Culture Customer Experience

How To Build A Brand Centered On Unreasonable Hospitality – Will Guidara Webinar Summary

In a recent webinar hosted by Nordic Business Forum and Oslo Business Forum, Will Guidara discussed the nuances of “Unreasonable Hospitality” and its profound impact on businesses. As we are moving from a product economy toward a service economy, Will’s insights help us find tools and strategies to navigate the transition. In the moderated discussion, we explored the difference between service and hospitality, changing company culture, and more.

You can also watch the webinar recording on our YouTube channel.

Customer Centricity: From me to you with Professor Xavier Oliver

Before Will Guidara’s discussion, Professor Xavier Oliver from IESE Business School gave a talk on why it’s important for companies to focus on customers rather than themselves. He talked about how hard it can be to change old habits in a company but stressed that it’s crucial for real customer-centricity.

6 Key Takeaways from Prof. Xavier:

  1. From Self-Interest to Customer Needs: Xavier stressed that companies need to move from focusing on their own interests to addressing real customer needs. This shift is crucial for building successful brands.
  2. Importance of Customer Engagement: He noted that companies often talk about their products and improvements but rarely about customers. Engaging customers in the company’s mission, vision, and values is essential.
  3. Challenges in Changing Attitudes: Xavier pointed out that changing established attitudes within organizations is difficult. Many companies claim to embrace change but fail to implement customer-centric practices effectively.
  4. Apple’s Transformation: He used Apple as an example, explaining how the company became more customer-centric by restructuring its leadership and implementing intensive training programs for employees. This change led to Apple’s success in retail.
  5. Step-by-Step Cultural Change: To become truly customer-centric, companies must start from within and convince all stakeholders of their genuine interest in understanding and caring about people—from employees to suppliers, agents, and customers.
  6. Purpose and Shared Values: Xavier emphasized that a deep sense of purpose and shared values among all stakeholders is crucial for sustaining customer-centric practices. Purpose and values drive organizational behavior and decision-making.

Xavier’s points highlight the need for companies to change their culture to focus more on customers, align their internal attitudes with customer-focused values, and give employees the tools to deliver excellent service.

How To Build A Brand Centered On Unreasonable Hospitality

A brand has everything to do with what your customers feel during the experience you provide them. Here’s a breakdown of the discussion with Will Guidara, covering the differences between service and hospitality, what unreasonable hospitality is all about, its impact, empowering frontline employees, and the cultural shift it brings.

The Difference Between Service and Hospitality

Will started by explaining the difference between service and hospitality. He pointed out that as we are a part of a service economy, many companies who want to distinguish themselves from the competition will want to be a part of the hospitality economy, making the difference between the two crucial.

Service is transactional—it’s about fulfilling the basic expectations of customers. For instance, in a restaurant, it means serving the right dish to the right person at the right time. Service is merely about meeting customer expectations. Hospitality, however, is more than service. It involves creating a genuine connection with customers, making them feel seen, valued, and appreciated. This emotional investment is what sets hospitality apart, transforming a routine transaction into a memorable experience.

“Hospitality is making the choice to go further, to go above and beyond, and to invest time, energy, and resources to develop a genuine connection and a real relationship with people.”

Unreasonable Hospitality

So, what is unreasonable hospitality? According to Will, it’s about putting in relentless focus and creativity to engage your customers. When aiming to be the world’s best restaurant, Will realized that excellent food and service were just the basics. To really stand out, they needed to make their guests feel seen and valued. This approach is not just about the product but about creating memorable experiences.

“Unreasonable hospitality means that no one gets to be successful in any discipline without making the choice to be a bit unreasonable, to be relentlessly focused and innovative in whatever product or service they’re selling.”

The Impact of Unreasonable Hospitality

The impact of unreasonable hospitality can be immense. Will gave Zappos as a prime example, where the focus on customer care in their call centers—allowing agents unlimited time with customers—led to remarkable business success. By prioritizing people over profits, Zappos cultivated loyal customers and, consequently, achieved significant profitability. Investing in exceptional hospitality can lead to long-term success, as customers who feel genuinely cared for are more likely to remain loyal and advocate for the brand.

“Zappos recognized that if they focused on their customers, it would lead to more profits. But if they focused on profits alone, it wouldn’t lead to more customers.”

Empowerment of Frontline Employees

Empowering frontline employees is a cornerstone of implementing unreasonable hospitality. Will noted that in many organizations, the people at the top hold the authority while those on the frontlines have the information. Bridging this gap requires giving frontline employees the autonomy and resources to make decisions that enhance customer experiences.

At Eleven Madison Park, dining room staff were encouraged to break rules and come up with creative ways to delight guests. Similarly in the previous example of Zappos, allowing customer service more time to engage with customers led to significant results. This empowerment fosters a sense of ownership and investment among employees, giving them the freedom to go above and beyond for customers.

“Companies focused on product over people create a set of rules that frontline employees must follow, giving them no latitude to make someone feel served.”

Ensuring Cultural Transformation

To make unreasonable hospitality a part of your company’s DNA, you need a cultural shift. Change is difficult and selling the idea of unreasonable hospitality to your team isn’t a good way to get your team on board. The best way to do it is to give them the information clearly, articulate the goals and what is expected of them, and then invite them to join. If they don’t agree, it simply shows that the cultural fit is no longer there.

Will also suggested the rule of 95/5: manage 95% of your budget strictly, but use the remaining 5% “foolishly” to create memorable experiences for your customers. This isn’t an optional add-on; it’s a vital part of your promise to customers. Deciding that customer care is a non-negotiable part of your business ensures you find the budget to make it happen. Furthermore, making this decision will help you build relationships and loyalty with your customers.

“It’s a well-understood fact that it costs a lot less to keep an employee than it does to bring a new one onto your team. The same is true with customers.”


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