What makes us feel welcome, comfortable, appreciated in any environment? What kinds of emotions are triggered when we experience a welcoming feeling –and when we don’t? How do hoteliers instill the spirit of welcome in their teams and create a warm sense of belonging the moment their guests arrive? And, how can the power of welcome move beyond borders and reach out to guests before they even set foot on the property?
Recently, I was in a doctor’s office and was overwhelmed by how welcome I felt and how comfortable the staff made me feel. Having felt quite the opposite, unwelcome and uncomfortable, in many doctor offices, I was actually stunned by this experience. What made this team different is that from the moment I opened the door, each person from the receptionist, to the administration team, to the x-ray technician, to the nurse and the doctor greeted me warmly by name and with direct eye contact. Each person I met introduced themselves and explained what would happen next. I felt unique and special even though I was probably one of over 100 patients that day. I noticed that the doctor in charge was very interactive with his staff, greeted them and laughed with them and kept a level of positive energy going at all times, even with a demanding schedule. His staff felt welcome and special too and that impacted the way they treated each patient.
In any hospitality environment, the spirit of welcome is so important in creating a strong foundation for the guest experience. Each person, each point of contact, can add so much to the ‘welcoming’ experience for guests!
A welcome goes beyond words, it creates a feeling of caring and gives a sense of pleasure. A sincere welcome reaches out and positively pulls guests in to the hospitality environment they have chosen and makes guests feel like they have made a good choice. A cordial and courteous welcome gives guest the feeling they have been invited to join the setting even though they chose to go on their own. The power of welcome is to affirm the guest made the right choice and is further welcome to enjoy (and spend!) each aspect the property (or business) has to offer.
On a recent trip to London, we found ourselves looking for dinner after 10pm and were not having much luck. Finally, we found an Italian restaurant, after walking and searching for about an hour. We were tired, weary and hungry. We were warmly greeted, like missing family, by Salvo the owner, who gently ushered us to a comfortable corner table. He fussed over us, steered his team over to us promptly and chatted with us as if he had known us for years. We felt immeasurably welcome within minutes and relaxed into one of our most enjoyable meals ever. He checked on us regularly, brought the meals himself, and made sure the spirit of welcome in his restaurant was constant for our entire stay.
Hoteliers and hospitality leaders can generate a feeling of welcome in many different ways. Due to bad weather and traffic we arrived very late at our lodging after a longer than expected nine hour drive. Once again, it was after 10pm, all markets and restaurants were closed and we were starving and frustrated. As we unlocked the door, a cheery written welcome sign and a small basket of fresh local bread, and healthy snacks to tide us over until morning greeted us. We were so relieved and enjoyed these treats as a welcome respite from our hard drive and appreciated anticipation of our stay to come. This thoughtful gesture made us feel so welcome, even with no one around.
Written communications which confirm reservations in advance of any property or venue visit, whether for business or pleasure, can also begin the welcoming process. Add a welcoming statement to correspondence which confirms guest and business plans and begin establishing a special feeling and mindset for each pending visit.
Hoteliers can use the power of welcome throughout every facet of the guest experience, both within and beyond property borders. Welcoming strategies can be developed for different arrival times and in consideration of guest profiles. For travelers who arrive late, something comforting waiting in their rooms, may be just the welcoming feeling needed after the stress and fatigue of travel. Housekeeping teams can be trained to deliver something appropriate for any late arrival such as chamomile tea, warm cookies, and especially a welcome note acknowledging their late arrival with an offer to help make them comfortable, even at that late hour.
When dining, hosts and servers should welcome guests in addition to serving them and understand the value of making guests feel at home while eating a meal.
Children offer all sorts of opportunities for unique welcome strategies. I always appreciate the front desk agent who acknowledges and welcomes my 8 year old son at the same time that he or she welcomes me. Sometimes, a small gift of something (some tic tac toe sheets or small games or even a treat) to occupy the child’s time while parents get registered and have luggage delivered can be a relief to parents and fun for the children.
On the other hand, an unwelcome feeling is very easy to create as well. Looking down while speaking, no introduction or use of names, rushed and robotic gestures, efficient yet discourteous service – all of these can dismiss any hope of a welcoming feeling . When a feeling of welcome is not there, it makes guests uncomfortable and question their lodging or business choice. Guests become less inclined to spend more, come back again, or refer others. Why would they? They did not feel welcome or welcome to come back!
A welcome expresses and acknowledges gratitude for a particular action which is why we say “you’re welcome” in response to a thank you. These simple words show appreciation and value for whatever just took place.
There are so many ways to use the power of welcome as a business strategy and key facet of exceptional service delivery. Keep the following tips in mind and consider developing the welcome thought process:
- Recognize how to make guests feel welcome. Direct eye contact, a smile and sincere words at each point of contact will generate positive emotional responses in guests.
- Introduce yourself. By giving your name you also give your welcome and bring guests closer to feeling comfortable and relaxed.
- Keep checking on guests and evaluate if they seem to feel welcome or if they appear uptight or uncomfortable. Like Salvo the restaurant owner, he kept checking on us and making sure his welcome was constant and consistent.
- Determine ways to welcome guests before they even arrive and beyond property borders. Strategize on ways to reach out and invite guests to feel welcome before they set foot on the premises.
- Consider special touches, like the bread basket and personal notes, to continue to build on a feeling of welcome. Brainstorm creative welcome ideas with managers and their teams. Involve them in the process.
- Ensure employees feel welcome in their own work space and place and welcome them to work each day! Post signs in break rooms and around the property and make sure that welcoming feeling begins each staff meeting.
Creative uses of the spirit and power of welcome will keep guests wanting more. Welcome a welcoming strategy into managing each guest experience and welcome the referrals, repeat business and additional income which will make more business welcome!