The difference between hospitality and customer service might surprise you

The difference between customer service and hospitality may seem subtle, but they have different meanings.

The personal and professional concepts behind hospitality and customer service are easy to comprehend, however the difference between the two can seem murky. Here’s our attempt to explain the distinction. We’ll start with the formal definitions according to Oxford:

Hospitality noun

hɑspəˈtælət̮i/ ]

friendly and generous behavior toward guests

Customer Service noun

kʌstəmər ˈsɜːrvɪs/ ​

the help and advice that a company gives people who buy or use its products or services

Can you spot the difference?

Hospitality is a personality trait. Customer service is an act that satisfies a customer’s purchase experience. While both impact on the customer experience, hospitality isn’t necessarily tied to a business — it’s something anyone can do anytime, anywhere. Customer service is an inherent part of the business process that meets the customers’ needs. So while customer service is a mandatory business affair, hospitality takes grit, strength of character, and selflessness.

Hospitality is a personality trait. Customer service is a business process.

Hospitality extended from one person to another immediately implies one is a guest and one is a host. The acts and behaviors of a host are different from a customer service agent. The goal is to provide a unique experience — one that isn’t necessarily required in the customer service process. This is why there are various industries devoted to creating unique experiences — food/beverage, travel/tourism, spa/fitness, events/leisure, and hotel/accommodations.

While we could go on about these seemingly subtle differences, we look to others who’ve made a career in hospitality to explain it to us.

“Do what you do so well that they want to see it again and bring their friends.”

“Quality is never an accident. It is always the result of an intelligent effort.”

“Airbnb has proven that hospitality, generosity, and the simple act of trust between strangers can go a long way.”

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