It took me awhile to realize that 60% of my job is talking to people. Talking to staff, sure – but primarily, talking to members.
That means that 60% of my time is spent receiving input, feedback, and data from my direct customers. What is this magical human-centered design / market research / lean startup / [insert other startup customer research trend and buzzword] gig, you ask? This is what the hospitality sector is all about!
For reasons unbeknownst to me, the hospitality industry receives little respect from those in technology – which is ironic, because when you read the Silicon Valley Prophets (i.e. Paul Graham or Steve Blank), one of the core tenements of building a startup is creating a product or service that your customers actually need, which translates into receiving feedback directly from your customers. There are large books written about this, entire courses available to learn how to do this, an entire job market that was created to serve this need.
I’ll let you in on a teeny secret: Learning how to take in customer feedback and develop a product that customers actually want is an education that is inherently built into the hospitality industry. It is a very distinct skill-set that allows you to absorb constant data points from every face-to-face interaction you have with a customer (in my case, a member) and then succinctly spit out outputs that your customers want, based on that feedback.
Part of the education you receive working in the hospitality industry is the ability to automatically and subconsciously pick out the data from the flood of extremely muddled, extremely disordered feedback that resonates with your core product offerings and company mission, sit with it, and then allow that data to drive key program or priority shifts over time. It’s also imperative to provide space for your team to come together in order to bring main points that continue to stand out, since this skill of retaining customer feedback is not relegated solely to you. Part of the job of a hiring manager in the hospitality industry (in this case, me) is providing the background for new employees to be onboarded onto this onslaught of information; typically, the ability to parse out what information is most necessary to retain is the most time-consuming skill for a new hire to learn.
In the hospitality industry, where one is surrounded by their customers at all times, this is a valuable tool that is gained just by coming to work every day.