By Doug Kennedy

Each month I get to travel the world and present 6 – 8 training workshops, many of which are for frontline staff. It is a career I have been blessed to have for nearly 30 years. We talk about a lot of important subjects these days, such as the fact that in the era of social media and online guest reviews, every guest contact colleague is in the public relations and marketing field. We also talk a lot about loving guests’ buts.

The reason I train everyone to love guests’ “buts” is because when we can manage to get a good “but” out of a guest, that means that we have shown the guest we are asking because we truly care and want to know. Let me explain…

These days, too many frontline colleagues engage guests in a transactional way. For example, too many waitstaff say “How’s that meal tasting, good?” A usually asked right when I have taken a large bite and can only nod in response. Too many bellstaff and housekeeping supervisors who take long elevator rides with me in high rise hotels ask “So how’s your stay going so far sir, good?” When I call room service to have my meal tray removed, too many operators ask “How was everything, good?” When I pick my wife up at the resort spa after her massage, I hear spa desk staff asking her “How was your massage, good?” Reactions like these make me wonder if a) they are too impatient to wait for a response b) they really don’t want to know c) they are just asking because their supervisor told them to or d) all of the above.

On the other hand, if guests know that we care about their opinions and truly want to hear their feedback, chances are very high that we can get a “but” out of a guest, or even better, two “buts!” Like I always say, “Two buts are even better than one but!” Here is an example of a “two-but” guest response:

  • “Well, since you asked, everything was good but (my key card kept de-activating, or the a/c control was confusing, or the entrée was just a little more spicy than I expected), but other than that everything was fantastic.”

Here are examples of how to get two good buts out of each and every guest:

  • Front Desk: “So before I let you go Mr. Kennedy, may I ask what you thought of our hotel?” or “Before I send you on your way Mrs. Cook, may I ask for feedback on your experience as our guest?”
  • Waitstaff: “Excuse me sir, I just wanted to check and see how that (entrée name) tastes to you.” (Note: If you approach the table when a guest has taken a bite, use small talk to stall for time while they chew so they can actually respond!)
  • All staff during long one-on-one elevator rides: “Good afternoon. Nice day isn’t it? May I ask how your stay is going to far?”
  • Hotel sales: “Hello, I just wanted to call you personally to see how things went with the meeting and what feedback you might be able to offer us about the overall experience.”

On a final note, I suspect that some guest services staff hesitate to truly solicit guests’ opinions because they are afraid they will get a negative response. However, as I always remind them in our KTN training workshops, if something did go wrong it is much better if they let us know while still in-house. For one, we might still have an opportunity to fix it. Yet even if they tell us on the way out the door, they will be impressed that we care enough to ask. They will have a chance to vent any frustrations on us instead of doing a bad review or social media rant.

See Doug’s previous article on a related subject: “Checking out? Please Give Me Your “But.”