Sometimes the best ideas for what we, or any industry, do comes from the outside. I have recently started reading Danny Meyer’s Setting the Table: The Transforming Power of Hospitality in Business which, as the title suggests, is aimed primarily at a business audience. In it he describes the process by which he created a highly successful collection of restaurants in New York City. The lessons he learned and the techniques that he used can transcend industry and be applicable even within something as unrelated as web development.
His basic premise centers around what he calls “enlightened hospitality.” This concept completely changes the importance placed on the various stakeholders for the overall enterprise. [I leave it as an exercise for the interested reader to track down the specifics. An entire management class could probably be composed from them, but that is beyond the scope of this blog.] It has proven enormously effective, though. Companies that Meyer has identified as embodying the spirit of enlightened hospitality, such as Chipotle and Google, have been among the most successful over the last several years.
Make no mistake about it, we are in the hospitality business. Students have a choice of where to attend, and it is largely on us to affect their decisions. (Note the Noel Levitz report referenced in my last post about university web sites being the most important influencer in a student’s decision.) Hospitality is something that comes natural at A&M. We are known for and pride ourselves on the friendliness of our student body. Talk to anyone in the visitor center and they will tell you that if we can get prospective students here for a visit the experience is often enough to cement their decision.
We need to convey that same openness. Too often we treat our web sites as a tool to inform our audience of what they need to know. Hospitality, though, is not a monologue. It is a dialog. We need to talk with our prospective students and parents, not at them. This creates the atmosphere where they feel included in the conversation, which is the first step in making them feel welcome and at home.
We are already, starting to put this into practice. I have briefly mentioned in the past that we are in the process of redesigning the university web site. The biggest change that I see in the new version will be that, if we do our jobs right, it will reflect this concept and be more inviting than the current version.
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