I LOVE to dance! In fact, get me out on a dance floor and I'm there until the last song is played! I used to be the same way when it came to handling guest complaints. . .I would dance around issues and argue with the guest ensuring I had the final word. It didn't take me long to realize that this kind of attitude and action is detrimental to an organization's operation especially one that is known for its service like a hotel and restaurant.
Yes, guests may approach an employee ready to argue, but if you think about it, the argument can only begin if the employee follows suit. It's important that we all think before we speak and not fall into a dance of back and forth (the tango) with the guest. It takes two includes not only the guest but the employee!
At a very young age, my employer entrusted me with making sure our guests were happy and I took that responsibility lightly. Guests would approach the front desk or stop me in the hallway and I immediately went on the defensive. I even had a language of my own I used to NOT acknowledge the guests concern. Also, Sundays (our biggest day for check-outs) was labeled "No Refund Sunday!" Here's how my fancy footwork would begin:
"Why didn't you contact the front desk last night when you first noticed the leaky faucet?"
"Did you request a rollaway when you made your reservation?"
"So, you're telling me that you're room was dirty and you still stayed in it?"
"I'm sure no one told you movies were free!"
"Non-smoking is a request, not an obligation the hotel has to uphold!"
A two minute check-out at the front desk where I worked would turn into an hour long interrogation as I asked the guest numerous questions trying to get them caught in a lie. My hope was that they would just give up and walk away and my dance routine would end! Although, I had gotten really good at this, my actions resulted in many guests walking away dissatisfied or vowing never to return. No, it wasn't just me - I had actually learned the tango from my supervisor. But when comment card scores dropped and guest complaint letters increased, it was evident I had to either get off the dance floor or come up with a better routine!
Shortly thereafter, my department launched an internal campaign based on the slogan "There is no such thing as a SCAM Artist." The purpose of this was to get us all to believe every guest's issue is as important as the next and should be acknowledged and treated as such. Not everyone sets out to tango with a hotel or to "get over" on us, so we shouldn't approach each situation ready to dance. Equipped with a new attitude and a new outlook on the art of dance, I changed my routine:
"I understand the leaky faucet kept you up last night."
"It is unfortunate a rollaway was not available at the time of your request."
"There's no excuse for your room not being ready."
"I'm sorry there was a misunderstanding concerning the movie charges."
"What can we do to make things right?"
Dancing can be fun when the music is right and the dance floor is crowded! But, when it comes to serving the guest, leave your slick moves behind. Remember it takes two to tango, the argument doesn't have to begin if you make the right moves.
Jokima Hiller, MBA, Hospitality & Restaurant
Management Program Coordinator
Faculty Advisor, Travel & Tour Club
The Chef's Academy on the Web
The Chef's Academy on Facebook
The Chef's Academy on Myspace
“We Change Lives, One Student at a Time!"