By Doug Kennedy –As we have explored in previous articles, many of those who staff our front desks and other operational positions tend to view travel as being fun, exciting and glamourous.
Yet, the travel experience can bring out the worst side of even the nicest guests’ personalities, and on top of that the very reason for travel is not always pleasant. For every guest in town for a wedding there is another visiting for a funeral; for every business traveler in town to hire staff for an expanding company, there is another there to terminate a colleague, settle a lawsuit or close a branch.
In addition to helping our staff better empathize and understand the real-life experiences being played out daily on the other side of the front desk, it is also important to make it a daily mission to bring out the best in others we encounter.
Whereas in it should be a service provider’s job to bring out the best in the guest or customer, most that I encounter seem to read my mood and react accordingly. Most often I try to be the upbeat, gregarious customer, and I usually receive great customer service from everyone I encounter. But sometimes I find myself distracted, disconnected and otherwise out of sync; in these cases I find that I am processed by the service provider like a widget on the assembly line in a factory.
Instead, we need to make it the mission of our service providers to bring out the best in everyone they encounter; to turn things around for even the detached and seemingly cranky individuals.
Truth be told, there is a certain percentage of people in the world who always come across as polite, always friendly and understanding, even when encountering problems. Even when something really bad happens, such as inadvertently checking them into an occupied room, they come back to the front desk and say “Hello again, really sorry to have to bother you, but when we got to the room there were already guests in there. Hate to be such trouble but do you mind switching us?”
I estimate these to be about 5% of the general population; it seems nothing can shatter their happiness and wellbeing. I call these the “VNPs” meaning the Very Nice People.
As many a wise man has said, there is a great balance in the universe. For sunrise there is sunset, for spring there is fall, and for every VNP there is also the complete opposite set of personalities; I simply refer to these as the “NVNP’s” meaning the Not Very Nice People.
These are the individuals whom we can never seem to satisfy; no matter what we do they will never be happy. You offer to comp a breakfast and they want a comp room; you offer to comp their room and they want you to comp all charges. Now wouldn’t it be nice if our caller ID systems identified these people when they phone in to book? Then our agents could see “NVNP calling on line 1” and answer “Hello? Hellooo? Sorry, can’t hear you!” Or we could put a cookie on their computers that would cause them to find us sold out when they go to book online.
There is just one problem with these fantasies though; we would then lose 5% of our revenues. As most finance managers know, this might represent the difference between actually making a small profit at the end of the tax cycle versus breaking even. In other words, we need their business, too.
What we really need to be doing is training our staff to be thankful for the VNPs out there and celebrate them every day, and at the same time to be accepting of our share of the NVNPs. After all, without the latter we would not appreciate the former.
Most importantly, we need to train them that it is their job to focus on bringing out the best side of the personalities of the 90% of us who fall somewhere in between. Catch us on the right day, say the right things to start guest interactions, and you can bring out the best of our personalities. Alternatively, make the wrong remark on the wrong day and you just might trigger a negative reaction that makes us upset, frustrated and angry.
If we are honest with ourselves, most of us will admit we fall into the 90% in the middle; I know I do.
A perfect example happened to me recently when I had a problem with my Mastercard debit card. I was out to lunch with my teenage son Adam at our favorite Mexican restaurant that we go to nearly every Sunday; as part of our routine we go to the same place and order the same items, then we take time to talk about the past week and I catch up on his Instagram postings. The entire staff knows us by name and even memorizes our order. Can you imagine how embarrassing it was when my card declined?
Now this has happened to me fairly regularly, especially after an intense period of travel when I often find myself in as many as eight cities in 10 days; I’m sure they cannot imagine a real person travels that much. Being admittedly upset, I called my bank and I’m sure I sounded a little gruff and frustrated when I barked out, “Why did my card decline?”
Yet, my service provider stayed on point. He maintained his pleasant attitude and tone of voice. He proceeded to calmly ask if I had taken out $500 at the ATM each day for the least three days, which I had not. My card had been skimmed! All of the sudden I transformed back into the “VNP” mode and began thanking him profusely for looking out for me.
As in this example, when we train our staff to stay on point, to rise above the negativity and to always make it their job to turn things around, our guests will have a better day that sets the tone for a better overall stay. They will be more likely to give us positive guest reviews and to make social media postings about us.
Yet, this is also self-serving; when we bring out the best in others it also brings out the best in our own personalities. Come into work with a positive attitude, greet everyone you encounter warmly and sincerely, express empathy for and an understanding of what guests go through, and you will spend the vast majority of your day meeting nice, wonderful human beings we call guests.
Doug Kennedy is President of the Kennedy Training Network, Inc. a leading provider of customized training programs and telephone mystery shopping services for the lodging and hospitality industry. Doug continues to be a fixture on the industry’s conference circuit for hotel companies, brands and associations, as he been for over two decades. Since 1996, Doug’s monthly hotel industry training articles have been published worldwide, making him one of the most widely read hotel industry training writers. Visit KTN at www.kennedytrainingnetwork.com or email him directly. firstname.lastname@example.org