Visiting a client: Why hospitality wins over being customer focused

I recently had an appointment with the pensions insurer PGGM. The day before my appointment, I received a personal email from my contact confirming the appointment, with directions and parking information. As soon as I arrived at the gate, there was a friendly greeting from 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 room where my host was already waiting.

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In short, a warm welcome.

And all this was 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 seemed like the ultimate form of hospitality.

I often visit organizations, and it’s apparent that many of them struggle with the question: “What is hospitality?” Very often hospitality is confused with being customer focused. When that happens, everything revolves around the client. Customer focus focuses solely on persuading the client to choose your product or service. Hospitality goes a step further.

When an organization concentrates on hospitality, it wants to create a pleasant environment for everyone. The goal of hospitality is to create an atmosphere in which the client feels welcome. By receiving him in a pleasant way, you positively influence his feelings without forcing a decision to your advantage. These positive feelings lead to a more positive impression of the hosting organization, which can be a significant competitive benefit. 

In my view, PGGM’s policy is a text-book example of hospitality. In recent years they have won a number of prizes for their hospitality strategy. They have shown that good service begins before you even 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. That pleasant reception at PGGM left me feeling heartened. Without being aware of it, that positive feeling stayed with me and ensured that I made the best choices to support PGGM. Without feeling any pressure to do so.