My least favorite word is probably ‘trend’ because it means only one thing: we are following something. So instead of following everyone else along the path toward ‘co-sharing’, ‘robots’, and the ‘IoT’ bandwagon, the thing that will set us apart would be the thing that got us started in the first place: the human touch.

I was recently asked to speak at Hong Kong's Hotel Icon on hospitality in an age where AI and automation is taking a key position. I shared with them how I believed that just because Human-centric hospitality is where it all began, it doesn’t mean that 'human centric' is old hat.

Here are six attributes to refresh your hospitality memory and help you to focus on the most important aspects of customer care.

Physicality – For a hotel this could mean ‘design’, ‘logo’, or ‘tagline’, which are all capable of attracting guests. For a hotelier it’s all about how you can appear more attractive. It’s the way you carry yourself, and how you look in your uniforms, whatever the design may be. Another thing worth mentioning is the first impression; I ran into one incredibly rude member of the front office staff one day at a resort, and had to mention it to the GM. He was very surprised, and could hardly believe what had happened because the employee in question was everyone’s favorite. After a quick investigation, he explained she’d had an argument with her team involving lots of yelling and crying so she wasn’t in her best shape. But honestly, I don’t care. Once you step out of your back office, you have to put on your best show. Guests don’t need to know about your problems. So, this lady could be an angel but to me she appeared rude and unprofessional, and that’s how I think of her. So be careful, because that first impression might last longer than you think.

Intellectuality – What separates us from the competition in delivering better service is our ability to go beyond the obvious. In hospitality it would start with asking the right questions. I believe that taking orders in the service industry is a lost art. Retail, however, does it way better than us. When you’re at Burger King, ordering a triple burger, you hardly ever come out with only that. The staff will always ask if you want to go with a set which includes a drink and fries, and then check if you want anything else to go with it. Or in 7-11 they’ll try to sell you a discount carton of milk to go with your pack of batteries – so it doesn’t even have to be logical. In hospitality though, when you try to order vodka on the rocks, you may well end up with an ordinary vodka that you didn’t even want, because while you were still trying to specify Grey Goose, the bar staff couldn’t wait and already served up the order.

Sociability – The confidence to engage and communicate with guests is very important if you want to offer excellent service, going far beyond something that Siri, Alexa, or any other artificial intelligence can do. But too much confidence can be a double-edged sword. Never be too familiar. Engage people, ask them how they are, ask what can you do to help, and always remember their details. But make sure never to pay too much attention to one particular guest – everyone deserves your attention.

Emotionality – For example, when I canceled my dinner reservation because I wasn’t feeling well, I came back to my room and found some snacks on my desk with a note saying, “In case you get hungry”. And it doesn’t stop there. When I went to my bedroom there was a lavender mist spray and a little note saying “Hope this will help you with your headache”. Of course, they couldn’t give me medicine, but that kind of service was better than anything Tylenol could have done.

Personability – Confidence, Passion, Awareness. I believe that there are people out there who will pay for ‘passion’. If you love what you do, it shows in your work. Keeping it professional doesn’t mean you can’t be yourself. You should be able to show your sense of humor if you have one, but awareness will keep it to the right time and place.

Morality – Always do the right thing. Always say ‘sorry’ even when it isn’t your fault. And if you’re asked to organize something that might be borderline illegal, say ‘sorry’ because you can’t do it. Never compromise your hotel standards either. There might be guests who want to dine at your restaurant in their bathrobes. Don’t allow it. If you let standards slip once, you’ll have to do it again.

These six attributes could serve as guidelines for your human-centric service approach while the rest of the world is going in a different direction. But remember, to truly do it right you still need proper training. Excellence in this field is no different to any other – it takes hard work, expertise, and attention to detail. But your guests will know the difference.

Recommended Reading : , Dr Stephen Sampson