I'm writing this as I wait for a flight in the Denver airport, coming off an amazing weekend celebrating a friend's birthday in the mountains for a little ski trip. I knew I wanted to write something this weekend, but couldn't think about what. Then as I had some great service at Root Down, a new-to-me spot in terminal C, it hit me. How have we let so many "hospitality-adjacent" operations get away with mediocre service? The moment it hit me was when my server simply told me what was in the veggie burger. He spoke confidently, knowledgeably and with a familiar tone. The only reason that was a surprise is because I was sitting at an airport restaurant where expectations of service usually drop by 80% automatically.
Earlier that weekend I had a few cringe-worthy moments on the mountain where operations including ski valet, ticketing and on-mountain restaurants were able to get away with giving lesser service...All this on top of a $175/day lift ticket. Lack of focus on the customer experience in a dirty restaurant where food comes at a premium. Inability to recover a bad service experience in ski valet where extra charges were automatically added to a bill. In luxury hotels, these things would never be excused. YET, these things don't just apply to luxury hotels - they're the basics of good service.
Even just before my veggie burger moment (yes, it was amazing), I saw opportunity after opportunity for my airline to make me a loyal customer, or at least one that's happy for that flight. I had few issues at check-in that could have easily been solved with a little communication and some empowerment.
My encouragement to these organization has, and always will be: simplify things for your teams. I guarantee if that airline had spent more time talking to their employees about a culture of service and given them clear examples of these moments where they can easily "win over" a customer, there would have been a very different outcome. Rather they, as well as many hotel front desks in my experience, focus on exhausting policies, accounting procedures and invented compliance rules.
Something I say to clients a lot: "It can be really easy." It just takes a shift in focus and the right people in the right positions.