Many years ago I worked for the Ritz Carlton Hotel chain in Atlanta, Georgia (The one off Peachtree Street if you know the area). Anyway, there were several wonderful things about working for a large hotel chain, and a few not so wonderful. One of the great aspects was being able to travel the globe and stay at some of the greatest hotels in the world for next to nothing, more on that in another article.
One of the “opportunities” of working for a hotel chain was their corporate training. I believe when I started at the Ritz, the training was 5 days in the classroom before you ever learned anything specific about your job. During these days of training, you learned the Ritz Carlton way, which helped ensure every “guest” that walks through the door was treated with the same high level of service regardless of which employee, in any of their hotels, they encountered during their visit.
One of the items I remember most during the training was the auto-substitution of words into our vocabulary. Just like Microsoft Word allows you to auto-correct certain words, the Ritz ingrained into each employee the use of certain words. For example, you were never to tell anyone that there was a “problem”. You were to explain that there was an “opportunity” in X, Y, and Z. Another word they ingrained was how you refer to someone paying to stay at the hotel. You were not to use the words, client, customer, buyer, patron, idiot, moron, consumer, visitor, company etc. The only acceptable term for a paying visitor to the hotel was “guest.”
At the time, the Ritz Carlton was ahead of the game using this philosophy of altering employee’s mindset when it comes to the vocabulary they use. Automatically by using the word “opportunity”, you feel more at ease. Just think of the emotions you feel during the following statements:
“We have a problem, there is a lion running through the library!”
“We have an opportunity, there is a lion running through the library!”
The first option makes you want to run screaming into the streets, the second makes you want to call your PR company to get pictures of this awesome event.
The same holds true for guest, when thinking of the visitors to your hotel as guests, you immediately correlate with them being guests in your home. In many ways they are exactly that, guests in your home. As an employee you spend the majority of your waking hours at work, it might as well be your home. So anyone that comes into it is immediately your guest.
So, most of you already had probably already heard about the Ritz fancy vocabulary as it has been the study of many discussions and research over the years. However, I wanted to lay the foreground for the next portion of the discussion. Which is how we refer to or handle individuals that pay to use our service or products.
Regardless of the word we use to refer to those individuals that pay for our server, we should think how does that word make us feel when we use it?
- Does the word give us a positive feeling? (Opportunity)
- Does the word bring about a negative emotion? (Problem)
- Is the word we use internally, the same word we would use in front of the paying individual? (Guest)
- Do we have nicknames for these individuals depending on their behavior? (P.I.T.A.)
- How does the paying individual refer to themselves in context? (Customer, Client, Guest)
By now you should have a feeling one way or the other on the words that you use to refer to people who pay for your service or product. Is your term derogatory, or is it something that provides a positive emotion for both you and your paying individual? Would you use this same term in front of your paying clients?
By setting the tone internally for how you reference paying clients, you can help guide the internal motivation of your company. It is time to make sure that internal motivation is a positive one.