What do you think of when someone says the word “hospitality?” The definition of hospitality is “the friendly and generous reception and entertainment of guests, visitors or strangers.” There is also the hospitality industry, which comprises of service businesses such as hotels and restaurants. And let’s not forget that Mississippi is known as The Hospitality State, in which most Mississippians take great pride.
Hospitality has been part of my professional journey since my first job in high school as a server at a small town pizza restaurant. After college, I worked in the hospitality industry in marketing for eight years doing social media, public relations, advertising, and customer service. As Director of Social Media and Public Relations for Renasant Bank, I still utilize all of my hospitality skills online as reviews on social media are now a major part of the customer journey and experience.
I am grateful for all of those years of customer service experience because now every business is a hospitality business. Customers expect a positive experience and good customer service with every transaction. With the abundance of businesses and services available at their fingertips on their mobile device, why should they choose your business?
As technology and social media make direct communication more accessible, customers also expect immediate and hospitable customer service almost 24/7. Every business in the world can’t afford to provide customer service 24 hours a day, but every business can afford to do the right thing by giving customers the most hospitable experience possible. If you do not have hospitable customer service, both virtually and in person, your business is likely to suffer.
All it takes is one bad review online to lose approximately 30 future customers. Nine out of 10 people will choose not to spend their money at a business if there are online reviews about bad customer service. So, how do we make sure that we are doing everything we can to give customers a 5-star ‘Mississippi hospitality’ experience and avoid negative reviews?
First, remember that people are, well, people, who all have their own stories, experiences and feelings. If a customer is expressing frustrations about your business, try to listen and be generous with your time. All customers truly want is to be heard. If we all show true hospitality, which is being friendly and generous (no matter what), we will be rewarded with grateful and loyal customers.
Second, remember that the customer is always right. Yes, even the customers who are difficult and who may actually be wrong, are in fact right. Hospitality cannot waver when situations become difficult. If anything, hospitality is needed the most in high-stress situations. It is our job to try our best to find a compromise or a solution that will satisfy the customer.
When we are on the customer side of the experience, it is our responsibility to remember that hospitality should be a two-way street. Business owners and customer service representatives are people too. When we get upset about a bad experience, it’s our job to clearly and calmly express our frustration. We are all responsible for our own actions. If we choose to be hospitable and gracious, we can be more expectant of a more positive outcome.
If no one is having a hospitable attitude, just smile, walk away and come back with a big glass of sweet tea. Now that is what we call real Southern hospitality, right?