Let’s face it
Let’s face it
12 JUNE 2019 7:24 AM

Face-to-face engagement and old-fashioned hospitality can make a difference at your hotel.

In an industry built on personal engagement and attention, the human touch is always foremost. The ability to make someone feel personally welcome—often with a gesture as simple as a friendly smile or a handshake—has long been a part of the hotel business. From the front desk to the sales team, taking steps to forge that fundamentally human touch pays dividends.

In recent years, however, the proliferation of new tools and technologies has prompted an unwelcome shift. As lines of communication become more impersonal, and as it becomes easier and more efficient to get things done without seeing or speaking to someone in person, connection is all too often sacrificed on the altar of convenience. It feels like we have more ways to connect—but, in some of the ways that matter most, we are actually further apart than ever. They understand that as personal interaction becomes less frequent, it has, ironically enough, become more important than ever.

Savvy hotel owners and operators recognize this dynamic and are taking steps to address it. They have their work cut out for them, however. Because the concerning diminishment of personal engagement has accelerated as a younger generation of hospitality professionals—many of whom have become accustomed to a depersonalized digital standard for communication—enter the industry.

It’s ironic that one of the most popular communication apps of the modern age shares its name with a practice that some might mistakenly view as antiquated or unnecessary: FaceTime. Human connections matter. Personal relationships matter. And understanding how to re-emphasize personal engagement and recapture the irreplaceable benefits of face time is becoming an increasingly important skill for hotel professionals.

Technically speaking
Powerful and sophisticated new digital technologies have been an unquestioned plus for the hotel industry. New tech tools allow us to operate with new levels of efficiency and gain new insights into our markets and our properties. But it’s also changed the way we communicate. Our workforce is getting younger, and they communicate more often through their preferred methods of digital media and social platforms.

For all the game-changing benefits of smartphones and social media, there is a degree of anonymization and disconnection that begins to creep in when our primary means of communication becomes an impersonal digital thread. When fewer actual conversations take place face to face—or even over the phone—we lose something important.

One study has concluded that more than 90% of all communication takes place nonverbally—through body language. Is it reasonable to expect a sales team to optimize its results when it is working with only one-tenth of its communication potential?

Some hotel owners and operators are recognizing that, when it comes to communication, frequency is no substitute for quality. If they want to reverse this trend and consistently realize their full profit potential, they need to re-emphasize warmth, sincerity and genuine personal connections over the efficient-but-impersonal channels that new technology affords them.

The young and the restless
The lack of face time and reference for impersonal digital communications is most evident among younger employees—particularly those members of the all-important millennial demographic. The time to reverse this trend is now, before these younger employees ascend into positions of leadership and greater influence.

As remarkable as it sounds, many of these otherwise bright and promising young professionals have grown up without the face-to-face tools they need to engage with guests and fellow professionals on a personal level. Consequently, a significant number of hotel management companies are losing touch with the tried-and-true techniques that hotel professionals have used to connect with guests and sell hotels for generations.

A handful of forward-thinking hotel owners and operators are actively working to provide younger team members with a more effective and engaging personal communications toolbox. That kind of effective personal relationship development training is still all too rare, however.

What’s old is new again
How do we reverse this trend? As with so many things, it’s important to get back to basics. Remind your team about the importance of warmth and personal engagement. Recognize and reward employees who put those ideas into action. And don’t let opportunities for personal calls or face-to-face engagement go by the wayside.

Ultimately, it’s not about ideas, but about actions. Don’t just explain why a face-to-face conversation is important; provide specific training and techniques that ensure your employees integrate those concepts and practices into their everyday work.

Hotel management companies with personal training initiatives have already noted a significant and even dramatic uptick in 2019 and 2020 bookings. Hotel owners and operators also need to make sure they do their part by giving their teams the leeway they need to put those ideas into practice, including traveling to meet with important clients, agents and brokers, and taking the time to cultivate personal relationships that have a longer-term payoff.

Re-emphasizing personal engagement does not mean abandoning the extraordinary tools and technologies that have transformed the industry. But we can embrace the future without forgetting the lessons of the past. Hotel professionals who prioritize face time and personal engagement as a way to stay connected to guests, clients and professional partners will find themselves poised to prosper in an evolving and competitive hospitality landscape.

Chris Green is the COO of Chesapeake Hospitality. He brings more than a quarter century of successful hospitality operations experience to Chesapeake’s corporate team, including nearly a decade in the field at various Chesapeake-managed properties. For more information, visit https://www.chesapeakehospitality.com/.

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