Part III: Reflections on the Meaning of Service
By: Deb Popely
We talk a lot about the importance of delivering high levels of service in the hospitality industry. It would not be too big a stretch to say that service is the essence and foundation of every hospitality business. Most hospitality management courses discuss the role of service in the vision and missions of hospitality organizations, its importance as a differentiator, its role in closing the loyalty loop and many other strategic areas.
But what do we mean by high-level service? Is it enough to greet guests warmly? To address guest problems in a calm and friendly manner? To offer helpful information to enhance the guest experience? Or is it something more? Some believe that true hospitality means treating guests like valued family members whose needs and expectations are the top priority.
My recent experience in Tenerife has given me a rare glimpse of a high-level service culture in action. Operated by the Talgs, the third generation of a venerable hotel family in Puerto de la Cruz, the Tigaiga Hotels and Suites embraces guests like family from the very beginning. The hotel has been in business for over 50 years, serving multiple generations of guests who return year-after-year to enjoy the lush, peaceful grounds. Some even book the same room every year. Every guest is greeted by name by every employee. The CEO and his two sisters, who also manage the property, are on-site daily, greeting guests, asking about their needs, and adding a personal touch to every interaction. In the first few weeks, I was touched when they remembered my birthday with a card and some small tokens of appreciation.
But a recent health crisis of mine really demonstrated the depth and extent of the Talg’s family-centered approach. After falling and breaking my kneecap, the Tigaiga team really rallied around me. While in a local hospital waiting for surgery, they immediately contacted me to see what they could do. One of the owners personally brought my laptop and medications and reassured me about the quality of care I could expect to receive. The CEO touched based with colleagues in hospital administration to express his interest in my care. Staff members followed up frequently to ask how they could help. They coordinated ground transportation for my husband who flew in to take care of me. They provided an extra room and breakfast for my son, who also came to help, at a deep discount.
As I recover in this warm and friendly place, I realize how lucky I am to be associated with this hotel family and their extraordinary service culture, and how much there is to learn from it. It’s relatively rare (but not impossible) for a hotel to have to respond to such a guest crisis. Even without a crisis, if the underlying culture of extraordinary service is in place, backed up by a sincere attitude of personal caring, the guest is assured to experience the true meaning of service.