The Foundation of Service

We have spoken before of the price of poor service, but the question arises for those intent upon establishing a strong and consistent culture of service in their hospitality operations, “What are the underlying necessities or foundation of service?”

In The Quest for Remarkable Service we made the following service comparisons:

  • Service is a state of mind, defined and reinforced by an organization’s culture.
  • Consistent Service is a state of mind plus thorough organization and systemic training.
  • Remarkable Service is a state of mind plus organization and systemic training, with well-hired, trained, and empowered employees responding to accountable, service-based leaders – all participating in a rigorous discipline of personalized service and continual product, service, and process improvement.

In this hierarchy of service quality are the following necessary foundational elements:

Leadership.  Nothing happens without strong, consistent enterprise-wide leadership.  The mass of detail and nuanced complexities of providing service to a large group of customers/guests/members, each with their own expectations, can only be achieved by Service-Based Leaders who know they must provide all the tools, training, resources, as well as daily example, engagement, and support to the line employees who deliver the service.

Beyond this service commitment of leaders, it takes a strong and persistent “will to make it happen” from leaders at all levels.  Like pushing on the giant flywheel of Jim Collins’ good to great companies, “it takes a lot of effort to get the thing moving at all,” and requires “persistent pushing in a consistent direction over a long period of time” to build momentum and achieve breakthrough.  This persistence to push in a consistent direction can only come from the organization’s leadership.

Values.  Recognizing that service is, first and foremost, an attitude or state of mind, it takes well-defined organizational values and a culture of service that is consistently and continually reinforced in both word and deed by the organization’s leadership team.

But leaders must realize that the development of this culture is not some organic entity that arises on its own or from the inherent values of a diverse workforce.  To ensure it meets the needs and desires of the organization’s customers, it must be defined and modeled by management.  When employees see their leaders living the values they preach and supporting the employees in their daily efforts, service becomes second nature to all.

Organization.  A major obstacle to providing service is poor organization.  Without ongoing efforts to set up the workplace for efficiency and to seek out and remove obstacles to the smooth functioning of all areas of the operation, line employees quickly become frustrated and disheartened.  When unaddressed this frustration quickly turns to cynicism and bad attitudes – both of which defeat any efforts to provide service.

Poor organization is not found just in the physical layout of facilities, but also includes misguided or ever changing policies and procedures, lack of standards and discipline in fellow workers, and weak or non-existent training.  To be efficient, management and staff must be constantly focused on how to do things better and with less effort and frustration.  This focus is commonly called Continual Process Improvement and should be an integral part of the enterprise’s organizational values.

Training.  But having an organization with strong leadership, a well-defined culture of service, and efficient organization is of limited value if those qualities cannot be consistently and continually passed on to the line employees who must deliver service on a daily basis.  This requires a well-planned and executed training system that delivers all essential values, knowledge, information, and service techniques to employees in manageable doses on a continuing basis.  Without thorough and consistent training, service execution is dependent upon oral history and the attitudes, abilities, and personalities of individual employees.  Some will do well, most won’t!

Personalized Service.  Once the foregoing foundational elements of service have been firmly established, everything is in place to take service to the next level – rendering personalized service to individual customers.  While such service is often the stated intent of hospitality managers, it’s unrealistic to expect that your service teams will be able to focus on such a detailed endeavor while struggling under weak leadership with poorly-defined values, disorganized operations, and lack of training.

Take Away.  Just as in the construction of a dramatically appealing hotel, restaurant, or clubhouse, the finished details are built upon the foundational elements of the structure.  The analogy for how to provide high levels of service could not be more appropriate – first you must build the foundation!

Thanks and have a great day!

Ed Rehkopf

This weekly blog comments on and discusses the hospitality industry and its challenges. From time to time, we will feature guest bloggers – those managers and industry experts who have something of interest to say to all of us. We also welcome feedback and comment upon the blog, hoping that it will become a useful sounding board for what’s on the minds of hardworking hospitality managers throughout the country and around the world.

Hospitality Resources International – Management Resources for Hospitality Operators!


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