Impact your guests with the most powerful gesture in the world: a greeting

Hi. How ya doin? Nice to see you. Thanks for reading. How ya’ been? It really is a pleasure. It’s very simple, these phrases. They all have one thing in common—they are greetings, or if you will, expressions of welcome.

They have no other meaning, no hidden agenda, no secret sauce or discreet message about them. They simply and wonderfully welcome you, another human being. And recognize you.

A proper greeting is one of the most powerful gestures in the world. It creates in the recipient a feeling of welcome and importance—both of which are critical to the delivery of a successful service interaction in a hospitality environment. They help to fulfill the very definition of hospitality, “to create a sustaining and enriching environment for others.” (Don’t believe me? Go look it up).

A proper greeting is comprised of three parts, including the expression of welcome along with a smile and eye contact. Executing it properly is a rather simple affair, and when used in conjunction with the 10/5 rule, it creates in a service environment a “ready-to-serve” feeling in your guest—a feeling that should they need anything, anything at all, all they have to do is lift a finger or eyebrow or show a moment of confusion, and one of us will be by their side, to ask what we can do for them, because that is why we are here.

What is the 10/5 rule you ask? It’s fundamental as breathing for any business in hospitality: when your employee is within 10 feet from a guest, they smile and make direct eye contact. And when they are five feet from a guest, they verbally greet. Those of you who have it ingrained and it’s automatic like driving a car, don’t scoff, you’re still part of the minority.

This ready-to-serve environment is the hallmark of any four- or five-star service environment, be it a Hyatt resort or a Rodeo Drive spa, a Four Seasons or a Ritz Carlton, a Kapalua or Kaanapali beach resort.

And they all create this ready-to-serve environment with one simple trick… Okay, it is not a trick really, it is a simple gesture, a gesture of welcome, made by the staff, to everyone they encounter in the course of their working day. A proper 10/5 smile and greet. It speaks, it cajoles, it persuades. It says, “We see you, we’re paying attention to you and we are ready to serve you at a moment’s notice.”

The 10/5 smile and greet is so important it is the foundation, the “hallmark” of our branded, behavioral service programs. It’s important to create this feeling of welcome, of importance, of being the center of the universe. It’s both a seeming simple gesture that is both very powerful and very complicated. Why? Because your people are likely not doing it.

If you don’t believe me then take a walk through the halls of your property. Watch and observe, and notice the missed opportunities, the heads down, the eyes glued to the floor (or ceiling).

So the question becomes, “What are you going to do about it?” Well, you have to teach it first; a smile, a look, an expression of welcome. Then you have to enforce it (hate to use that word but it does describe it the best). Enforce it because people will shy away from doing it unless they have to. Once they begin to see the pleasure it brings to others, they will become a convert. And they will continue to do it long after they have left the workplace.

Engaging another human being with a simple smile and greeting. It is one of the simpler things in life—one of the most powerful gestures you can make—and yet oh so hard to do. Try it today and see how it makes you feel. Then teach it to others and start changing the world for the better.

Live long and prosper, my friends.