Service DNA

Singapore's national newspaper the Straits Times quotes the country's Senior Minister Goh Chok Tong as lamenting that Singaporeans "generally lacked what he called the service DNA". The Minister called on retailers and those in the
hospitality sector to pay more attention to raising service standards and said that merely being polite and gracious is not adequate.

Whether countries and cultures have inherent strengths or weaknesses on service issues is, perhaps, a matter for anthropologists. However, hospitality (and other service industry) customers have general needs of service with specific service
expectations dictated by the way service is delivered at the point
of delivery. In other words, how the guest is greeted and taken to her/his room is probably more important than the physical plant on offer; something which sets apart one hostelry from another.

A couple of essential ingredients of "service DNA" are empathy and enthusiasm for the guests' needs. And unlike its biological version these are not something that cannot be acquired by staff.  Both empathy and enthusiasm for guests are "teachable" and have long been part of most training programs best manifested by a welcome phrase delivered with a smile. 

Along with the foregoing it helps to be resilient and adaptive to minimize negative encounters with guests. While it is considered axiomatic that "the customer is always right" any front-line customer service rep is likely to have scores of anecdotes when it is explicitly not so.  In many instances, customer ire is caused by real or perceived service lacuna is directed at the face or voice in front of them while in fact the guest has arrived at that point owing to a service gap they encountered elsewhere be it at an airport or a taxi en-route to the hotel. That is when resiliency and adaptability qualities come in handy by not viewing the negative encounter as personally directed and offering palliatives through either words and actions (as in an upgrade) or even both. Other qualities that go to make up Service DNA include taking responsibility as in ownership of a situation. That of course implies devolution and empowerment from top down so as to reach early resolution of potentially troubling situations. 

Ultimately, Service DNA is a function of what each institution's guest's really want from its service and is, to a large extent, dependent on the service platform on tap. Being aware of the dynamic needs of one's customers can go a long way towards establishing a resilient strain of Service DNA.

Published by

Vijay Dandapani

Co-founder and president of a New York based hotel company for 24 years. Grew the firm to five hotels in Manhattan and also developed a greenfield project at MacArthur airport, New York. Speaker at numerous prestigious forums including Economy Hotels World Asia, Lodging Conference, NYU, Columbia University Real Estate Roundtable, Baruch College's Zicklin School and ALIS. President and ceo of New York City Hotel Association since January 2017.