Avoid these 7 phrases for hotelier success
03 NOVEMBER 2015 7:13 AM
If you think more carefully about the language of hospitality, guests will think more of you—and your properties.
These days, we are surrounded by bad manners everywhere. And in a hotel, bad manners by your employees often translate into poor guest experiences and disappointing performance by your property.
My perspective is heavily influenced by my strong family ties and extensive hospitality experience in South Africa, a country where behavior is usually guided more by a “we” view of the world rather than by the “me” lifestyle of Europe and the United States.
Africans are typically as welcoming, accommodating and trusting with visitors and strangers as they are with family and friends. This attitude of “humanity and kindness toward others” is captured in the Zulu word “ubuntu.” It’s a brotherly outlook that tends to result in more respectful interaction between human beings.
With this as background, consider the seven words and phrases below. We take them for granted in our everyday conversation, but they are rooted in negative attitudes—attitudes that if left uncorrected can distract us from our goal as hoteliers of creating loyal and happy guests.
Avoiding these words can build more goodwill—more “ubuntu”—with guests and colleagues, and that can build a more professional, more productive, more profitable organization.
1. “It is what it is”
This phrase has unfortunately evolved from being just words to now becoming a mindset. It rationalizes inefficient performance; it discourages creative problem-solving; and it concedes that a particular problem has defeated us.
You are passively accepting that “we can’t” rather than aggressively demonstrating that “we can.” And isn’t true hospitality about pursuing every opportunity to provide our guests with an engaging experience?
When you believe in a more positive attitude of “It is what we choose it to be,” you will no longer say or think, “It is what it is.”
2. “That’s against our policy”
Guests don’t know and don’t care what your policies are; they want a solution—and they deserve satisfaction.
When a guest is irritated and has a complaint, it is not helpful to display irritation or hostility. Instead of being inflexible and bureaucratic, show understanding and empathy.
Consider every complaint as an opportunity to improve your operations. For example, acknowledge the situation by saying, “I understand your disappointment. While our policies typically don’t allow me to do this, I believe this is an exemption. We can find a way to accommodate your request.”
3. “No problem” or “No worries”
Actually, there IS a problem and the guest IS worried; that’s why he or she has come to you. Perhaps you think you are being reassuring, but you are actually minimizing the guest’s concerns.
“No worries” has its origin in Australia where it means “that’s all right” or “sure thing.” The phrase is sometimes referred to as the “national motto” of Australia, symbolizing the relaxed attitude of that country. It certainly has its place in conversation, but not in hotels.
A phrase that started as easy friendliness and casual optimism now often degenerates into the sarcastic equivalent of “who cares.” For some people, the phrase also has become a half-hearted replacement for: “I am sorry” or for “you are welcome.”
So when you want to reassure, to apologize or to appreciate in business settings, don’t use this slang.
4. “To be honest” or “honestly”
People use these words to build trust and closeness when emphasizing a particular point. However, this language actually creates distance because it raises a red flag by making listeners wonder if you have been telling the truth in other statements.
Instead, be direct and be sincere, and you won’t need to add any unnecessary qualifiers.
This word typically conveys indifference and apathy with its meaning of “whatever you say” or “I don’t care what you say.”
In a dispute or argument, it’s a way to suggest you might be wrong without actually admitting it, just so the disagreement will come to an end.
The word is always annoying, impolite, and offensive. Avoid it. Period.
6. “For sure”
We often use this phrase to agree with someone, but it is a much too casual and informal way to speak with guests. When you mean “yes” or “certainly” or “definitely,” then just say so.
7. “My bad”
This phrase says, “I made a mistake, but I don’t care and I’m not apologizing.” You’re telling the listener to get over the problem and move on. It’s a statement and an attitude that are flippant, rude and unacceptable in hospitality.
Instead, acknowledge the problem and empathize about any inconvenience that was caused to the guest, then make things right.
As hoteliers, we spend a lot of time and money on providing proper amenities to our guests. Typically, we give considerably less attention and training to conveying a proper attitude to our guests, especially with the words we use.
If we think more carefully about the language of hospitality, I’m confident our guests will think more of us—and of our properties.
Euan McGlashan is co-founder and managing partner of Valor Hospitality Partners, a hotel development and management company based in Atlanta and London that owns and operates 30 properties in the U.S., Europe, and Africa, with an additional 10 sites in various stages of negotiation, development, or construction. Additionally, a related company—PMR Hospitality Partners based in Cape Town—operates several hotels and resorts in Africa.
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