The Difference Between Service and Hospitality

On a recent call with a coaching client, we were talking about how he didn’t make his incentive trip last year because his customer service score wasn’t high enough. He had closed plenty of business throughout the year, but in the end, he just hadn’t really made an impression.

Service and Hospitality

What’s the difference between merely making sales and really hitting your goals? What separates a good salesperson from a GREAT salesperson? It turns out that it goes beyond providing good service.

A Horse of a Different Color

Service is the bare minimum. As a salesperson, it’s vital that you know the difference between service and hospitality—and live it every day if you truly want to excel at your job. Think about what service means:

Service – The action of helping or doing work for someone; fulfilling their request.

This seems pretty basic, right? You can (and should) always be friendly, caring, and giving in how you approach providing your customer with products and services. But even though you’ve done things in a kind and courteous manner, it may not leave a lasting impression. Your customer may like you and may even want to do business with you in the future, but they won’t necessarily have an allegiance to you either.

Hospitality – The friendly and generous reception of a guest.

It may seem like a small difference, but hospitality differs from service in that it takes the customer experience to the next level. It adds something unique that is sure to impact people in a way that guarantees they can’t forget you. Good service is the minimum requirement in any client interaction; hospitality is what creates loyalty, repeat business, and raving fans!


Service is the technical delivery of a product… Hospitality is how the delivery of a product makes its recipient feel. -Danny Meyer


For example, say you take your shirts to a dry cleaner. Providing good service means they return those shirts to you crisp and clean, right? But maybe they noticed that you had a cracked button on one shirt, so they took the step of replacing that for you. Now that’s hospitality! We must always look for ways to elevate the customer’s experience.

Passing the Buck

So often as salespeople, we get caught up in the idea of, “That’s not my job.” We try to find ways to get clients and customers off our shoulders rather than going the extra mile to serve them in an exemplary manner. We default to, “I’m not the right person to help you with that; let me see if I can find someone else,” when what we should be saying is, “Why don’t you tell me about the situation. I’m not sure if I’m the one to help you or not, but either way, I’m going to make sure you’re taken care of.”

You’ll notice there is very little difference in the words used there, but the first is passing the buck where the second is saying that you’re here to weather the storm with the client and that you’re committed to helping them out.

Next time you’re taking an upfront application for a new client, focus on giving them all the information and tools you can on the front end. Instead of waiting until they have a billing issue or a question and then passing them off to another department, take the time to set expectations and answer questions for them at the beginning. Don’t make the customer suffer the fragmented experience of being passed from one person to the next if they have an issue. Commit to taking care of your client and making a lasting positive impression on them!

To the Customer, YOU Are the Company

Once a salesperson figures out something is “not their job,” they want to get it off their plate as quickly as possible. Salespeople wanna sell after all, right? But what you need to realize is that what you’re really selling is yourself! Clients are buying a product or service because of YOU.

A 2017 study found that 81% of people are willing to pay more for a better experience. In terms of your sales pipeline and referrals, the best way to guarantee future sales is to provide the kind of experience that will have people talking about you and the service you provide. It’s a no-brainer!

When someone has a standout experience—good or bad—they remember it. They don’t remember average. If you want to create a good customer experience, you have to provide excellent service to become one-of-a-kind in the crowd. When a customer gets a survey about service, if they have to ask themselves how their experience was, you didn’t make an impression on them. And therefore they’re unlikely to fill out the survey.

So many organizations now calculate their annual salesperson ratings with customer service heavily in mind. If your score isn’t high enough or you don’t have enough customers returning surveys, that’s a clear sign that you’re not making an impact. And it could mean you’re missing out on incentives and perks! Take a few minutes to consider what you can do today to start elevating the service you provide to clients to deliver genuine, memorable hospitality.

Until next time—go sell some stuff!


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