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

By Doug Kennedy
May 4, 2012

This article is a follow-up to my last article entitled: Train Your Team To Use The Language of Hospitality Part One

As we have said, there is no doubt that non-verbal signals such as eye contact, body language, and facial expressions strongly help convey meaning during human interactions.  Yet 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.    In the last article we explored numerous examples commonly used words and phrases along with better alternatives.  Thanks to all of the readers who submitted their additional examples of words and phrases to focus on:

Not That:  “You’ll have to….” 

Say This:  “May I suggest that you…” or “May I ask you to…”

When some guests hear the words “You’ll have to,” it brings out the 17 year old rebel teenager in them and they draw a line in the sand and it can often lead to one of those “Oh no I won’t!” – “Oh yes you will!” deadlocks.   A much better response can be elicited when we use the phrase “May I suggest that you…”

Not That:  “I can’t believe they put you in this  room!” or “They were supposed to fix this problem last week!” 

Say This:  “I apologize for the inconvenience.  Let’s see what we can do for you now.”

The hotel engineering, maintenance, and housekeeping departments are faced with the unique challenge that the majority of their guest contact comes during circumstances where something has gone wrong.  It is important that they express support of other departments/divisions and avoid placing blame.  A few words of empathy and a simple and sincere apology can go a long way in defusing emotionally intense guest encounters and turning things back around for the rest of their stay.

Not That:  “Sure.”

Say This:  “You are most welcome!”

Similar to the phrase “No problem” addressed in the previous article, this phrase is also used in response to a guest’s statement of thanks.  When guests make comments such as “Wow, thank you so much for your excellence help on this,” instead of responding “Sure,” train your staff to simply say “You’re most welcome” or “It was our pleasure to assist.”

Not That:  “Yes?”

Say This:  “Hello, welcome!  How can I assist you today?” 

Similar to the commonly used greeting statement at registration of “Checkin’ in?” addressed in the previous article, I have twice in the last month been greeted at the front desk with the word “Yes?” usually with a raised eyebrow and nod.  Much better to use a welcoming statement to greet the guest, even if they are there just to ask a question.

Not That:  “GoodafternoonthanksforcallingBrandXHotelthisisDoug.”

Say This:  “Good afternoon, thanks for calling Brand X Hotel, this is Doug?”

Some frontline associates use the right words, but they speak  so quickly and without any pauses that the greeting sounds like someone talking with a mouth full of marbles.  Train your staff to speak at a moderate pace and to use proper inflection, with energy.,.

Not That:  “Yep” and “Uh-huh.”

Say This:  “Yes,” “Absolutely.”

Encourage the staff to use proper grammar and complete words and to avoid common slang such as these. 

Not That:  “Your credit card was declined.” 

Say This:  “We were unable to get approval from your bank.  Do you have another method of payment?”

When we say “Your credit card was declined” it sounds like we personally have chosen not to accept it.  With the second example, the responsibility is moved to the card provider.

Not That:  “All I have left is our X suites.”

Say This:  “Fortunately we still have our suites available.” 

When hotels are sold out, it is typically either the highest rated accommodations or the least desirable, such as those with limited views.  When all you have left is all you have left, never say it’s all you have left!  If you do, it will make what’s left sound like leftover dinner.  Instead present the remaining options in a positive way by saying “Fortunately what we still have open for your dates are…”  When offering last-sell type rooms, first let them know about any glaringly obvious negatives, then remind them what is good about the option such as “You’ll still have all the same amenities” or “You’ll still be able to enjoy the hotel activities.”

Not That:   “That special rate is not available.”

Say This:   “That special rate is sold-out.” 

When we tell a guest a rate is not available, it makes it sound like the rate exists, but we are not giving it to you!  Better to say “That rate is sold out” and then to ask “Are your dates flexible?  I’d be happy to help find that rate for other dates.”

Not That:  “We can’t guarantee that…”

Say This:  “We can make a note of your request.”

Sometimes hotels are not able to guarantee factors such as view, location, or connecting rooms, although it does seem to be a positive trend that hotels are increasingly moving towards “confirming” these request.  Even if your operational constraints do not allow you to guarantee such requests, it is much better to focus on the “can dos” in a positive way.

It is hoped that you and your hotel managers will use the examples from this two-part series to review with your hotel team at your own in-house training or departmental meetings.  In doing so, ask them to brainstorm other examples of commonly used phrases they hear every day, along with better alternatives. 

Once you have exposed your hospitality team to the concept of using the language of hospitality, the next step is to reinforce it.  Here are a few ideas:

  • Select a “word of the week” to eliminate.  For example, pick a different word each week to challenge your staff to stop using.  Challenge each associate to catch their colleagues using the word, and then to document it.  Reward those who go through the whole week without using the word.
  • As they do in Toastmasters International, the organization that helps aspiring public speakers develop their skills, charge a small penalty when someone is “caught” by a supervisor or co-worker using a word from the training.  For example, at Toastmasters meetings, one member is designated to be the “Ah” counter.  At the end of the meeting everyone is required to deposit a dime or quarter into a bank for each time they use the crutch word or slang.  The money can later be awarded to the person with the least number of “violations.”
  • Find a way to record real-world calls so that all sales and guest services staff can hear themselves talking on the phone.  Then all you need to do is play back the calls and let them listen for themselves.  This is a great way for everyone to learn from their own experiences so that they can improve in the future.  In today’s world there are numerous new and inexpensive technology systems for recording calls.  For example, many long distance companies now provide inexpensive call recording options, along with call analysis and tracking.  If you need help in finding a provider email me directly for referrals.

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: Train Your Hotel Team To Use The Language Of Hospitality: Part One / Doug Kennedy / March 2012

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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