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Colin Nagy, head of strategy at FFNY, a global advertising agency, writes this opinion column for Skift on hospitality and business travel. On Experience dissects customer-centric experiences and innovation across the luxury sector, hotels, aviation, and beyond. He also covers the convergence of conservation and hospitality. You can read all of his writing here.
The Covid-related cuts in the hospitality industry have been seismic. Hilton recently announced nearly a quarter of its corporate workforce has been laid off. Hyatt too, has had to slice its corporate workforce, and thousands of hoteliers, ranging from people working for shining household names, to the smallest boutique have been furloughed or cut.
This column has long been a champion of those who work in the hotel business. In my mind, the very nature of hospitality is a creative act, one that actually requires skillsets that are rare to find in other worlds or categories. Put simply, everyone working in the industry, and especially people working at the highest levels of luxury hospitality have things that other employees don’t have.
So while we can bemoan the situation, it is actually an opportunity for other categories across technology, and every other conceivable industry that needs to interface with a customer or deal with humans. The message is simple: hire these people, as they will supercharge the most important, but often misunderstood element: the soft diplomacy that goes into incredible customer experiences. This creates tangible benefit to any business.
Attention to Detail
Great hoteliers have incredible, military like attention to detail. When you walk into a Palace in Paris, or even a perfectly tuned boutique, every small element from the sounds, the flowers, the table settings, the ambience, and the corners of the bed have to be perfect. This obsession with the small details, and also consistently getting them right is easily transferrable to other contexts and businesses. Most of all, it is the disciplined mindset that stands out.
Hoteliers have to deal with the ebbs and flows of human terrain day in and day out. Whether it is dealing with a last-minute booking from someone who wants to take the entire top floor, to diffusing problems with difficult guests, the need to think on the fly is a well tuned skill that the best people in the industry have trained day in and day out. If you are an entrepreneur, do you think you could trust them in liaising with one of your most important clients? I think so.
Empathy and Anticipation
The best hospitality professionals know that they need to anticipate the needs of a client, both stated and unseen. This requires a deep level of emotional intelligence, memory, and pattern recognition. If you think about another industry that requires a high level of touch with customers, say, private wealth management or sales to high net worth individuals, this skill set is invaluable. When you make a guest, client, or customer feel respected, anticipated, and comfortable, good things come from it.
Pride and Professionalism
There’s a true pride and quiet professionalism that comes from people working in hospitality. Everyday, there’s a military like bearing to appearance: shoes are perfectly shined, grooming impeccable and there’s a radiant pride of being a representative of a great hotel. This is magnetic and creates an incredible first impression.
Experience with Diversity
The hospitality industry regularly needs to interface with all walks of life: the conservative Sheik that just flew in from Dubai, the same-sex couple on a long weekend, the Japanese guest visiting the U.S. for the first time. They are comfortable being kind and welcoming to every conceivable way of living and being. Their approach interfaces nicely with lots of different walks of life.
As I’ve written this column for the past five-plus years, I’ve truly been blown away by the talent I’ve seen across multiple properties and places around the world. I’ve seen true, quiet professionalism and humble, elegant service. I’ve seen incredible mindsets, and unflappable people. And, while I wish all of these people would stay and contribute to what is a truly special industry, the economic reality is that many will have to find new vocations in different industries.
What I am truly optimistic about is all of the experiences, all of the touch points and all of the business value this group of people will bring to new industries. And consider this a blaring bugle call to those CEOs, HR leaders, and thoughtful managers looking to hire for the lucky industries that haven’t been ravaged by Covid: Look to hospitality workers as a force that can supercharge your business.