By Doug Kennedy
Having written hospitality and sales training articles for over two decades now, I’m often asked “How do you continue to come up with new ideas every month?” Truth is that it’s actually quite easy when you’re out on the road conducting training just above every week, spending time with the real experts in this industry such as the frontline superstars who make it all happen for guests.
Recently, I found my latest writing inspiration while I was back at one of my favorite stops, the amazing Nizuc Resort & Spa in Cancún, Mexico. During one of my classes, we were discussing what I have always called “the longest two-foot journey – from the head to the heart,” referencing that it is not enough to “know” the principles of hospitality, but rather one must live by them every day.
During the break, one of my participants approached me and taught me a new word in Spanish. He said, “You know Mr. Kennedy, we have a word for the concept you were just speaking of: sentipensante. Later, I read definitions online at a few sources, I found that sentipensante is a term that describes people who by nature integrate both their emotions and intellectual reasoning as a unified way of simultaneously thinking and feeling. They have learned to make smart decisions that rely on both empathy and intelligence.
What a perfect word for training the spirit of hospitality!
Too often, so-called “hospitality” training these days consists of teaching staff to use scripted communications techniques such as those mandated by brand standards and luxury rating systems. Surely, these are important essentials. Yes, it’s good to train our teams to use guests’ names, say “you’re most welcome” instead of “no problem,” and what to say when guests complain. Yet if that’s the extent of the training, we churn out staff who sound scripted and robotic, and who will deliver a service style of detached politeness.
Instead, training also needs to cover the concept of hospitality as a philosophy for daily living that, when fully embraced, can actually make work more fun and rewarding too.
As my frequent readers know, I’ve often written about the core spirit of hospitality, which in my mind is human kindness, especially to the strangers we call guests. And yes, I DO think that kindness and empathy can be trained – or at least nurtured – and not just “hired.”
Start by encouraging your staff to think about the uniquely human experiences playing out on the other side of the front desk, behind the guest room doors, across the bar or restaurant table, or in the hearts of the guests they pass in hallways and corridors every day. Surely, many guests are enjoying their travels whether for business or leisure, but behind every face is a uniquely personal story. While many business travelers are in town for fun meetings and company events, others are living a lonely life on the road away from young children, elderly parents, favorite pets, and beloved spouses. Some are in town to close the big sale, while others are there to file for bankruptcy or to have to announce layoffs. Many transient guests are visiting for romantic getaways, family reunions, and to attend concerts or events. Others might be here for a funeral, a hospital stay, or because they have separated from their partner.
So when training hospitality, it is important to convey both the philosophy of hospitality as well as the communications essentials of politeness.
But as I learned from my participant in Mexico, we also need to teach the concept of sentpensante, which at its most basic definition is simply connecting what’s thought in our heads with what’s felt in our hearts. That way our staff will remember all the communication techniques they know intellectually and deliver them with empathy, patience, intuition, and compassion.