Understanding guests starts with understanding staff
Understanding guests starts with understanding staff
24 JUNE 2020 8:59 AM

The hotel industry might be lagging behind others in terms of analyzing guest and staff behavior, but with these few tips, we can improve.

Just like social media platforms which analyze peoples’ behavior 24/7, the hotel industry must invest more time to learn and practice skills that will better help us understand our guests and staff.

Unfortunately, the hotel industry is lagging behind others in that regard.

If you ask me why, I don’t really have the answer. What I do know is that it’s not too difficult to apply a little science as well as a lot of common sense, listening and observing skills.

All of the above soft skills are what we are all supposed to have, particularly at the management level, where year after year we see, meet, talk and interact with people from all over the world.

This helps us become a modern anthropologist, one that has the ability to learn what people do and why they behave in a certain manner.

Learning these soft skills is essential not only to manage guests’ expectations but also to understand their needs and wants so we can customize their experiences and anticipate future behavior.

Those same tools and skills can be used to analyze our staff. I agree with this psychology journal which defines the following five goals of this science:

  1. Describe
  2. Explain
  3. Predict
  4. Control/influence
  5. Improve/change

Understanding staff behavior and applying the science of psychology is obviously not as methodical as the one mentioned. We see and interact with them daily, typically the turnover is not too high (30%-40%) which gives a lot more opportunities to put on the ‘’white coat’’ and become the ‘’doctor.”

Besides, we have (hopefully) been involved in the interview process, applied a psychometric or behavioral test and observed them during the probation period so we know we have made the right choice.

Of course, the basic soft skills like positive attitude, flexibility, teamwork etc., are essentials and are the ones we first look for in a potential candidate. Over time, a person’s behavior can change and it particularly depends on the influence of the team and the leadership.

This is when our role as psychologist enters and we apply the five goals to draw our conclusions. We have many opportunities to interact with our team members and ascertain if they are going through some challenges or need to be addressed. Here I will list some of the most common and how we can use them to the best advantage.

As leaders, it is also our duty to coach our teams. It happens often that a team member is going through some personal challenge or is having a conflict with another person. Here our role is to ensure we realign them, or we provide them with tools (soft skills or actions) in order to address their challenges or face the problem they are going through. During a coaching session, we have the time and opportunity to give the relevant assistance. As coach, we are also due to ensure we follow up and close the process.

Yearly appraisal
Most companies appraise staff at least once a year. This is another great opportunity to apply our skills. Listening, body language, communication and influence are the most important and are those which will help us achieve a constructive session, one where both parties are satisfied with the end results and where the employee can go back and work on the points raised by it.
It is important that after the session, unless the individual is poorly underperforming, the person will become more motivated than when entered it.

In some companies I had the additional opportunity to have regular one-to-one meetings with my immediate manager. This is something I enjoyed as it provided me with an opportunity to see my manager in a less formal environment. I still apply this today. These are informal meetings, normally done in a public space of the hotel (lobby, lounge or all-day restaurant if done for management level. Or it could be the staff canteen at a less frequented time or a small meeting room if for a more junior staff) and it helps to pulse check the individual. Again, similarly to appraisal, here are some opportunities for coaching and reorienting the individual in case of challenges. The opportunity here is to be able to fix small problems fast.

On-the-job feedback
For those who have heard of or read the book "The One Minute Manager" by Ken Blanchard, it provides you with an incredible array of tools and tips on how to address issues at work. One does not need to wait for the planned appraisals or for the problem to become too big to be addressed. A good leader should be able to identify when to approach a staff member, realize that something is wrong and address it on the spot. It takes only one minute. If you have not read the book, I recommend you do so.

Social behavior outside of the company
Monitoring behavior of staff even when outside work is nothing new. It is done by the HR team to see what’s been said or done about the company or monitor if the individual is sometimes openly looking for a job (in which case he/she can be addressed and coached accordingly to understand why). The use of social media and their reach is of great help even when recruiting an individual, for example. Digital behavior is indeed an extremely helpful tool to help us check what’s going on with our team. Even if someone can mistake this for an invasion of privacy. If the profile of the person is public and it’s done with the most positive intention, there is nothing wrong with it.

It’s evident that psychology is very much part of our daily life and I would not limit that only at work. I also want to stress that psychology is not only the job of HR managers. While they studied this discipline and probably master it better than most, we all are supposed to be HR in our own position. Hence the need to hone these skills in order to become better leaders.

We all know very well how many hats a leader must wear. In case you did not know, here is another one for you.

Rocco Bova is GM of Chable' Resort & SPA, a luxury wellness resort set in the Yucatan jungle of Mexico.

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