Customer or Guest

When I do hospitality or guest service training, I ask my audience “What is the difference between a customer and a guest?” It is truly amazing at the replies that I hear, often including the one “that there is no difference”. I would disagree with this response because in my opinion, there is a big difference between a customer and a guest.

By definition, a customer is someone that purchases goods and services. By definition, a guest is someone that you spend time with in a social activity or interaction. So my question is, “When is the last time you invited a customer in your home?”

I would submit that Ticketmaster and has customers. You go online, pick what you want, pay with your card, and it shows up at your house. You have no interaction with any individual. You are a nameless, faceless customer.

A guest is someone with a face, a name, feelings, and emotions—just like your own. If you change your mindset from customer service to guest service, the dynamic automatically changes and makes that interaction feel more personal. Whether working at a restaurant, bar, club, hotel, entertainment venue, retail or anywhere else that your team forward-faces your guest, I recommend taking “customer service” out of their vernacular and replacing it with “guest service.”


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