This report aims to address a typical interpersonal communications problem.
The scope of study is limited to the hospitality industry, in particular the hotel sector. Specifically, we shall be investigating service encounters at a hotel front office. However, this issue can happen at any area, such as food & beverage establishments, where service staff would have to interact with customers.
1.1 About the Hospitality Industry
The hospitality industry belongs to a broad category within service industry that includes lodging, event planning, theme parks, transportation, cruise, and additional fields within the tourism industry. It is a multibillion-dollar industry that depends on the availability of leisure time and disposable income of travellers. A hospitality unit such as a restaurant, hotel, or an amusement park consists of multiple parties such as facility maintenance and direct operations (servers, housekeepers, porters, kitchen workers, bartenders, management, marketing, and human resources etc.).
1.2 Background of Swissotel the Stamford
Swissotel The Stamford, is strategically located in the prime district of Singapore. Revered as Singapore’s leading business hotel and one of the tallest hotels in Southeast Asia, with over 1,200 exquisitely designed guestrooms, luxurious suites, guest can be extravagantly treated to a wide array of five-star service offerings which includes world-class shopping, luxury dining and entertainment experience. In addition, a venue comprises over 70,000 square feet, equipped with latest technologies and ancillary business services, Raffles City Convention boost the capability of attracting business opportunities of all sizes.
Swissotel The Stamford aims to infuse Swiss heritage in its organisational competence, promptness in service delivery, reliability in service standards, attention to detail and while providing a safety staying environment. The goal is to ensure that each guest enjoys an unparalleled service experience.
Being in the highly interactive hospitality industry, staff will have to face guests all the time. Thus, it is bound to be a time when staff will encounter with unpleasant situation such as dealing with angry or upset guests. Such situations can be easily seen happening in frontline operation. Undesirable emotions are often involved as communication and interaction between both parties turned bad after all the complaints and arguments. Despite receiving negative and nasty words from guests, staff are not allowed to respond back with the same attitude as it will adversely affect the image of the hotel. Therefore, the interpersonal communication problem identified is about how service staff could manage personal feelings while having to deal with angry guests in professional manner.
The objective of this training video is to educate front desk officers on the skills that enable them to handle guests in difficult situations. When equipped with these skills, staff will be more composed in facing the problem, and dealing it with more confidence. Staff can also be more independent to answer the guests directly instead of seeking for help from managers. This video also act as a guideline that staff can adhere to, aligning it with the hotel standard of service. This allows the hotel to standardise the way staff respond to guest. This will help to minimise aggravating the situation further due to inconsistent information provided by staff.
Therefore, the training video should be short and concise with information that is easily understood and remembered by staff.
Learning from real life experiences is determined to be most effective especially for knowledge which is more hands-on based. As such, the team will be conducting face-to-face interview with experienced hotel frontline staff. The primary research is to gather information by listening to the past stories of interviewee and understand how each individual handles such difficult encounters. On top of that, secondary research will be carried out to obtain information on general conflict resolving techniques which have been proven to be effective in the industry.
The training video will address the two scenarios that are likely to happen at front office – guests complaints and agitated guest that uses verbal abuse.
5.1 Handling Guest Complaints
The “L.E.A.F.” approach is suggested to be use when handling with guest complaints. “L.E.A.F.” stands for listen, show empathy, act and follow up. Firstly, staff should listen attentively to the guest’s complaint before responding. Attentiveness could be shown by standing up straight and maintain an eye contact with the guest. Nod subtly as a form of acknowledgement to what the guest had said. Secondly, showing empathy towards guest when listening to the complaint. Staff should understand from the guest point of view and be more understanding. Thirdly, staff can act in a manner that help to resolve the complaint. The staff can explain to the guest that the complaint will be brought up to the relevant department to conduct an investigation on the matter. Lastly, there must be a follow up to the complaint. The staff must remember to hone her words to communicate with the relevant department regarding the complaint. Front office manager should also be informed of the situation. When the final investigation report is out, the guest must be informed on the result as a form of follow up.
5.2 Handling abusive customers
Handling customer who refuses to accept the explanation and becomes abusive
- KEEP CALM & COOL
è Remain calm and composed if customer continues to be abusive
è Maintain non-aggressive eyes contact to show that you are listening but do not make any verbal response
è Look out whether customer is carrying any offensive object or sign of attack
- CONTROL YOUR EMOTIONS
Control your emotions and behavior by using “self-talk”:
è Reminding yourself you are a professional and know how to deal with the situation in a right manner
è Telling yourself you won’t allow another person to ruin your day
è Telling yourself you want to resolve the problem quickly and not throw fuel into the fire
è Knowing that you will feel proud if you can handle the situation well
- FOLLOW UP ACTION
è If customer continues to be difficult, inform customer, “Sir/Ms, there are other customers waiting in line. I will let the manager know about your feedback. If you continue to be difficult, I will have to call the security.
è If the customer accepts, carry on with your work, and attend to her later. If the continues to abuse, call the security or superior for advice.
As mentioned above, the suggested solution for handling complaints is an acronym that spell out as “L.E.A.F” while the solution for handling angry guests is an easy three-steps method. These solutions are short and simple which makes it easy for staff to internalise. Through the video, staff will have the opportunity to watch a reenactment of the proper way of dealing the situation. The visual aid will help to enhance the learning experience by allowing them to know how to carry out the skills.
With the video, staff will have the knowledge in answering to guests in difficult situations. Staff will thus handle the situation in a standard format, ensuring that it follow according to the hotel standard operation procedures. Not only it elevates the professionalism of service staff, it also uphold the image of the hotel.
In short, the proposed training video will be effective in imparting skills and knowledge to hotel service personnel in resolving interpersonal communication conflicts which involve emotions.