Though it’s a difficult to concept to define, most people recognize hospitality when they feel it. For us, hospitable service is ingrained in everything we do with the thoughtful, attentive, and proactive approach we take in caring for every individual who comes through our doors.
And by grounding our longstanding tradition of service excellence in our refreshed, formalized hospitality training program, we’re empowering our people to make every guest’s experience positive and memorable. This dedication to service excellence drives trust and value across all our lines of business and helps us maintain a welcoming environment for our associates, our clients, and their guests.
Hooked on a FeelingShaady Ghadessy, Director of Service Excellence, believes that creating an emotionally engaging experience is the first step in training our associates to serve up hospitality at its finest.
Our hospitality training goes beyond ensuring high baseline standards like efficiency and cleanliness – we identify opportunities to exceed consumer expectations wherever possible. This approach extends into considering the more granular details – like the layout of the facility and service recovery after a mishap – to help guests feel welcome, heard, and respected.
“We recognize how diverse and unique our guests are, and we proactively adapt to their needs,” Ghadessy remarks. “For us to continue to lead as a trusted partner in the hospitality industry, every element of the experience counts, no matter how small.”
The cornerstone of our hospitality training, Ghadessy explains, is to “surprise and delight” guests. This requires creating service touchpoints throughout a facility, with staff poised to interact with guests and field any questions or concerns that may arise. Such touchpoints are personalized to each client’s space and are as simple as having greeters meet guests at the door, moving a vacuum to the side to create a clearer path in a hallway, or ensuring chefs are well-versed in menus that respect dietary restrictions.
A Foundation for Customizable Service
While the nuances of our training approach can vary according to our clients’ needs and unique facilities, the program is vested in four standards, known as W.E.S.T.
“W.E.S.T. is the foundation of our steps of service,” Ghadessy details. “The acronym is an easy way for colleagues to remember to welcome guests, make eye contact, smile, and say thank you.”
W.E.S.T. is put into practice across every facility where training is implemented – including at a pilot program instituted at Houston Medical Center in Georgia.
Our hospitality training pilot at the healthcare facility emphasized the need for empathetic and mindful service, knowing that employees would be interfacing with providers, patients, and families in stressful situations. The month-long pilot program integrated with Houston Medical Center’s preexisting customer service training to make good service, great.
Our customized modules emphasized sustaining empathy within teams and minimizing patient grievances. Throughout the program, leader training sessions, role play exercises, and consistent feedback fostered teamwork at every opportunity. For every Houston Medical Center patient to feel supported, the service team members themselves had to learn to support one another.
“Fostering communication and community within the team is imperative to create a true culture of patient-facing hospitality,” Ghadessy affirms. The pilot was key in the development of an onsite recognition platform: a Service Star Spotlight program designed to celebrate the exceptional service of individual team members and create a wider culture of recognition within the facility. Houston Medical Center’s results went beyond qualitative improvement, too: the team secured a quantitative increase in their Hospital Consumer Assessment of Healthcare Providers and Systems (HCAHPS) scores, which surveys patient’s perspective of hospital care.
“Our team has always been helpful and engaged, but this training made them shine,” says Cheryl Minor, Houston Medical Center’s Healthcare Service Excellence Manager. “After the program was complete, it was evident that the staff truly understood that they were part of the patient care team. It was exciting to see their smiles grow even bigger – it made them feel like they can make a big difference.”
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Just as the definition of hospitality varies for different people in different environments, so does our approach to implementing hospitality training. Within our higher education portfolio, teams specialize in serving student populations – and their hospitality practices are designed to accommodate a large demographic of busy Millennials and Generation Z with unique food preferences. At the University of Florida, our hospitality training pilot was conducted with the goal of creating an experience where students could feel safe and excited to ask for what they want and need in campus dining.
“We wanted to build a training program that was unique to the University of Florida, and one that encompassed our spirit of Gator Hospitality,” says Tim Bucolo, District Manager for University of Florida’s Dining Services. “We wanted students to feel comfortable and at home, which meant teaching employees how to lean into their requests and feedback.”
This was the genesis for the University's “Always Yes!” program. Our training empowered employees with the skills and resources to provide excellent service to students by:
- Instilling confidence in employees, teaching them to “manage up”
- Reinforcing ways to offer creative solutions when students have concerns
- Presenting trainees with various situations, like if a student is dissatisfied with their meal or with an item being out of stock, and offering strategies to ensure the students’ preferences can still be accommodated
Sustained Through Recognition
To help our colleagues translate their training into an active culture of hospitality, it’s important to recognize the people at the root of it all: Those working face-to-face with guests as well as those working behind the scenes. Ghadessy believes consistent feedback and recognition are vital to keeping teams motivated and engaged, and she’s always encouraging those who go through the training to look for ways to highlight individuals who illustrate their commitment to hospitality.
Onsite physical markers like the “WOW Wall” offers a platform for team members to give each other shout outs for great work and positive attitude. These reminders reinforce our belief that people should be celebrated and applauded for their dedication. What’s more, such practices create a ripple effect of merit across our whole business, helping us achieve our mission on a daily basis.
Dan Thompson, General Manager at Houston Medical Center, believes this spirit of recognition is helping to shift his team’s culture. “Peers are recognizing one another. It’s a different kind of recognition because they are leaning into one another to get support. They’re recognizing one another for great work and then getting feedback on how they’re doing it to be able to replicate in their roles,” he said.
“Great hospitality takes the cooperation of every person, every day, at every moment,” Ghadessy said. “The details that make the experience.”