Service and hospitality.

Are they the same thing?

According to Danny Meyer, one of the great restauranteurs of New York City and the founder of Union Square Hospitality Group and the legendary Shake Shack, the answer is a resounding "no."

Meyer explains the differences between service and hospitality in his book, Setting the Table.

Service is the technical delivery of a product. In a restaurant, it's delivering quality food at the right temperature and in the right amount of time. It's an attentive server that ensures order accuracy and who makes sure plates are promptly cleared after each course.

Hospitality, on the other hand, is "the sum of all the thoughtful, caring, gracious things our staff does to make you feel we are on your side when you are dining with us." It's how the product is delivered and how the customer feels afterward.

It's the sense that the customer has choices, that the company is engaged in a two-way dialog with them, and the feeling that the company customized the experience based on their unique needs.

In Meyer's world, acts of hospitality might include remembering a patron's name and menu preferences or listening with empathy when a customer has a problem.

In customer success, hospitality might mean dialog, providing a clear and complete explanation of tradeoffs based on customers' unique business goals when they face a problematic implementation decision.

Or, it could be proactivity, noticing that a customer has not yet taken advantage of a valuable new product feature, and reaching out to them proactively to help them set it up.

At renewal, perhaps it's prescriptive optionality, giving the customer a choice of a two or three-year renewal term with lower interterm increases in exchange for a longer-term commitment.

Today, as we stare down an economic recession, our industry faces immense pressure to drive more growth and profitability with fewer resources. But the companies that will triumph aren't just going to do what they've always done with fewer resources. They are reimagining how they'll work with their customers.

They aren't blindly automating existing service delivery processes. They are finding ways to offer two-way dialogue, proactive engagement, and prescriptive choices at scale.

They are choosing to differentiate on hospitality, and all the marketing dollars in the world can't outperform word of mouth from advocates who sing your praises by choice.

If you could change just one thing about how your customers feel when they work with your company and make it more hospitable, what would it be?


💡 Weekly Favorites

Here are some of my favorite podcasts, blogs, and videos from the week:

  • Speaking of changing how we work with customers and making it more hospitable, hear Why community matters now more than ever with Hubspot co-founder Dharmesh Shah (from INBOUND 2022). I can't believe this video only has 11k views.
  • Great post on ROI of learning and development from my friend Steven Cornwell, CEO of LMS company, Northpass. Learning and user enablement is a pillar of customer success that must scale.
  • Winter is coming; 3 actions to take by Mike Pilcher. I especially like number four / "Option D - Put yourself in the customer's shoes." Well, yes... of course, customer-centric companies should always take this approach. Recession or otherwise.

Enjoy, and see you next Sunday.

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