Adam Gartenberg's Blog

Business Analytics and Optimization, IBM and Social Marketing

What the hospitality business can teach all of us

"There will always be someone else who can do it or make it as well as you.  It's how you make your customers feel while using your products that distinguishes you."

What I found fascinating about the quote above was that it doesn't come from someone who works with "products" the way I usually do, but rather from the restaurant industry.  Last week's Time has a very interesting article about the new book (Setting the Table) by Danny Meyer, owner of the Union Square Cafe and what has now grown into "a culinary empire."  (And, like any respectable blogger, I've just read the article, not the book itself, although I guess I'm off the hook because apparently it won't be out for a few more days.)

His basic premise is that we're moving into a new business era - from a service era to the hospitality economy.  What struck me, though, is how much of what he said is true in any industry, even for those like us who make and sell software for a living.  

Meyer also writes about the importance of dialogue - that this can't be a one way discussion.  Here's what he says about companies like the Container Store, Timberland and Jet Blue:

"Yes, they have an excellent product; yes, the know how to deliver, but that's not what bonds customers to them. It's the experience.  Service is a monologue: we decide on standards for service.  Hospitality is a dialogue:  to listen to a customer's needs and meet them.  It takes both great service and hospitality to be at the top."

I guess the question comes down to, how can I (and all of us) create that dialogue with our customers.  How do we transfer that idea of "hospitality" so that we deliver products that meet and exceed the wants, needs, and wishes of the people using our products.

Link:: The Business of Hospitality


    Tim Latta | Website: | 10/2/2006 8:54:59 AM GMT

    Excellent comparison. Continue involving customers and business partners in close partnerships to design, develop, and bring your products to market. This partnering is design partnerships, early betas, usability testing at conferences, blogging, and any other creating 'collaboration' that you can come up with.

    Oh, and be careful about timing being more important than quality and feature-readiness when delivering your 'product' to market. Deadlines met when a few more important features could be delivered doesn't always bode well for 'hospitality'.

    Adam Gartenberg | Website: | 10/3/2006 10:29:46 PM GMT

    I hear you on the "ship now" vs. product readiness problem. I've discovered that this is one of the hardest areas in which to find balance - when do you say "enough" and when do you say "OK - one more week so we can get these features in." The hard part is that there's always a list of "one more week" features, and there are always customers who are saying that they'll take it as-is, as long as they can have it today (or yesterday).

    Charles Robinson | Website: | 10/4/2006 1:47:23 PM GMT

    I would also say that when you do come to market your message should be clear and consistent. The confusion I had with Sametime 7.5 Limited Use was a small but good example. It took two weeks after Sametime 7.5 was released for Lotus to come up with a public response, and the only place I've seen it is on my blog. You didn't even post it on your own. :-P Am I making a mountain out of a mole hill? Is the LU version not widely used?

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