There was a time in 1980s when businesses could rise above their competitors based on quality. There was a time in 1990s when businesses could rise above the rest based on service and performance — in other words the product did what it said it was going to do. "These days the way you'll rise above the rest is based on how you make your customers feel" says Danny Meyer a restaurateur in New York City who currently runs 11 restaurants, been in the business for 26 years, and is well known for his Union Square Cafe which has been in business since 1985.
Meyer says that service is like air conditioning these days. If a business has A/C you don't notice it so much. If they don't have A/C it could kill them. Service is just a measure of whether product delivers on its promise. More and more service is becoming a commodity. How can you differentiate from your competitors when this is the case? You focus on hospitality Meyer says.
Hospitality is how you make the customers feel when they are receiving this service. 100% of people who receive hospitality believe the people behind the business are on their side.
If a waiter puts a spoon on the left side of the table I'm sitting at, I can't tell if he or she is on my side. This is service. But if a waiter remembers that I didn't like the big spoon with my soup last time I was at their restaurant, I know they are on my side. That's hospitality. Service is a monologue. Hospitality is a dialogue.
Digging deeper into what hospitality really means Meyer breaks down any experience into four simple questions people ask themselves when they experience anything:
- What is this? What does it do?
- How does it make me feel?
- What is it's context?
- What kind of community develops around it? How do people use it?
Here is an example of how someone might feel during an experience of looking at a painting at a restaurant they are sitting at:What is it? It's a painting at a restaurant.
How does it make me feel? Scared. Lonely. Happy. Excited. Reminds me of day-camp when I was 7.
What's the context of the painting? It has a large gold frame. Dimly lit. On the wall with five other expensive paintings.
What types of people come here? All these paintings are very expensive. Perhaps wealthy people come to this restaurant a lot. Looks like the couple next to me is talking about buying this painting.
Hospitality (i.e. making people feel a certain way) will either make or break today's businesses and products across all industries says Meyer:
The experience we're all seeking is the experience we had during the first two minutes of being born. We got eye contact, a smile, a hug, and some pretty darn good food!