Ritz Carlton trains their staff to give a warm and sincere greeting and to close each guest interaction with a fond farewell, using the guest’s name when possible. As a result, they are often lauded for creating a personalized environment. In today’s day and age, it is their commitment to this detail, including their staff’s choice of language that should be emulated a bit more throughout the hospitality industry as a whole and specifically in the highly personalized world of club management.
Service has been defined as “what you do to someone”, while Hospitality is defined more by “how we make someone feel.” To quote noted restauranteur, Bobby Stuckey, “They are not interchangeable.” In the past year, the overwhelming number of my transactions in restaurants of various types has at some point included an employee closing the transaction by saying, “no problem.” Sometimes, they have even awkwardly inserted it where it didn’t really fit. In almost all instances it was offered in response to my thanking them for their service or confirming they could fulfill a request.
Is it too much to hope that staff in some of the world’s leading hospitality companies could be trained to simply say “certainly” or “you’re welcome,” or “my pleasure,” or “our pleasure?” Ritz Carlton hits the bullseye when they seek sincerity from their staff. We don’t want staff to use language that they don’t believe in, but basic etiquette should be enough to illicit a “you’re welcome” when you offer a thank you for a job well done. That shouldn’t require a page, or even a paragraph in the training manual to achieve.
Why is it then that “no problem” has become so commonplace in such a short amount of time? Could it be emblematic of the “entitlement” generation (define that as you will)? Are today’s line level service employees so put off by having to work in low paying hourly jobs that they aren’t thankful for gratitude, nor taking any personal pleasure from serving individual guests? Is it a general lack of etiquette in society or a missed opportunity to set higher standards by senior leaders? I leave that to others to resolve.
What I offer is this: let’s not allow this to invade the club cultures that each of us works so hard to create for our members. Universally, club leaders recognize that members have high expectations of the service we provide. Why would anyone pay dues to be treated in an impersonal manner? Members crave recognition, as it creates a sense of status and belonging. And, I think most of us would agree that they don’t want the feeling they receive from their club to be one that serving them at that moment, is only relatively inconvenient. They should expect and we should desire to give them something much more. Whether it is “you’re welcome” or “my pleasure” or “our pleasure”, if said with sincerity, we will, as we have often done before, be able to provide our members with a warmer, and more gracious and refined experience than they may likely be receiving elsewhere.
Let’s make removing the expression “no problem” from the club industry vocabulary yet another wonderfully distinguishing feature of our chosen profession
Luke O’Boyle, CCM, CCE is a longtime member of CMAA and former National Director. He currently serves as the General Manager at the Chevy Chase Club in Chevy Chase, MD.