Providing Great Service

Providing Great Service In Extreme Situations!

Sometimes, providing great service in extreme situations can feel impossible.  Through no fault of your own, you can find yourself feeling overwhelmed by demanding or ‘difficult’ customers, who feel they are entitled to your immediate attention.

It can be a large tour group who have just arrived at your hotel or restaurant, hungry and thirsty. Or because you are short-staffed due to job vacancies, teammates who are off-sick, call-offs or lean scheduling, and a line of customers or guests is forming.

What can you do to ensure that you are still providing great service in such extreme situations?  Especially when, in these instances, even careful planning and preparation may not result in the seamless service you would like to provide to all of your guests.

There are ways to ensure you are providing great service, even when faced with long lines and impatient guests.

Providing Great Service: Acknowledge the Guest

Make eye contact and nod. If it is possible say “I will be with you as soon as I can”.   A guest may start to feel anxious, or even angry, if you don’t even acknowledge their presence. Especially if other guests are also waiting to be served.

Some delicatessens and other high-volume operations alleviate this anxiety by issuing numbers and serving customers in order.


Providing Great Service: Smile … a lot!

Guests can easily detect tension in your body language but the act of smiling results in a different response from your body.

When guests detect tension from you, it can make them feel anxious and uncomfortable. A well-known communications study, suggests that 55 percent of a persons likeability comes from the visual effect that positive body language gives off.

Saying “I’ll be with you in just a minute” with a serious or critical expression on your face sends a far different message than if the same words were said with a smile.  It says ‘I’m not in control’ or ‘I’m not happy’ or ‘you are an added inconvenience to my already stressful day’.   These are not things you want your guest or customer to feel.

So, communicate early and often. Most guests will understand delays and other setbacks if there is adequate communication during their wait.

Flight delays are a classic example of this. When there is adequate and reliable communication between the gate agents and passengers, then passengers can make use of the delay to work, shop, or dine. It is when the communication is inadequate that passengers become restless and upset because they are unable to venture from the gate area for fear of the plane boarding without them.


Providing Great Service: Entertain.

Disney does a great job of entertaining its customers while they wait in long lines to experience a ride or other attraction.

By having characters interact with the guests or providing overhead flat screen TV’s designed to entertain, prepare, and/or engage the guest while awaiting the attraction, Disney effectively reduces the perceived wait time of its guests.


While it is impossible to anticipate every variable that contributes to an operation being “in the weeds,” there are times when planning is the difference between exceptional and poor service quality.

For instance, if you are expecting a large group due to an earlier reservation, then it should be staffed accordingly. Even when this requires some creativity; reallocating staff from other departments or locations, utilizing temporary labor, or adjusting employees’ work schedules.

If it is a logistical issue, rather than a staffing issue anticipate the processes that you will need to address before the group arrives.

In a hotel, the logistical issue may be the arrival process; guest registration, baggage handling, etc. Alert teammates to be ready to assist the group, and you!

A restaurant may suggest a prix fixe menu (a meal consisting of several courses served at a total fixed price) which will streamline the ordering process, resulting in more efficient table service during the event.

In the hospitality, tourism and service industries businesses benefit from receiving lots of customer traffic. And some days that customer traffic will be especially high. When the traffic comes, whether anticipated or not, you must be prepared to address and serve your customers in ways that reflect the service priorities of your business.

Acknowledge to yourself that it could be a long, busy and tiring day.  But instead of preparing yourself for ‘a long, busy and tiring day’ with the negative viewpoint of dread, flip that switch and think of it positively; ‘today I will have a long, busy and satisfying day.  I will get to use all my skills, experience and abilities to serve lots of customers or guests who will have a great and memorable experience’.


If you enjoyed reading this, please check out my article on Handling Complaints

What do you think?

Written by John Savage

John H V Savage, is the Executive Director of International Hospitality & Tourism Educational Programs (IHTEP Asia) has spent over 55 years in the International Hospitality Industry and worked in over 45 different countries for Multi-National, National & private owners.

John is a highly entertaining motivational lecturer, as well as a TV star in China for his 5Star Butler Course. John is also the author of the What They Can Never Teach You At Hotel School eBook series

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