Going The Extra Mile - More Than What’s Expected

Service means going one step further and offering more than what’s expected—like playing a encore. Service is about doing better than average, and more than the bare minimum.  To provide excellent service, you need to consider the feelings and emotions of your counterpart. What do my guests and customers need when they get in touch with me? Truly seeing your guest and speaking to their emotions is what makes all the difference.

This does not have to involve excessive expenses—in fact it shouldn’t! Small, thoughtful, and sincere gestures are what will make you stand out from many other hosts. Guests will be expecting the obvious essentials anyway, especially if this is what justifies a high entrance fee or other costs for guests and customers in their minds. That is exactly what going the extra mile is all about! Doing more than the bare minimum and thinking beyond what is objectively essential to exceed expectations and create a memorable experience for your guest.

Put yourself in the guest’s shoes and think about the little details that would make the time he or she spends at your company or at your event emotionally richer and complete. Reach out to your guests and surprise them with a positive gesture; whether it’s a friendly greeting, sending them off with a few kind words and a bottle of water for the journey, or simply opening the door for them and helping them carry their luggage to the car. Even these small gestures will remain in his memory and he will leave your premises happier - and come back again!

Hospitality -  A Matter Close to My Heart

When I tell people that I develop hospitality concepts for a living, I’m often greeted with puzzled looks. Most people tend to associate hospitality with the restaurant, hotel and tourism industries. And that is really what my work is all about: applying hospitality principles to other fields and industries! Hosts in hotels and restaurants take care of their guests, attend to their needs, and make them feel welcome 365 days a year.

My goal is for every business owner—whether in a small company or an international corporation—to recognize the value of customer service and of treating customers like human beings with needs and wishes, and to reflect on the importance of hospitality. I want business owners to start thinking about the little details that can make all the difference for their customers, and about how hospitality can also be reflected in their employee’s actions and attitudes. This is especially important, because employees are the link between the company and the customer. Your guests and customers will be delighted about service too!

Even simple gestures can have a big impact. For example, you can give your customers detailed directions and and a parking spot ahead of the first appointment so they don’t have to spend time looking for a place to park. They might also appreciate it if there is a pen and paper waiting for them in the meeting room, especially if it’s been a stressful morning and they forgot to bring their own. Offering your guests coffee and a croissant after a long drive will definitely make them feel more comfortable, and handing them a paid parking slip for the parking garage as you say good-bye will leave your customers with a positive memory. Every company has the potential to create memorable, special moments for their customers and guests, a great customer experience and exemplify customer orientation! If you’re feeling inspired and want to discuss ways to make your customers happier, I look forward to exchanging ideas!

Where do I come from & where do I want to go?

Around five years ago I started my own business, Friedreich Hospitality. My company began with an idea and a vision that continues to guide me today: to help businesses and hosts in every industry focus their attention on their customers, guests, and people in general. Looking back, it seems like I recognized the importance of hospitality and the qualities of good service very early on. The first step that led me to where I am today was my decision to attend the tourism school, HLF Krems. There I learned the basic tools of the trade and also gained valuable hands-on experience working in hotels and in gastronomy. In the Tyrolean town of Kufstein, I advanced my professional training with a degree in Sports, Culture and Event Management at the Kufstein University of Applied Sciences.

At the beginning of my career, whether I was working in event management or developing marketing concepts, I quickly realized that the basic principles of hospitality I had come to regard as the norm in tourism and gastronomy, were missing in these fields. It also became clear to me that instead of focusing primarily on the needs and opportunities of the company when designing products and services, companies should instead be focusing far more on the needs and wishes of their customers. For example, potential bank clients will be more willing to place their trust in your bank if they notice that their needs and requests are being taken seriously and are treated as a priority. This concept is also familiar from restaurants or hotels, where warmly welcoming guests, showing them to their table or room, asking if they need anything and making sure they feel at home are all part of providing good service.

2012 I decided to combine all of these experiences and insights and launch Friedreich Hospitality, with the objective of establishing the the following basic concept in the corporate world: People always take center stage.For me, the hospitality concept, the focus on people, connects different fields and adds value and significance. I would like to help companies harness the power and potential of service and hospitality so that they can be successful hosts for their customers, their employees and their business partners and raise their guests experience.

Hospitality the Vorarlberg Way

What is “hospitality the Vorarlberg way” and what can we learn from it to increase the quality of our events? For Christian Schützinger, the CEO of Vorarlberg Tourism, the answer to this question is already clear: “The values of regionality, hospitality, and sustainability are reflected in the region’s unique culture, culinary tradition, craftsmanship, and relationship with nature.” So how can hospitality, sustainability, and regionality influence the success of an event? These questions were the focus of the 7th Vorarlberger Convention Forum in December 2017, where I had the opportunity to discuss this exciting topic with five other experts. One thing soon became clear: attending to the guest’s individual needs and the having well-informed staff both have a major impact on whether or not guests perceive a region as welcoming and have a good experience.

How welcoming an environment is and how friendly the people are also play a role. A guest’s perception of hospitality can also be affected by the level of customer service they experience in situations that are not related to a specific event, such as their interactions with the train conductor, a taxi driver, or when they’re buying their morning newspaper. Together with the native Vorarlberger hospitality expert, Dietmar Nussbaumer from Hotel Gasthof Krone in Hittisau, we briefly discussed international and local examples of hospitality, and then gathered other ideas and personal anecdotes from the participants. Where and when have you experienced great hospitality? Which moments made you feel the most welcome whilst consuming some kind of service. We collected some of the most common responses for you here:

  • A personal greeting at the reception or a welcome message in the room can create a positive and welcoming atmosphere for guests right from the beginning.
  • When the staff are warm and sincere, it can quickly make the atmosphere more comfortable and friendly.
  • A love and an eye for details can often make all the difference.
  • Making the guest feel welcome, especially when they arrive at an event alone.
  • Guests appreciate personal recommendations and tips from the staff much more than a list of restaurants in the guest brochure and show them customer orientation.

The participants then shared their own experiences and talked about  different aspects of hospitality in the region of Vorarlberg in small groups. The goal of the discussion was to collect some key takeaways that could be put into practice in the future. One of these takeaways was that everything starts with the staff and their appearance as a host. The staff are the ambassadors of hospitality for a region, a hotel, or an event. Hospitality can be strengthened with good customer service and a welcoming atmosphere, but ultimately it comes down to the staff to bring hospitality to life for the guests. This is why it is so important to actively involve the staff, to value them, and communicate openly with them, because they have a significant influence on guest satisfaction.

In the workshop on the topic of regionality, it also became clear that not only products like gifts or local cuisine should be shared with the guests, but also authentic cultural experiences that entice the guests to come again. In addition to focusing on cultural attractions, experts on sustainability also stressed the importance of focusing more on mobility. After participating in the forum and having the opportunity to exchange hospitality insights and ideas with the other participants, I am convinced that we are well on our way to making our country, and Vorarlberg in particular, an even better destination for conferences and events.

Hospitality? Hospitalize? The difference.

In Austria, when I tell people what I do for a living, people often ask me: “Oh, you’re a hospitality consultant? Does that mean you offer consulting and coaching for hospitals?” No! Although, I’m sure that would be exciting, too. For now, let’s focus on what I mean by hospitality consultant.

Hospitality Consulting: The decision to introduce a business model that was completely unknown in Austria has had its share of risks. For one, there was the challenge of constantly needing to explain my business over and over again, which sometimes made me wonder if I had chosen the right profession. In a nutshell, hospitality simply means creating a friendly and welcoming atmosphere for guests. When we talk about the hospitality industry, we’re referring to the sectors and fields that are typically associated with gastronomy, the hotel industry, or tourism. Hospitality management, on the other hand, refers to any guest-related services. The guest comes first.

This concept of making the guest the focal point of business is what really awakened my interest and is also where my profession as a hospitality consultant fits in. I enjoy being a guest but I also enjoy being a host. My vision is to make hospitality, customer service, and the joy of making customers happy a regular part of every-day business. Every customer and every client should be treated like a guest. This is where my expertise as a hospitality consultant comes in, and my goal is that by 2020, nobody will be asking me the question: “What does a hospitality consultant do?

Does love at first sight exist?

Do you believe in love at first sight? No? Well I am a true believer — at least in the context of business. It’s that first magic moment: the chemistry is either there or it isn’t. This can be true for people and places. There are places where you feel at home and places you can’t wait to leave. The first impression can make all the difference. While you might not have much control over that first moment in your personal life, in the context of business, you have the unique opportunity to carefully craft a perfect first impression and influence the experience of your guests and customers with service and customer orientation. I have that “love-at-first-sight-feeling” when I feel welcome and well taken care of,  whether it’s at an event, or in a certain place. But feeling this way, especially in a new or unfamiliar place, is not a given.

Imagine that you’ve been invited to a reception for the opening of a hotel or shop, or to a vernissage at an art gallery. You’re alone, your friend is running late and won’t be able to join you for a while. You don’t know anyone there and suddenly, you find yourself in the middle of a room, with all eyes on you. This reminds me of that scene in “Pretty Woman,” where Julia Roberts enters an expensive shop and the shop assistants give her dirty looks and refuse to serve her. In situations like this, most people just wish they could sink into the ground and disappear. But what if, when you walked in, a security officer welcomed you with a smile, the lady at the coat check  approached you with a friendly greeting, and a charming waiter offered you a free drink? This would probably put you more at ease. The initial tension melts away and you feel welcome, appreciated and comfortable.

In general, event planning tends to revolve around setting the perfect dinner menu, finding the right music, and, above all, choosing a spectacular venue. For the opening of a new shop, the emphasis will be on the design, lighting, the scent, and many other things. However, what will really stick with your guests won’t be the pretty decorations, but will first and foremost be the experiences they share with the people, the hosts, they meet there. So, let’s do things differently! A warm “Welcome!”, a handshake, a friendly person who gives me a hand with my coat or surprises my with a little gift at the end of an event – these are the tiny gestures which make me leave the shop, the appointment, the event with a smile. And it’s that smile that we want our guests and customers to remember. Approaching someone with a smile forms a brief emotional connection and conveys them the feeling of hospitality. And these positive feelings (maybe even that “love-at-first-sight-feeling”?) can have a real impact on the customer experience and their associations with your company, brand, or event.

Help, I’m Expecting Guests! Am I a Good Host?

How can I make sure that all my guests feel happy and welcome? Is there a “Host Handbook” or an etiquette guide? It might come naturally to some, but there are many little things that a host can do to make their guests happy and help them have a good time and an outstanding guest experience. Why is this a matter that’s near and dear to my heart? Well, just recently I was trying to find someone who could take my place as a co-host for a private event.  But, what is a co-host exactly? And what does a co-host need to be able to do? I tried listing various tasks that a co-host would have, but I soon realized that I could sum up a co-host’s responsibilities in a single sentence: Make sure the guest feels at home!

Although the main goal of hosting can be summed up easily, I would still like to mention a few key pointers to help you be a relaxed and attentive host for your guests:

  • Plan the event early enough in advance and prepare for your guests
  • Inform your guests about directions and parking options
  • Welcome your guests warmly
  • Help your guests with their coats, bags, shoes, etc.
  • Offer your guests a drink
  • If the guests don’t know each other, make brief introductions
  • Make sure you have enough food and drinks
  • Be present and do not leave your guests alone for too long
  • Thank your guests for coming and send them off with a sincere and warm good-bye

If you keep these little tricks in mind, you will feel good in your role as a host - and your guests will feel good too. This isn’t just for private gatherings and events either.  For me, every business owner and every employee of a company is a host for his or her guests, customers, and partners. Though it might be on a different level, the distribution of roles, the services and the little touches that create a sense of well-being are very similar.