‘Hospitality is just Love let loose’ – Joan Chittister
Hospitality may be positioned as the one industry which demands top quality engagement with clients, every time. For any property, the location, layout, room décor, food and landscaping are surely important, but the vibrancy and joie de vivre is infused by the management and staff.
Every engagement, whether verbal or non-verbal, demands the best skills in building rapport, respect and engagement. A bell boy walking past a waiting guest, a cleaner sweeping next to guests sitting in the lobby, the guard at the entrance, everyone who enters the guest’s space has to demonstrate the best behavior.
If a hotel is compared with a factory, then the product offered is the overall experience of the stay, is consumed as it is being produced and retained in the form of emotions. Emotions are difficult to influence and map, so the Hotel ambience and service as to stay ahead of the guest on every aspect, delighting with the unexpected.
A positive human interaction can dominate any negative factor, and add significantly to other positive factors. Last year, I was visiting Bangalore and as I was required to be near the workplace, booked myself into an Ola Hotel. When I checked into the Hotel in the evening, I was dismayed to see that the actual property was not even remotely resembling the pictures on the website. I was very irritated and could not think normally. Yet, I somehow noticed that the guy manning the front desk had a joie de vivre that belied his surroundings. He kept at it, and with each interaction, slowly transformed my feelings about the place.
The dominant emotions desired by a guest in a good Hotel are of convenience, comfort, security and a decent array of choices. Of course, a bit of extra is always welcome.
The infrastructure, ambience and facilities take care of these things, but if delivered with love by the ‘human touch’.
So, what competencies would be at the foundation of a loving and compassionate behavior by the staff in a Hotel?
Empathy: Every employee needs to demonstrate a higher than average sense of empathy. Empathy is different from sympathy and demands that we actually feel the emotions of the other person. A guest could be insecure, or demanding or just nonplussed as to what to expect. Understanding where the guest is coming from could make a world of a difference in how we engage with her.
Consistent demonstration of Values: Understanding and demonstrating the values of the Hotel by each employee would bring in a reassuring consistency about the services. The guest will feel comfortable about what can be expected every time, whosoever might be serving him.
Emotional Intelligence: An ability to ask questions, mirror the emotions of the guest and subtly transform them into positive feelings can be truly powerful. That requires the ability to understand how the other person is feeling, build rapport and create positive feelings. I have encountered staff at some hotels who skillfully use verbal and nonverbal language and shift emotions of guests within a few minutes.
Urge to serve: This is a paradigm which has to be cultivated and usually requires a deep and vibrant culture (where everyone is doing it, and talking about it). An urge to serve is about smiling and doing that extra bit when one has already done enough, is fatigued and end of the day’s shift. This ‘human touch’ which is akin to a mother’s love can create powerful emotional anchors in the mind of the guest, prompting them to personalize the staff (remember names) and return for more.
Every action starts with a thought and every thought emerges from a belief. A staff which has a deeply embedded belief system of empathy and service would never go wrong in delighting the customer, making them return and ask for more.