This Hotel Brand “Gets” the Subtleties of Service

At my local retailers like Safeway and CVS, cashiers always ask, “Did you find everything you needed?” I have observed my own behavior: Often there was something I couldn’t find, but I gave up on it a few minutes ago. Most often, I just say, “Yes, I found everything,” because at this point I have moved on. The well-intentioned question is a throw-away. Sublime service is so much more than rehearsed lines with a smile. Some subtler listening skills are required. Hotels have been working hard to get this right.

In an interview with Skift, Mitzi Gaskins, JW Marriott’s global brand manager, describes a lovely way of training to service. The company has daily rehearsals of “service harmonies” (what a charming Zen term!) for staffers. One example was dubbed: be present, pause and recognize:

When you think about what a difference it makes when someone is passing you, say a housekeeper is passing you in a guest corridor, and you see them and they just say good morning and they keep walking. But if they actually stop, acknowledge you, say good morning, and then allow you to pass, then that’s a much more impactful experience. And it also allows the associate to read the cues of the guest if they need anything.

This approach recognizes that true service requires listening, not reciting. And that many opportunities for connection are lost in hallways. The best service is intangible, a feeling, an unexpected and unrehearsed gesture.

An aside: I saw one of my favorite hotel service gestures at the Shangri-La Toronto last winter. The doorman guided traffic through the lobby-front circular drive in frigid weather dressed in a long wool coat, a Mongolian fur hat, and leather mittens. As our shuttle pulled out into the street traffic, his mittened hand saluted us as if to say “Safe travels.” Small movement. It made an impression.

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