since fresh fruit was rare in those days and especially a fruit as exotic, sweet and juicy as the pineapple. This small gesture, this simple gift and taste of this fruit, symbolized an early touchpoint of service but even more, the effort behind that touchpoint was a symbol of exceptional service.
At a visit to The Biltmore Hotel in Coral Gables, South Florida, during their famous Sunday brunch, I spilled red fruit juice on my white attire. Our waiter, James, noticed my dismay and attempts to use the contents of my water glass to remove the stain. He offered to bring some soda water as a more effective solution. He returned with a bowl of seltzer water on a plate, surrounded by a beautiful purple orchid, a fresh crisp rolled napkin and a caring smile. He took this simple gesture, which he initiated, and turned it into a magical moment. I was so delighted with this statin removal presentation that I forgot about my stain and just admired his efforts. The stain was successfully removed but the memory of James’ efforts and his thoughtful presentation stayed forever. This was truly “Pineapple Service”.
Big service opportunities come in little service gestures. Little efforts can score big with guests. Those hotels and resorts that do take the time to invest thought and effort in the smaller moments and gestures will score big in the overall guest experience.
At the Ritz Carlton Battery Park in New York city, the team of Jay Serio, Chef Concierge and member of Les Clefs d’Or, Jason Trojanowski, Guest Services Coordinator and Lee Oren, Front desk /Guest Reception, offered “Pineapple Service” with a comprehensive team approach at each point of contact. Whether it was the warmth of their greetings upon a very late check-in, their attentiveness and proactive efforts to find exactly the right entertainment experience for a 10 year old, or a special surprise delivery to the room after a specific beverage was not available at the bar, these three consistently paid attention to each ordinary moment and made them extraordinary. They interacted with each other in good spirits and without ego to determine how best to serve and put the guest experience first, morning, noon and night. They never seemed tired, even with long days and many guests. They always remembered guest names and stepped out from behind their three respective desks to make a more personal and attentive connection.Their sincere attention to the little details made a gigantic impression and offered huge hospitality.
Guest experience management, when delivered with excellence, is a complete series of touchpoints, seamlessly flowing into each other with the same focus and commitment of those pineapples presented so long ago, showing hospitality to all who choose to come to a hotel, venue or business. That includes employees. Most employees also choose the place they want to work and these same small gestures mean a lot to them, especially from management. When employees receive “Pineapple service” from their leaders, they are more likely to deliver the same efforts and feelings to guests. And, it can happen in large hotel chains as well as small hospitality businesses.
At Spatopia, a local massage salon in Fort Lauderdale, massage therapists regularly share their enthusiasm for their working environment, even with long days and lots of physical work. Since many therapists work for more than one spa location, they share how much they prefer the Spatopia environment based on the caring commitment of the owner, Sharon Cappellazo. Employees noted how Sharon threw a Fourth of July party on the beach for all her employees. This extra effort and event, in the middle of a hot summer, meant a lot to her team, so much so that that enthusiasm and positive energy was massaged into the guest experience. Sharon recognized the spirit of sharing hospitality, warmth and caring with her employees, would not only benefit them but also the business. “Pineapple Service” in action again, making employees feel appreciated, through the example of leadership.
And, sometimes adding ceremony to a simple moment, can also be an opportunity for Pineapple Service – making guests feel special. At at small Italian restaurant, “Romantica”, in Colmar, France, near the border of Germany, the waitress arrived at the table to carefully place a napkin in front of each guest, and then gently place a knife and fork, at a diagonal angle across the napkin. It added a touch of importance to the guest arrival. The table could have been set ahead of time, the napkin would end up on the guest’s lap soon anyway, the silverware would be moved when the meal arrived, but the little ceremony of the napkin and utensils’ arrival added extra impact to each individual guest’s welcome. This was another small gesture that meant a lot and was memorable, far before the meal began.
On the other hand, when these small efforts are left out or neglected, bigger upsets can occur. When arriving or departing a hotel, if the front desk staff seem aloof or uninterested, the pineapple can turn rotten. The simple misstep of focusing on the task at hand and not the human emotion of wanting to feel welcomed or thanked can lead the whole experience, even all the good parts, awry. The simple misstep of leaving water glasses unfilled, leaving only two towels when three guests are in a room, or even rushing to a meeting without time for greetings to employees, these simple little moments, can complicate the whole experience.
Who is in charge of “Pineapple Service” in any hotel or hospitality environment? What are the existing services that can “grow bigger” in service impact with just a little bit extra thought and care? Making memories just a tad more meaningful at less than obvious touchpoints is simple once this strategy is mobilized.
Take a look at some of the following guidelines in focusing on “Pineapple Service” as a guideline for focusing hospitality teams on the small moments for big results:
- Challenge each department to define all touchpoints, all points of contact, especially the ordinary ones, where “Pineapple Service” might take a proactive role.
- Evaluate each touchpoint and determine if there is any meaningful action, courtesy or communication that could make that point of contact more meaningful or memorable…think about those first days when Columbus and his compatriots discovered the simple joy of receiving and tasting a pineapple.
- Look for less than obvious ways to express a welcome and an interest in the guest. Explore solutions and ideas that add convenience and pleasure to the guest experience and that extra special touch, greeting or smile that is NOT expected.
- Train employees to look for opportunities to deliver “Pineapple Service”. Have a meeting and serve pineapple… introduce them to the simple concept created so many years ago. Inspire them to recognize the ordinary moments that can BE EXTRAORDINARY!
- Motivate management to keep “Pineapple Service” top of mind and consider assigning that role to a different employee each month.
Touch guests through words as well as actions. Take time to appreciate guests for their business and engage them beyond the routine parts of hospitality service. Recognize the emotions received by emotions delivered. Taste the difference!
- Remember that small gestures of thanks, convenience or thoughtfulness toward employees can go a long way toward thoughtfulness toward guests. What goes around comes around. It’s delicious when everyone has a taste of “Pineapple Service!”
Sense the difference and enjoy the fruits of your labor during each stage of growth in the guest experience. Minor moments become major memories with minor efforts and major commitments. Those minor moments can lead to major contributions to the bottom line. Deliver “Pineapple Service” and experience the sweet and succulent success of guest satisfaction.