A Stranger, Only For A Day
This proverb, speaks volumes of the Hawai‘i I grew up in, and taught my children to engage in as well:
Ho‘okāhi no lā o ka malihini.
A stranger only for a day;
After the first day as a guest, one must help with the work.
—‘Ōlelo No‘eau, proverb 1078
If you were the guest of extended family, which happened a lot with the island hopping we would do —my mom was from Maui, my dad from O‘ahu, and after I married we would move to Hawai‘i Island— you didn’t even get the full day as a guest: Before it ended, you were expected to be in the kitchen doing the dishes for the dinner which had been prepared for your arrival. If there were younger children, you played with them and included them in your attentions, to give their parents, your hosts, a welcomed break from their care-giving responsibilities.
Over the following days of our stay, there was much more visiting than touring or sightseeing—talking story to catch up was more important. We weren’t entertained by our hosts, as much as we were woven into how they lived—and their lives weren’t put on hold for us. During our ‘visiting’ we watered their plants and pulled weeds; we helped wash their cars, and went along wherever they walked their dogs; we made our beds, and laundered our sheets and towels before we left. It was the ‘work’ of being a good guest, and it was work that was easy to participate in without being asked to.
As for hosts, whether they were extended family or not, they did not have unreasonable expectations of us. On the contrary, we considered them to be lokomaika‘i—possessing the generosity of good heart in welcoming us into their home so inclusively.
The Temporary Guest
I wouldn’t think much about this in business, until I started working at the Hualālai Resort in 1996. That would mark my 27th year of being employed in tourism and “the hospitality business,” yet it was the very first time I had a boss seek to reframe the customer service conversation I was accustomed to. In shaping our mission and then-vision, he wanted us to include what we expected of our guests —Who did we want them to be? As time went on, what would our polite, subtle-yet-intentional training of their behavior be, by merit of how we engaged with them?
*If you have my book, you can read more about the decisions we had come to at Hualālai within Chapter 7 on ‘OHANA.
This possibility of ‘the temporary guest’ was pretty radical thinking to me, for up to that point, I thought of hospitality as something you offered in a very unqualified and unconditional way, and from start to finish. We accepted all comers, whether we actually favored them or not. You just sucked it up, took them in, and dealt with it— whatever ‘it’ turned out to be, and working to keep all customer transactions as painless as possible.
And that was the rub; before Hualālai, I had primarily been trained to think of customer service as a transaction, instead of as the values-centered journey a new acquaintance will take, from visitor and guest, to customer or client, to a new to-be-named relationship worth keeping— a relationship of some sort of deeper expectation, involvement, and inclusion, until the stranger had become “one of us now.”
Even with The Ritz-Carlton Hotel Company, with whom I truly felt well-taught in the myriad ways of exceptional customer service, it was only about serving others, and not including them in a more participatory, and possibly, more meaningful way… The Ritz-Carlton opted for the utmost respect of ‘professional distance and decorum’ instead, and giving service meant we served.
A Guest’s Work, is the Work of Discovery
Up until Hualālai, I would only rarely experience how giving and rewarding it could be, to let a guest into our world, with our “deeper expectation, involvement, and inclusion.”
It differs now, however at inception, having a hotel on the resort was for temporary guesting, allowing visitors to imagine what it would be like to live there—we considered ourselves in the residential real estate business; our business model was not that of the hotel business. Thus, with Hualālai, ever-after relationship building became our normal way of doing business, and it was a win-win on all counts: Our guests, who were soon to be our residents, were treated as such, and they thrilled to it.
HO‘OKIPA hospitality is not just welcoming a guest TO your place, it’s welcoming them IN to your place.
Does anyone really want to remain only ‘a stranger’ when the ‘work’ the proverb refers to, is the work of discovery in a guest’s ‘locational experience?’
Thus, the HO‘OKIPA questions I pose to you this week, are:
- What do you expect of your guest and customer?
- Who would you like them to be for you going forward?
- Are those wants also part of your business model’s Ho‘okipa by Design?
- How is the service you give, conducive to encouraging your customer’s behavior, in ways they welcome and enjoy?
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Managing with Aloha, Bringing Hawai‘i’s Universal Values to the Art of Business
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Ho‘okipa is a Game Changer in Service.