Building a customer-centric culture
Building a customer-centric culture
21 JUNE 2013 6:39 AM

Learning how to say, "Yes" to guests will help hoteliers build a nurturing and caring relationship.

Several years ago as part of a leadership seminar I had the pleasure of participating in an improvisation training session. There can be no doubt that improv is an art, but there is a science behind it too. It is this science component—or rules of improv—that helps guide successful improv actors. What does improv have to do with leadership? More than you might think.

At its foundation, improv teaches the ability to respond to your surroundings and react to the unexpected. These skills are important for everyone in business and especially for leaders because the most effective leaders are always adapting to changing conditions.

One of the concepts we practiced during this seminar was the "yes, and" principle. The “yes, and” principle requires listening carefully to what someone else says, accepting what they say and then building upon it to create more of the story. Here’s how it works:

Character 1 will begin by establishing setting and plot. In this case, the environment and their occupation:

Character 1: What a hot and miserable day to be a ranch hand!

Following the “Yes, and” method, Character 2 will accept the premise and add onto the situation. The back and forth will continue to follow this formula of stating “yes, and,” which will build on the storyline.

Character 2: Yes, and the boss said we don’t get water until this fence is mended.
Character 1: Yes, and isn’t he the meanest man we’ve ever worked for?
Character 2: Yes, and it’s made me think about leaving behind this cowboy life and heading to San Francisco.

I found this practice fun to watch and participate in because so many people found it difficult to start the sentences with “Yes, and.” Quite often we heard business leaders say, “Yes, but,” (which I refer to as an eraser word because when you say “but,” you’ve just erased everything you said beforehand) or “No, I think.” It really is amazing how difficult it is to focus on accepting what another person has said and then building upon it. The word “and” is the key because it adds to the story and maintains momentum. If you want that story to be about better performance and happier customers, you too can follow the “yes, and” principle.

I have another “and” word I hold near and dear and it’s about a customer service rule of thumb I’ve used for years. In this case, “AND” stands for:

Anticipate: Care enough to anticipate guests’ needs and the experience they’re going to have. The process of anticipation means that at some level a guest’s perception matters. And it goes beyond that. Do your homework, use your data and talk to guests about their real needs (not just about what you’re trying to sell them).

Nurture: Don’t treat guests like a transaction but build a customer relationship with them. Understand that the more you know about your guest, the more likely you’ll be able to maintain a relationship with them. When designing your interactions with customers, consider all of their needs, not just the stuff related to what you’re trying to sell them.

DWYSYWD: That’s right, dwysywd. It’s pronounced Dwe-se-widee. Ever heard of it? It stands for Do What You Will Say You Will Do. The foundation to notable customer service and the reason guests will come back to you again and again is that they trust you. They trust you are going to deliver exactly what they expect based on what you told them they will receive. Do what you say you will do serves nicely as the basis to building trust with your customers, your team members and everyone else in your life.

Build your team’s improvisation skills by teaching them the “yes, and” method: anticipating, nurturing, and DWYSYWD. And watch your performance scores improve. Until next time remember, take care of the customer, take care of each other and take care of yourself.

Jim Hartigan, chief business development officer and partner joined OrgWide Services, a learning, communications, surveys and consulting firm in April 2010 after nearly 30 years experience in the hospitality industry, including the last 18 as a senior executive with Hilton Worldwide. Jim brings to OrgWide a reputation for driving change through improved business processes and developing comprehensive strategies that streamline operations, drive brand awareness and preference, and increase customer satisfaction.

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