12 Steps To Reclaim Your Spirit of Hospitality From The Grasp Of Cynicism
In recent weeks, I’ve conducted training for a broad range of both hotels and vacation rental companies. it is very evident that the summer of 2022 has been yet another stressful period for the frontline staff of the lodging industry.
There are several universal reasons for the added stress. For one, a lot of guests are still experiencing their first true summer vacation since summer of 2019, so they may have unrealistic expectations. The higher rates we all charge now elevates those expectations all the more. Plus, most lodging companies are still dealing with staffing shortages, so everyone is stretched thin.
Specific to VR companies, with the high turnover of inventory, new owners don’t yet understand how things work, plus they are likely carrying a much higher mortgage rate to worry over. For traditional hotels, ownership is pushing hard to recover losses experienced during the pandemic, and are therefore pushing rates while driving down expenses.
So, the timing seems perfect to address the need to reclaim the spirit of hospitality from the grasp of cynicism. As they say in virtually all 12-step programs, admitting you have a problem is the first step taken towards overcoming it. If you are still reading, perhaps now’s a good time to speak these words outline: “I have become a sometimes cynical (vacation rental or hotel) employee.”
Now grab your “white chip” and let’s get your spirit of hospitality back!
Step One: It’s Okay To Vent. Especially these days, but really at all times, those of us who work in guest (or customer) service all need our go-to person to vent on. Speaking as a married person, I suggest that this be someone other than your life partner! Perhaps a member of your “work-fam” who you can form a pact with to always be there for each other. Or, as I suggest to my clients, talk your boss into creating a “primal screen therapy closet” complete with a punching bag and soundproofing. But once you’ve vented, let it go, as retelling it can feel like reliving it. Be sure not to ruminate, which in psychology mean “to go over in the mind repeatedly.”
Step Two: It’s Okay To Laugh At Situations, But Not People. Laughter is surely a terrific stress reliever, and we all get a kick out of the “clueless questions” guests ask. Such as “What’s the weather going to be during my visit (that is months away)?” or “Are there sharks in the ocean there?” or “Are there any mosquitoes?” or “What should we bring to feed the bears?” Remember though, the more clueless that guests are, the more job security we have!
Step Three: It’s NOT Okay To Demean Guests. Avoid falling into the trap of resenting all guests based on the actions of a few. Otherwise, negativity will grow like the Kudzu weed, which those who have been in the Southeast USA know is an invasive species of vine that grows super fast and soon covers the entire tree canopy of the forest, blocking out all sunlight and killing everything underneath. Avoid thinking, “All guests these days only complain to get something for free.” Realize that most guests just want to be heard. That being said, organize a process to document negative guest interactions so that you can identify those whom I call the “full refund scammers” from the beginning, and later when they complain or threaten a bad review you can easily respond with the facts vs. having to do forensic research.
Step Four: Accept That Guest Complaints are a Numbers Game. How many properties or guest rooms does your company manage? How long do guests stay? How many guests per accommodation? For vacation rental companies, let’s say you have 100 properties in your rental pool with an average of 2.5 bedrooms per home, that is 250 bedrooms! How many guests per room on a sold-out night? Probably at least 500. For a hotel, let’s say you have 200 rooms and an average of 2.5 guests, that’s also 500 complaint opportunities per day! Remember that most guests do not contact us to say “Hello, I just called to say that everything is working perfectly today, there are no insects, and the place is spotless!” Chances are that the number of complaints per guest is actually quite low.
Step Five: Pandemics Bring Out Both The Best And The Worst In People. As I’ve been saying since March, 2020, the “meanies” have gotten meaner, while the nice people have gotten nicer! For every guest that turns the single, light blond hair hidden behind the top of the shower curtain into an all-caps text message that reads “THIS WHOLE PLACE WAS DISGUSTINGLY FILTHY!”, there is another guest who calls at 9:01 a.m. on Monday, in the middle of winter, who says “Good morning! We are SO sorry to bother you, but last night at dinnertime the heating went out. We didn’t want disturb anyone then, and we were able to find some extra blankets in the closet, but when you have time, is there any way you could please get someone to check it for us?”
Step Six: Understand That Human Emotions Can Swing In Either Direction! We are emotional creatures living in a physical world. Rather than rushing to judge others as mean, rude, or to label them with four-letter words I can’t say in this post, try to imagine the frustrations and challenges of travel. As the saying goes, everyone is dealing with something.
Step Seven: Make It Your Job To “Flip The Vibe” and Bring Out The Best In Guests. The spirit of hospitality flows like a satellite signal to a cell phone tower, and each of us sends a signal to everyone we encounter. Are sending out a weak analog signal? If so, you’ll be overpowered daily by the negative vibes of others. Instead, choose to blast out 5G Positivity! Walk into work focused on a mindset that you are going flip the vibe of everyone you encounter.
Step Eight: Use Hospitality Communications Tools. Greet others before they greet you. Hold eye contact for an extra second or two. If you do, a smile will break out naturally on both faces. Listen attentively and be fully present. Use impeccable telephone hospitality. With all the automation, guests call a lot fewer times these days and so each phone conversation may be the only human encounter they have with your “brand.”
Step Nine: Empathize Before You Apologize. The key to defusing an upset guest, staff member, or vendor-partner is to first empathize before you apologize. In doing so you provide them with a sense of validation. Start with, “I understand how you might feel” and then note the context of their situation, e.g. “I imagine I might feel the same way too if it had rained every day of my vacation.”
Step Ten: Apologize! An apology is not an admission of guilt. It simply shows that our intentions were good. When you pair this one with number nine, the guests often respond by saying, “Well, I know it’s not really your fault, and you are being so nice, but it has been a frustrating day…”
Step Eleven: Use Your Power Of Release Over Negativity. Don’t take the bait!. Don’t hand others the “remote control” to your emotional wellbeing. Instead, your persona of 5G Positivity will create a force-field to deflect their negativity.
Step Twelve: Start Your Day With Gratitude. Before you grab your phone from the nightstand and scroll through Facebook or your email, pause to be grateful for all you have. For your health, your family, your job, your co-workers, and your guests, yes, even those who present as difficult ones, as The Universe has placed them in exactly their intended spot on this day as It has placed you. Gratitude is truly a superpower. If you start everyday with gratitude, your power bank will hold a full charge all day long and can power your 5G Positivity.