Nobody cares how much you know, until they know how much you care”.

Theodore Roosevelt


Several weeks ago I met with a prospect from New York in a luxury hotel in Miami Beach. We sat in a casual restaurant-lounge for a quick business lunch.

We were approached by a waiter, who although was wearing the hotel’s uniform for that department, looked rather disheveled. He was not professionally groomed, he was sporting a short-cropped stylish beard, a jarhead-like haircut, a stud in his ear and a couple of visible tattoos on his fingers and neck.

My client didn’t notice the waiter’s presentation or overall approach, but of course I did. I have spent over three decades in senior management positions in the hospitality industry with 5-star hotels, thus I pick up quickly on flaws in appearance or service. I am pretty conservative professionally and I am an evangelist of the “old school”.

The dialogue began:

Waiter: “Can I help you?”… [no greeting whatsoever and no introduction ‘my name is’]. The approach would leave much to be desired in any restaurant, all the more so in a luxury brand hotel.

We: We would like to have lunch.

Waiter: “Okay”…He kept staring at us almost impatiently. “Do you know what you want”?

We: Can we see the menu?

Waiter: “Ok”…He then walked away. He returned after a couple of minutes with two menus and handed them to us quite dispassionately as if we were a bother to him. Perhaps this has not been a great tipping shift for him.

We: Can we get a glass of water, chilled but no ice please? One would have expected that the ‘gesture of kindness’ by offering a glass of water would have been originated by the waiter. ‘SOP’, one would think…

Waiter: “Ok”… He said in a sort of wryly way and then returned with two glasses of water filled with ice [despite our specific request of ‘no ice’]. He ended up having to go back to bring the correct order of water.

Our order finally arrived and the food was just okay.

I am sharing the above anecdote in order to underscore two factors:

  1. The server’s overall appearance denoted a new and acceptable standard even in a luxury setting.
  2. Notwithstanding the above, the lack of basic customer service and proper hospitality training stood out like a sore thumb.

When I proffered my comments to a supervisor in the above restaurant and I inquired about the waiter’s appearance etc., [if that’s a new so-called cool trend?] I was told that the higher-ups of the property are advocating and implementing a more casual atmosphere, even within an ultra luxury facility, in order to appeal to the new generation of customers “The Millennials”. He added that ever since they departed from the traditional attire and overall appearance, they increased the sales volume in their food and beverage operation by forty to fifty percent.

For me that was an “eye-opener” and a vivid confirmation that the world is changing and that the new and prevalent consumer has different expectations than their predecessors, hence the businesses, large and small, must adapt.

Being oblivious to the expectation of the new customer could place businesses on the skids bound for a dangerous slope.

Of course, perhaps I am more sensitive and keenly aware of flaws in service than the average patrons. The reason; I provide training in customer service and leadership for a living, which I do for diverse sectors.

Leaders in all industries must ‘hark back to basics’ and promote intensive and consistent training on flawless service and excellence, thereby disseminating and perpetuating the Hospitality Culture. The Hospitality Culture should not only apply to hotels, resorts, restaurants, cruise-ships or like facilities, but to all industries. What industry does not need customers?

Customers today think differently about customer service and customer experience. However, while ostensibly the millennials may be dissimulating the inclination to accept mediocrity that is totally false. They too expect uncompromised excellence and they have the power to demand it and buy it.

Customers today are buying (or deciding not to), they are raving about your customer service (or telling their friends to avoid you), they are enhancing (or depressing) your bottom line, based on criteria and factors your business may have never considered. Furious exposes get more attention than glowing testimonials.

It’s important to get a fix on this at this stage of the game. There is a huge wave of customer experience demand already swelling high and we should all be ready. Businesses that are not prepared when that wave hits ashore will be washed into history.

Let’s be proactive rather than reactive. Let’s not focus on problem solution but rather on problem prevention. Let’s not confuse skills with talent. Skills can be thought and developed. It’s all about the right attitude.

In pursuit of the RRRR [Revenue-Referrals-Retention-Reputation] consider the following equation:

Your Attitude + Your Aptitude = Your Altitude.

Great leaders will anticipate and prepare. Great leaders will ensure constant training and empower their followers.

Leaders are not created in one day, but daily”. John C. Maxwell

Striving for perfection is demoralizing; striving for excellence is motivating”: Peter F. Drucker.