Welcome clichés and how to avoid them


Welcome clichés and how to avoid them

Welcome clichés and how to avoid them

Managing Director, Steven Pike, offers practical advice on giving your guests an authentic welcome.

We all recognise a welcome cliché when we see or hear one. Whether it’s a stock phrase that sounds insincere, or a same-old hotel setup. The dictionary definition tells us a cliché is something that’s ‘…overused and betrays a lack of original thought.’ Much of the time, it’s simply a consequence of behavior that is so ingrained in the operator’s training and process, it has become automated. The likelihood is, staff offer it up unthinkingly.

Thankfully, over the last few years, I’ve noticed that operators are beginning to question traditions and habits, challenging robotic behavior and habituated procedures and offerings that no longer fit with their brands. They are waking up to the fact that they could and should modernise and personalise their welcome.

With this in mind, HGEM commissioned an in-depth report, picking the brains of over 900 of our mystery guests to find out what to avoid in a welcome and why. The conclusions were incisive and surprising. Here are the edited highlights:

Hackneyed phases

When you’re aiming to convey an impression of energy and enthusiasm, resorting to stock phrases is a no-no. Who hasn’t experienced that heart-sink feeling when a hotel check-in ends with distracted welcome staff trotting out “Have a nice stay”? Or perhaps you’ve winced inwardly when a waiter serves your meal with a lacklustre “Enjoy!”. You look up to find he or she is dead behind the eyes.

Even plain old “How are you?’” has become overused and sometimes feels rhetorical and disingenuous. “I don’t like too much fake chat,” was something we heard from a number of respondents. Create a blacklist of tired and empty words and phrases and use it in staff training.

Who wants it anyway extras

Nobody is going to come home after a trip away and say: ‘Hey, I had a free sewing kit in my room!”, but they might remark on the fresh fruit, flowers, or chocolates on offer, particularly if there is something particularly quirky or memorable about them. Some operators change their extras every six months or so to keep things fresh for repeat visitors. It’s a sensible strategy - added touches are memorable because they show care. They can be a great way to demonstrate personality and imagination too. This applies as much in restaurants as in hotels. One of our mystery guests told us: “Our waiter gave us chocolates at the end of our meal to take with us to the theatre – it was unexpected and thoughtful.” Having staff who are confident enough to go off piste with a well placed gesture is a great way to create a memorable guest experience.

Production line language

Practical welcome phrases such as: ‘table for two?’ feel automated and old-fashioned. There’s nothing more off-putting than feeling as if you’re in a production line. This is also the reason why whenever a menu concept needs explaining, a good welcome should include the question: ”Have you eaten at Wagamama/ Harvester/ Wahaca before?”. If the server forgets to ask, they may launch into a boring, unnecessary and ‘heard it before’ scripted spiel about the menu that will sound robotic to repeat visitors. They don’t want or need to hear it.

Off-the-peg behaviour

A good welcome needs to be bespoke. Standard patter feels tired, so greeting every customer the same way doesn’t work. It’s important to understand that one customer’s efficient and calm service may feel brusque and impersonal to another. Aside from experience helping to build awareness of how to read an individual customer’s needs, taking body language, demographic profile and occasion into account can also help. “It all depends on the occasion,” says one of our guests. “If I’m popping for a quick, fun pizza and beer with some mates, then a warm, slightly OTT welcome is great. But if I’m visiting a Michelin starred restaurant in Italy with my wife, a more discrete, professional welcome is appropriate. Ultimately, it comes down to feeling noticed, valued and cared for.”

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