Chick-fil-A VP: Here are five hallmarks of outstanding hospitality

An exhausted mother pulled in to the parking lot at a local restaurant. She loved visiting this restaurant because the people working there knew her name, her kids’ names and their orders.

As soon as she walks through the door, there is an employee waiting to greet her and ask if anyone can assist her as she juggles her small children.

One day during a heavy rainstorm, a staff member from the restaurant recognized this woman’s car and immediately ran out with an umbrella to assist, as the mother worked to get her little ones out of the car and into the restaurant.

The mother was immensely grateful for this employee’s extra effort and act of kindness. Small but personal gestures like this can have an immeasurable influence on the people around us. That kind of influence and hospitality creates a compelling culture among guests that keeps them returning again and again.

So, how can we make hospitality a pillar of culture in our businesses and in our homes?

The secret to providing outstanding hospitality is simply a twist on the golden rule: Do unto others as they would like you to do unto them. Don’t just treat people the way you would like to be treated. Focus on what meets the needs of others best.

In this case, it was simply the need for an umbrella and assistance on a rainy day. It’s true that everyone has a story. It may be unclear the load a guest is bearing when entering your business or your home. However, genuine hospitality can anticipate and meet needs in such a way to win a customer for life or to ensure a guest feels welcomed.

Whether extending hospitality to guests in your home or guests at your business, there are five important actions you can take to offer great hospitality:                   

Know the name of your guests. People feel most known when they hear their own name used. Learn the names of your most frequent guests and use it every time they visit your business. Guests enjoy returning to places where they are welcomed by name.

Learn the preferences of your guests. What is their favorite item on the menu?  What are their favorite sports teams? At home, what type of soap, candle or coffee do they prefer? Know the preferences of your guests and cater to them.

Discover each guest’s story. Everyone has a story and if you understand what someone has overcome, achieved, survived or accomplished, you will be much better able to anticipate and meet their needs. Celebrate the victories and be a “go-to” place for encouragement on a rough day.

Go above and beyond what is expected. Any business can deliver first-mile hospitality, but the really special ones that garner deep customer loyalty go above and beyond. They do far more than is expected. They carry bags to the car. They hold an umbrella over a guest in the rain. They don’t just give directions, they escort guests to the place they are trying to find. At home, this can look like stocking a guest’s favorite foods or shampoo so they feel at home, even while they are traveling.

Offer a fond farewell. Be sure guests are treated as well upon departure as arrival. Thank them for their visit, wish them well and invite them back soon.

Hospitality is not a process. It’s a spirit born in people with a true desire to serve others. It’s a reflection of how much we care about our guests. The more we care, the better we serve. And serving well creates more value in the mind of the guest and brings them back again and again.