This is not going to be one of those posts where I’ve got it all figured out. These ideas are not perfectly formed, but it’s an idea I can’t shake. Writing often ends up helping me turn random ideas into slightly more cohesive concepts, so here goes.
Let me start with three stories.
Once upon a time a friend of mine had courtside tickets to a Nuggets game. He invited me to go. I, of course, said yes. It was very, very cool to be so close to the players and the action, but watching the game itself wasn’t any better than watching 10, 15, even 20 rows up. In fact, I’d say it was quite a bit worse.
The first time I used valet parking i was surprised by two things. First, I felt pretty cool handing my keys to some dude like I’d seen in the movies and letting him park my car. But after valeting a few more times, I realized that it really wasn’t any faster or easier or more convenient than parking myself.
The fanciest place I’d eaten at prior to 2011 was a ~$25/plate meal. Since then, that number has grown quite a bit, but what’s surprised me on every occasion is that the food is good, but it’s not that good. And in many cases, it’s no better than something that’d cost $10/plate.
As I’ve reflected on these moments, I’ve asked myself again and again:
“If I’m not buying something BETTER than the cheaper alternatives, what exactly am I (and many other people) buying when we purchase more expensive experiences?”
I think the answers that might come to mind are things like service or ambiance or quality. And while each of those words has merit, I think it’s deeper than that. I also think it’s much more simple than that.
Because the word I would use is importance.
The Value of Feeling Important
As I’ve thought over these experiences and observed myself and others around me choose luxury over middle-class, that’s the word I keep coming to.
Why did I like it when I sat closer than anyone else at the game even if I couldn’t see the action as well? It made me feel important.
Why did it seem so cool to haven someone else does a petty think like parking our car for us, even if it doesn’t save us time? It made me feel important.
I may not be right. I could be a universe away from the truth.
But I can’t help but see this pattern show up again and again around me. And once you look at some of these experiences through that lens…it becomes hard not to see it.
Like I said, this is a half-baked idea, but the reason I bring it up is because when you look at guest service not as “solving a guest’s problems” or merely “helping someone with something” but “making people feel important” a really interesting mental pivot results. The ideas and insights that come are things that don’t bubble up when the extent of the goal is a vague word like service.
So if you’re stuck on ways to increase service, maybe try thinking of ways to increase importance instead.
And if you totally disagree with me, say so! I’d love to hear how other people look at stuff like this.
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