Hotels and the ‘Theatre’, What Kind of Show is Yours?
I was recently holding an interview for a Front Office role and found myself in an interesting discussion with one applicant in particular. We were going over the basics of our industry since, being a student, he had very limited experience. As we were talking, the concept of being on stage came up as the best way to illustrate front line roles.
Have you ever heard the typical analogy between our industry and show business? Our public areas are a stage where we perform; we are all actors. Such high visibility among all our customers demands appropriate uniform being worn, high grooming standards, good posture and correct behavior. So this is what we were going over in the interview, highlighting that we cannot have such thing as a ‘bad day’ just as artists going on stage (theatre, opera, concert …) cannot either; their show must go on.
So why is it that we often witness colleagues who behave like nobody can see them? Is this them being oblivious or not being trained adequately? The team sees them, customers see them too. Does it mean that we should be acting? Putting up a show doesn’t necessarily mean acting, but playing a part. In theatre, you have to slip into your character’s shoes (and skin). In Opera, you cannot because you’d rather focus on your singing technique. So in hospitality, I believe that being real, genuine, is probably our best card if we want to touch our customers. I would emphasize this even more so, now that travelers are more informed than ever before (Lovelock & Wirtz, 2010; McCarthy, Stock & Verma, 2010). I always insist with my team to just speak the truth; what is the point in telling a lie?
Maybe this is my old fashioned upbringing, but truth always delivers good; there is no happy ending with lies. And as you’re smiling and thinking I am getting too old, I have a typical example to prove my point! HA! Just a few weeks ago, our Guest Relations used a very common lie that (too) many hotels use for booking out. They said that the room the guest wanted was ‘out of service’ (the usual “flooded”, “electrical fault” etc. don’t tell me you never used it). Then the customer saw another customer coming out of this very room … lies always bite you back! What is the point? Of course, it was difficult to tell the complaining guest that she couldn’t have the room she wanted because of repeated errors of colleagues! She wouldn’t be interested in hearing it anyway.
Nevertheless, imagine how her trust in the hotel team was dented in the end? More than a few dents, it was a complete train smash. And she was coming back on this stay, just for us to make it up to her (after a previous complaint, months before). Silly mistake that I would qualify as a trainee’s mistake. How did I turn her around then? I wrote a simple email, straight talking from the heart, and it reached the desired goal. The colleague hasn’t really yet appreciated that her lie was behind my whole hand on heart confession, that – at the end of the day – a lie is a lie. Putting a dubious show in front of our customers doesn’t fly. Playing your real part in a good show builds relationships.
Now, back to every day operations, too many hoteliers don’t realize what ‘leading by example’ means. Managers are also on stage when it comes to their team. We are all dependent on each other playing their parts. Any deviation by one person, hurts the whole team. And this actually works at various levels: on stage, in customer-facing situations, and also in the back of operations. When one person slacks, others suffer. So let’s play our very own part, shall we? Let’s put on a good show, our customers pay for it, don’t they? Did you think they come only for a bed and a good shower? What about considering how emotions, internal branding, culture, local ‘flavours’ should influence how you play your role? Come on, think again.
So, what kind of show is yours?
Lovelock, C. H. & Wirtz, J. (2010). Services Marketing. Upper Saddle River, NJ.: Prentice Hall.
McCarthy, L., Stock, D.& Verma, R. (2010). How Travelers Use Online and Social Media Channels to Make Hotel-Choice Decisions. Ithaca, NY. Accessed through: http://www.hotelschool.cornell.edu/chr/pdf/showpdf/chr/research/socialmediaverma.pdf: Centre for Hospitality Research – Cornell.