13 March 2017 | Marcel Groenenboom
Recently I met with Dutch pensions insurer PGGM. The day before, I received a personal email from my contact confirming the appointment, with directions and parking advice.
As soon as I presented myself at the barrier, there was a friendly greeting on the intercom: "Good afternoon, Mr Groenenboom, we have booked a parking space for you near the entrance; just turn right immediately after the barrier."
Then, when I entered through the revolving door, the receptionist was waiting to take my jacket and get me a cup of coffee. She led me to the meeting area, where my host was already present. All this for someone who wasn't even a PGGM client! In fact, it was the other way around: I was the guest of my client. To me, this felt like the ultimate form of hospitality.
Many organisations struggle with the question: "What is hospitality?" It is often confused with customer focus, where everything revolves around the client. ('How do we give the client what he wants?') Customer focus seeks to persuade a client to choose a product or service; hospitality goes further. An organisation concentrating on hospitality wants to create a pleasant environment for everyone.
The issue with hospitality is to create an atmosphere in which the client feels welcome. By receiving him or her in a pleasant atmosphere, you attempt to exercise positive influence on their feelings without forcing them to make a specific choice to your advantage. The positive feelings that arise lead to a more positive impression of the hosting organisation, which can be a significant competitive benefit.
PGGM has shown that good service provision begins even before you walk through the door. Hospitality has become a component of the business culture, which is why it feels 'real'.
I can certainly attest to this. The reception at PGGM left me feeling heartened, a positive feeling that stayed with me and ensured that I made the right choices to the advantage of PGGM. Without feeling any pressure to do so.
Marcel Groenenboom is general manager, BeNeLux, Planon Software