How to Train Your Hotel Staff in Conflict Resolution

Every workplace experiences conflicts, and the hotel industry is no exception. With the new COVID-related health and safety standards, there are now even more areas for potential blood-pressure-raising conflicts and misunderstandings for hotel staff. For instance, with differing opinions on mask wearing and social distancing, it can be difficult to enforce related hotel polices.

If mismanaged or ignored, employee-guest conflicts can negatively impact customer retention, loyalty, and brand awareness. Yet, most conflicts can be resolved at their earliest stages by hotel staff. Here’s a guideline on how to train staff to avoid conflicts as well as to resolve any conflicts that arise.

Practice Active Listening

Today’s hospitality roles are rife with tension and conflict. When tension builds, guests, staff, and managers are too often singularly focused on winning the argument. Instead, it’s more beneficial to seek out an effective solution.

Training your staff to boost their listening skills can work to address your guests’ concerns. There are four main ways you can train staff to up their game when it comes to actively listening to customers.

Cultivate Compassion

A communication course can equip staff to extend empathy toward others. Find ways to help staff boost their social awareness and develop an appreciation for different perspectives. Even if your staff don’t agree with someone else’s opinions or choices, help them to understand that the other person is not 100% wrong.

Develop Inquisitiveness

The top negotiation course can prepare staff to ask open questions. Being genuinely inquisitive often leads to honest responses. In turn, honest answers make for a clearer understanding. Equip staff to begin from a position of curiosity rather than dismissiveness. That way, there’s more room for everyone to participate, not just the loudest personalities.

Listen to Understand

Quite often, people who are too quick to respond end up interrupting others mid-conversation. At times, people also tune out of the conversation to think ahead about their responses. This can lead to a foggy understanding of what the other person has said.

Train your staff to listen carefully to gain a better understanding rather than to work on a response. The Shapiro Negotiations Institute suggests that staff can employ commonly used negotiation tactics like taking a momentary pause before responding or posing follow-up questions to demonstrate their comprehension. In each situation, staff should strive to come away with new information that can be helpful in paving the way toward a resolution.

Be Respectful

In the heat of the moment, it’s easy to resort to dismissive and condescending language. For hotel staff, the use of corporate speak can come across to guests as detached and insincere.

Conflict resolution courses emphasize the importance of choosing your words carefully, especially where tempers are high. Also, responses need to be authentic and show honor to all sides.

Build Better Staff–Guest Relationships

When guests bring an issue to your staff’s attention, train your staff to consider it as a golden opportunity to improve client relations. If managed poorly, a guest complaint can escalate to a negative online review. Poor reviews can put a dark focus on your hotel’s reputation. With an effective negotiation course, you can train staff to build better relations with guests in these four ways:

Set Realistic Expectations

Ensure that your hotel marketing strategy presents realistic expectations. Promotional material should form an accurate reflection of your service.

Staff should typically avoid the use of superlatives such as “ultra-luxurious” or “best value” when negotiating with inbound guests. Hotel guests are more likely to have a positive experience if you under-promise and then over-deliver.

Identify Common Triggers

In many cases, guest–staff dissonance is more about how staff handled a problem than the problem itself. Train staff to be conscious of what they do or say that has the potential to touch a nerve with guests and escalate a situation.

Triggers may be verbal, vocal, or visual. For instance:

  • Interrupting a guest can be a verbal trigger.
  • Maintaining a stiff upper lip or appearing disinterested can be a visual trigger.
  • Speaking too slow can seem patronizing and be a vocal trigger.

Maintain a Positive Attitude

Remember, your staff are also likely to have triggers that could impact an already tense situation. Customer service courses train employees to keep their cool even during confrontations. Support your staff in keeping a positive attitude around handling difficult guests, and possibly turn a guest’s concern into an opportunity for improved service.

Provide Appropriate Solutions

When a guest lodges a complaint, understand the guest’s exact expectation and need. Train your staff to first put the guest at ease and to establish rapport. Ask staff to use company guidelines to find the best solutions to offer guests. However, consider encouraging staff to use their discretion to tailor a solution according to the situation.

Once you understand the problem, a sincere apology can be reassuring. When you identify a solution, provide it fast, since the longer it takes, the more upset the guest is likely to become. Rather than impose just one solution, ask staff to present a few options and negotiate with the guest to uncover the best win-win outcome.

In Closing

Training hotel staff in conflict resolution needs a unified approach. Hotel managers should provide staff with guidelines and training to empower them to resolve conflicts fast and effectively. When staff know how they should act in each situation, and that they have the backing of the management, they are likely to act with more confidence.

Christopher Stern

Christopher Stern is a Washington-based reporter. Chris spent many years covering tech policy as a business reporter for renowned publications. He has extensive experience covering Congress, the Federal Communications Commission, and the Federal Trade Commissions. He is a graduate of Middlebury College. Email:[email protected]

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