The service industry, just like that of marketing & public relations, is continuously evolving and it is always a challenge for a business to remain relevant and thrive. However, the lessons I’ve learned from my experience in hospitality have been invaluable in my career and in my life.
As a former hotelier, I credit the person that I am today to the values instilled in me through my education at Enderun Colleges, the Philippines’ leading hospitality school. My education continued well beyond graduation through my work in top international hotel chains, both in the US and the Philippines, such as the J.W. Marriott group, InterContinental Hotels Group, Shangri-La group and Solaire Resorts and Casino. Three years after I transitioned from this service to communications, I still live by these five tenets of hospitality:
To be successful in this industry, commitment to customer service is key. One piece of advice that stuck with me is from my mentor Jack Tuason, the founder of Enderun Colleges. He advised that we should deliver beyond what is requested of us because hospitality is not just about meeting expectations but surpassing them, about fulfilling desires that your guest or client didn’t even realize they held. Tuason always wanted us to think ten steps ahead of our guests, to anticipate their needs and create an air of seamlessness to generate repeat business, but also to elevate our work to artistry.
Empathy, from the Greek empatheia (em- ‘in’ and pathos ‘feeling’), it is the ability to understand and share another individual’s emotions and experiences. During my training as a front desk agent, I always had to put myself in our guests' shoes to be able to give them top notch customer service. One of my first guest experiences was with a gentleman who was already having a bad day, and rather than bristle at his temper, I committed to ensure that the rest of his trip would be an unforgettable experience. This is not an easy practice to learn, which is why now I try to be conscious of others' feelings before reacting. When I was a hotelier, I took the time to empathize with the concerns of guests and to see things through their eyes. To quote famed restaurateur Danny Meyer’s golden rule of hospitality: “Do unto others as you believe they would want done unto them.”
Similarly, compassion is essential to exceptional service in any field. In the fast-paced world of hospitality, tensions run high, so to consciously practice tolerance, kindness, and sensitivity to others’ feelings and needs is a profound gift. While the customer may not always be right, you must demonstrate grace and strive to put others before yourself, be they clients or co-workers.
One thing that all cultural/service sectors (from fashion to food) share is that they draw strong personalities with confidence. Just think of the Devil Wears Prada or Gordon Ramsay. Being confident is of course a key to success, however humility is just as important. When I worked for the J.W. Marriott Marquis hotel in Miami, I had to move through all departments and work my way up. No matter your aspirations, it is the best training because you learn to understand the dynamics of your team by placing yourself in each member's shoes.
Working for hotels, be it here in the U.S. or in the Philippines, I was exposed to various guests coming from different walks of life and cultures. Keeping an open mind is one of the greatest assets in hospitality because it allows you to fully engage with anyone you meet and learn new things. Demonstrating an eagerness to learn can help you excel in any path you choose, and help broaden your horizons in the meantime.
All the Swirl is a collection of thoughts and opinions assembled by the staff and industry friends of Charles Communications Associates, a marketing communications firm with its headquarters in San Francisco, California. We invite you to explore more about our company and clients by visiting www.charlescomm.com.