Customer service is the backbone of the hospitality business. Consistently great service can bring with it not just customers, but fans who tell their friends and return time and time again. On the other hand, bad customer service is like a virus that can spread at lightening speed and often takes only one case (outbreak) to render a happy customer a former one. Keeping employees engaged, enthusiastic, and inspired is paramount to dazzling guests, ensuring they return and spread the word about your business.
While there’s much to cultivating employee happiness, one factor that’s typically encountered on a daily basis is the trickle-down effect of engaging with managers. If this all important team member isn’t imparting positive vibes and inspiring their team, the results can be immediate and disastrous. Key managers need to be approachable, highly flexible individuals, with a keen ability to solve problems, compromise and motivate. If they’re anything less, they can unleash a poisonous attitude that goes viral, growing exponentially with each person it’s passed on to.
Here’s a practical example: Not long ago I was enjoying an afternoon drink in the public space of a mid-size boutique hotel in SE Asia. It was approaching shift change and I overheard the manager briefing staff that were about to take the floor. It seemed the main focus of the meeting was to let the group know of some less than impressive reviews on Trip Advisor regarding service. While addressing this issue at some point is important, the time she chose to deliver the message and the manner with which she did so was poorly conceived. Most importantly, as a guest I should not have heard or seen the meeting take place.
Over the next few hours it was evident the person working the front desk wasn’t happy, nor were the bartenders and the staff as a whole were obviously gossiping. Rather than inspiring change and improvement, the manager’s mood and timing created trickle-down dissatisfaction that impacted not only her team, but ultimately my experience. Bad moods and service are infectious!
Timing and message are critical to encouraging a team, inspiring them to love their job, and in turn, their guests. Here are a few elements to keep in mind before meeting with your staff to avoid spreading a trickle-down virus throughout your hospitality organization:
1) Deliver only positive or informative items at the start of shifts, such as favorable guest feedback or specials of the day. You can at times work in suggestions for improvement, but keeping the overall mood upbeat and positive is of prime importance before sending your team out into the service world. Lead this meeting out of eye and earshot of guests.
2) Share and discuss potentially upsetting feedback at the end of a shift, most importantly in a private setting that guests or other employees can’t see or hear. How your business operates should seem effortless and magical to customers and bad news shouldn’t impact other employees. Quarantine these sessions.
3) End meetings with clear action steps that can easily be measured. No one likes to get in trouble, so it’s much better to explain the issue in a private setting, agree there’s a problem, outline steps for improvement and an executable timeline.
4) Conclude with something positive to lift spirits. People remember first what they heard last. While you don’t want to whitewash the main point of the meeting, concluding with a positive aspect will help engender staff to working hard to improve the main issue of focus.
The hospitality industry is all about moods, gracious people and creating a welcoming atmosphere for guests. A sour attitude released at the wrong time from a manager will infect the next staff member in line, multiply its effect with each passing and have an even greater impact upon staff lower in the organizational chain (note – these are the individuals that most often deal directly with customers). Ensure your guest experience is next-level by fine-tuning your message and precisely timing its delivery.