By Larry Mogelonsky, MBA, P. Eng. (

It seems like just yesterday we were talking about how to adjust your method of communications to better appeal to millennial guests. Now that the first of this cohort is about to turn 40, it’s time to turn over a fresh leaf and look at the next rising star in spending power.

When discussing a ‘communications hierarchy’, what we are first trying to do is rank all forms of communication from most to least influential. Even with special considerations for COVID-19 safety, it’s nevertheless a matter of guiding potential customers up this ladder, knowing that the more influential the form of communication you are using, the more likely the sale.

Applying for groups as well as transients, this hierarchy is something I’ve trained hospitality sales associates and managers to use for over two decades now. It dictates that when you want to create a sense of trust, devotion or urgency, you elevate the communication medium to one that’s more intimate. If only it were that simple which this latest grouping of travelers!

Traditionally, the antecovidian communication hierarchy would comprise, in descending order:

  1. In-person meetings
  2. Videoconferencing
  3. Handwritten notes
  4. Phone calls with quiet backgrounds
  5. Phone calls with noisy backgrounds
  6. Personalized emails
  7. Personalized text messages
  8. Social media direct messages
  9. One-to-many digital or print messages

Love them or hate them, the youngest demographic will soon have the spending power to make or break your hotel’s revenues, so it’s important your team is communicating with them the right way to maximize the L2B ratio as well as guest satisfaction.

Centennial Characteristics

While much as already been said about the millennials and their ‘unique’ problems, know that the centennials (otherwise known as Gen Z or the iGeneration) can be even more confounding for us boomers and Gen Xers (and even older millennials) in terms of their thought processes and methods of communication. This will require an astute understanding of their preferred mediums, particularly favoring channels for rapid mobile communications – essentially messaging platforms – over phone calls, voicemails or emails.

Not holding back any punches, millennials are often labeled as entitled, nonconfrontational, overly sensitive and a bit flaky but also whip smart and ingeniously intuitive. The same can also be said for their successors. The centennials represent the most intelligent generation yet; the problem is they know it and it’s already gotten to their heads!

Growing up without ever knowing a time before cell phones and social media has made them think differently than us old farts. The broadest inference from this is that they are all inherently tech-fluent and have therefore come to expect everything to be accessible through their phones. For your customers, digital payments, mobile service requests and all necessary information must be available to appeal to this demographic. Also beware if your app or website doesn’t have a seamless interface as this creates brand distrust.

Critically, as is being increasingly researched and documented, social media is not a replacement for face-to-face communication and the relationship skills developed therein. Ergo, one big problem amongst centennials is that they’ve grown up in an environment that espouses the former as a direct substitute for the latter, often leading to poor social skills such as bad eye contact during meetings, being afraid to pick up the phone for a sales call or hiding behind their voicemails.

Centennial Communications Hierarchy

Despite these annoyances, for your centennial workforce I’m optimistic; with the right explanation and a touch of empathy these skills can be trained. For your guests, the customer isn’t always right but they’re still in charge.

In other words, you can’t compel them to conform to your desired communication medium but instead must meet them where they’re most comfortable. This often results in young guests avoiding phone calls with your reservationists or not responding to emails while simultaneously replying without hesitation to messages received via WhatsApp or FB Messenger. While in times past, I would coach sales managers to always opt for a phone call and, if that didn’t work, push for a meeting (or at the very least a Skype chat).

Due to the contributing factors for this profound generational shift, the communication hierarchy needs to be amended as follows:

  1. In-person meetings, but only once Covid is gone
  2. Personalized text messages
  3. Social media direct messages
  4. Videoconferencing
  5. Personalized emails
  6. Phone calls with quiet backgrounds
  7. Phone calls with noisy backgrounds
  8. Handwritten notes
  9. One-to-many digital or print messages

Meeting face-to-face will always be the most powerful way to develop rapport, but alas time is fleeting. As such, SMS comes second as it’s a direct way to reach your sales target, but you aren’t triggering them by demanding an on-the-spot answer like you would unconsciously communicate with a phone call. Also of note here is that handwritten notes, while previously valuable due to their oldfangled connotations, have shown to have little effect on centennials, primarily because they don’t open their mail!

There are many implications for your operations here and making the transition in your sales or reservations protocols is a major task our consultancy helps hotels undertake. Critically, you need a strong guest messaging platform that can filter all incoming inquiries onto one system so that your team can then seamlessly coordinate the requests across multiple shifts and different personnel. Such platforms must, of course, be able to send outbound replies back on the guest’s preferred channel.

Beyond this, it is a balancing act of understanding who each guest is so that you can best cater to their specific needs in manner by which they want to communicate. Just as digital mediums are still evolving, so too must you be observant to how centennials adjust their behaviors and on a regional basis. No doubt we will soon be updating this communications hierarchy yet again!

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Editor’s note: To discuss business challenges or speaking engagements please contact Larry directly.