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Train Your Hotel Team To Use The Language Of Hospitality: Part One

By Doug Kennedy
March 19, 2012

Although there is no doubt that non-verbal signals such as eye contact, body language, and facial expressions strongly help convey meaning during human interactions, the words we choose also impact interpersonal communications.  Therefore it’s important to help your hospitality and guest contact staff to choose their words carefully when interacting with guests, prospects, and even their “internal” customers from other departments. 

Today’s hospitality associates have the most advanced technology at their fingertips for “processing” guests through the hotel systems.  Also, driven by real photo postings and online guest reviews at TripAdvisor and elsewhere, hotel owners and operators have certainly put forth the best “physical product” when it comes to guest rooms, meeting space, and public areas.

Despite all these improvements, there’s still one area of opportunity at most hotels I stay at these days, and that is to train all guest contact associates to use the language of hospitality. 

All too often I find myself walking into the lobby of a luxury hotel, towing my luggage being greeted by a raised eyebrow and nod followed by “Checking’ in?”  Even where I’m properly welcomed by service providers with a warm smile and eye contact, often the words I hear being used present a less than professional and positive first impression.  

If you are looking to take your team to even higher levels of guest service excellence, here are some examples of words and phrases to better-convey the spirit of hospitality:

Not That:  “Checking In?” or “May I Help The Next Guest In Line?” 

Say This:  “Hello! Welcome to the (name) hotel.  Do you have a reservation with us?” 

Nothing is more de-personalizing to a hotel arrival experience than to walk into a hotel lobby towing your luggage and to be greeted with these phrases.    If you are unsure whether or not the guest needs to register, say “Good afternoon.  Welcome, how may I assist you today?”  Replace “May I help the next guest?” by establishing eye contact with the next person in the queue and saying something such as “Welcome sir, you may step up so I can assist you…”

Not That:  “We Have Like A Pool and Hot Tub On The First Floor.”

Say This:  “Our Pool and Hot Tub Are On The First Floor.”

Avoid describing your hotel product with the phrase “like.”  This word diminishes the description by implying uncertainty.  Sound more confident by accurately describing what it is.

Not That:  “No Problem” 

Say This:  “It was my pleasure.”  Or “You are most welcome.” 

Even at four and five star hotels, “no problem” seems to be the most frequent response I hear after genuinely thanking a hotel service provider.  Although this has become part of the vernacular for some time now, when you think about it what this phrase actually says is “Normally sir, this is a problem, but for you we made an exception.”  Although few if any guests will actually be offended by this harmless remark, your staff will sound so much more eloquent when they simply respond “You are most welcome” or “It was our pleasure.”   

Not That:  “Just one?” 

Say This: “Welcome To (Restaurant Name.)  Are You Ready To Be Seated?” 

As a business traveler I often find myself walking up to a host or hostess stand, my newspaper or book neatly tucked away, and being greeted by “Just one?” Even when said in a friendly manner it still makes me want to frown and reply sadly, “Yes, just one.  No one wants to have dinner with me tonight.”  Instead avoid reminding single patrons they are dining alone and greet them by saying “Hello, are you ready to be seated?” 

Not That:  “I’ll have to check on that for you.”

Say This: “Let me check on that for you.”

Over the years I’ve heard associates from all departments saying this, often in a helpful tone and with the best of intentions.  Yet it does make the guest feel like a bit of an interruption to our “more important” tasks of running our hotels.  A better approach is to say “Let me check on that for you.”

Not That:  “I Think It Is.” Or “It Should Be.”

Say This:  “It Is.” Or “I Will Verify That Right Now…”

When guests hear service providers make statements such “I’m pretty sure…” it leaves doubt in their mind about receiving the accurate and sometimes vital information they need.  Some service providers seem to use this as an automatic disclaimer, even when they are certain of what they are saying such as “The breakfast should open at 6:30am.”  A better approach is to say with conviction “It is.” or if you don’t know for sure, assure them you’ll find out and let them know in a timely manner. 

Not That:  “I’m Only Just The…”  

Say This: “Let Me Help You…” or “Let Me Find someone to Assist You.” 

Whenever I hear a hotel staffer say “I’m only just…” it seems to diminish their status and again sounds like an excuse-making disclaimer.   Yet at great hotels it doesn’t seem to matter who I voice my request to; they either take care of it directly, or convey it themselves to the appropriate person or department.

By addressing examples such as these at your next meeting or training even, you’ll help ensure that your hotel staff will professionally convey a message of pro-active, guest-focused hospitality during each and every guest interaction. 

In Part Two of this article, I will provide some fun ideas for training your staff at your next pre-shift or departmental meeting.  Also in Part Two I will share additional examples of common phrases frequently used, along with more eloquent replacements that convey the language of hospitality.  Readers are encouraged to contribute their own examples by emailing me directly at:

Doug Kennedy is President of the Kennedy Training Network, Inc. a leading provider of customized training programs and telephone mystery shopping services for the lodging and hospitality industry.  Doug continues to be a fixture on the industry’s conference circuit for hotel companies, brands and associations, as he been for over two decades.  Visit KTN at:   Read his travel blog at ontheroad.kennedytrainingnetwork
or email him directly: 

Doug Kennedy
Kennedy Training Network, Inc.
1926 Hollywood Boulevard, Suite 203
Hollywood, FL  33020
Office: 954.981.7689
Mobile: 954.558.4777


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Also See: What Is The Difference Between Hospitality Excellence and Mediocrity? / Doug Kennedy / January 2012

Front Desk Upsell Training Can Increase RevPAR / Doug Kennedy / October 2011

Hotel Training Budget Reflects Belief Systems / Doug Kennedy / September 2011

Hotel Voice Reservations: The Forgotten Channel / Doug Kennedy / August 2011

It's Time For Today's Technology-Focused Hotel Salespeople To "Go Old School" / Doug Kennedy / July 2011

Don’t Let A Culture Of Profitable Mediocrity Infiltrate Your Hotel / Doug Kennedy / June 2011

Hospitality Examples Observed From TSA Airline Security Staff / Doug Kennedy / May 2011

The Hotel Front Desk Is a Distribution Channel / Doug Kennedy / April 2011

Train Your Sales Agents To Execute Your Hotel’s Rate Strategies / Doug Kennedy / March 2011

Savvy Hoteliers Still Make Voice Channels A Priority / Doug Kennedy / February 2011

True Hotel Sales Superstars Love “Clueless” Callers! / Doug Kennedy / January 2011

What If A Hotel Brand Could Ask The Same Question Southwest Airlines Asks In Their New Ad? / Doug Kennedy / December 2010

Hoteliers Should Utilize New Tools For Measuring Hospitality and Guest Service Efficiency / Doug Kennedy / November 2010

Training Your Team To Master “Channel Conversion” Techniques / Doug Kennedy / November 2010

Upselling Strategies For Your Front Desk and Reservation Teams / Doug Kennedy / September 2010

Training Is Key To Turning “Desk Clerks” Into Front Desk Salespersons / March 2007

It’s Time To Give Hotel Guests What They REALLY Need and Want Daily! Key Basics Some Hotels Still Fall Short On / Doug Kennedy / September 2006

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