How to train your hotel staff on conflict resolution

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Every workplace experiences conflict, and the hospitality industry is no exception. With new COVID-related health and safety standards, there are now even more areas of conflict and misunderstanding that can raise blood pressure for hotel staff. For example, with differing opinions on mask wearing and social distancing, it can be difficult to enforce related hotel policies.

If poorly managed or ignored, employee-guest conflicts can have a negative impact loyalty of the clientele, loyalty and brand awareness. Yet most conflicts can be resolved in their early stages by hotel staff. Here is a guideline on how to train staff to avoid conflicts as well as to resolve conflicts that arise.

Practice active listening

Hospitality roles today are fraught with tension and conflict. When the tension builds, guests, staff and managers are too often singularly focused on winning. Instead, it pays to look for an effective solution.

Training your staff to strengthen their listening skills can address your customers’ concerns. There are four main ways to train staff to improve their game when it comes to actively listening to customers.

Cultivate compassion

A communication course can allow staff to empathize with others. Find ways to help staff build social awareness and develop an appreciation for different perspectives. Even if your staff disagree with someone else’s opinions or choices, help them understand that the other person is not 100% wrong.

Develop curiosity

An efficient negotiation course can prepare staff to ask open-ended questions. Being really curious often leads to honest answers. In turn, honest answers lead to a clearer understanding. Equip staff to start from a position of curiosity rather than contempt. This way there is more room for everyone to participate, not just the loudest personalities.

Listen to understand

Very often, people who react too quickly end up interrupting others in the middle of a conversation. Sometimes people also disconnect from the conversation to reflect on their responses. This can lead to a fuzzy understanding of what the other person said.

Train your staff to listen carefully for better understanding rather than working on an answer. Staff can use common negotiating tactics such as pausing before answering or asking follow-up questions to show understanding. In every situation, staff should strive to come away with new information that can be helpful in paving the way for a resolution.

Be respectful

In the heat of the moment, it is easy to resort to contemptuous and condescending language. To hotel staff, the use of corporate speech may seem detached and insincere to guests.

Conflict resolution classes emphasize the importance of choosing words carefully, especially when moods are high. In addition, the responses must be genuine and honor all parties.

Build better relationships between staff and customers

When guests bring an issue to the attention of your staff, train your staff to see it as a golden opportunity to improve customer relationships. If handled poorly, a customer complaint can escalate into a negative online review. Bad reviews can damage your hotel’s reputation. With an effective negotiation course, you can train staff to build better relationships with clients in these four ways:

Set realistic expectations

Make sure your hotel marketing strategy has realistic expectations. Promotional material should accurately reflect your service.

Staff should generally avoid using superlatives such as “ultra-luxurious” or “best value” when negotiating with incoming 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, the dissonance between customers and staff is more about how the staff handled an issue than the issue itself. Train staff to be aware of what they are doing or saying that has the potential to strike a nerve with clients and make a situation worse.

Triggers can be verbal, vocal, or visual. For example:

  • Interrupting a guest can be a verbal trigger.
  • Maintaining a stiff upper lip or appearing disinterested can be a visual trigger.
  • Speaking too slowly can sound condescending and be a vocal trigger.

Maintain a positive attitude

Remember that 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. Help your staff maintain a positive attitude when dealing with difficult customers and eventually turn a customer’s concerns into an opportunity to improve service.

Provide appropriate solutions

When a customer files a complaint, understand exactly what their expectations and needs are. Train your staff to put the customer at ease first and build relationships. Have staff use company guidelines to find the best solutions to offer customers. However, consider encouraging staff to use their discretion to tailor a solution to the situation.

Once you understand the problem, a sincere apology can be reassuring. When identifying a solution, deliver it quickly, as the longer it takes, the more likely the customer will become upset. Rather than imposing a single solution, have staff present a few options and negotiate with the customer to find the best win-win outcome.

In closing

Training hotel staff in conflict resolution requires a unified approach. Hotel managers must provide staff with direction and training to enable them to resolve disputes quickly and effectively. When staff know what to do in each situation and have the support of management, they are likely to act with more confidence.

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