ITB 2024 Special Reporting
Hospitality Requires Stepping Into 'Character' Like An Actor On A Stage
By Cathy Cook
Tuesday, 24th April 2018

In the hotel industry we all know how important it is to deliver hospitality, which is the key to a positive guest stay; Otherwise we are simply in the 'room rental business' and our guest rooms devolve into a commodity like a seat on an airplane.

These days hospitality has become even more important, as the number of “touch points” in a guest’s stay are reduced, as automation of the booking process increases and as the amount of pre-arrival information (directions, amenities, local area details) is included in an email confirmation. Put simply, we have fewer conversations than ever before.

At the same time, those of us who work in the hospitality industry are all human beings riding life’s daily “roller coaster” of emotions. We all have our “days” when we just aren’t feeling it. We have days that our sweet loving pets make a mess or escape out the front door as we are walking out. Or days when our teenagers are rebels, our spouses are annoying, the traffic is horrible, or the weather is crumby! (Usually all these things seem to happen on the SAME days!)

Yet we still must find a way to perform the essentials of hospitality that make our hotels stand out from the competition.

When I reflect on my early years as a frontline front desk associate working in the hotel industry, I remember having those days when I just didn’t feel that spirit of hospitality that I was usually famous for displaying most of the time.

Fortunately for me I had great mentors early on in my career, and one of the best pieces of advice I ever received was this. For me, it was “one of those days” and I suppose my manager noticed I was a bit off when he said:

“Cathy, … you need to think to yourself as an actress and the front desk as a stage. So, when that door closes behind you, you are on stage and you need to be in character, smiling and presenting your best hospitality always to every guest whether they are a very nice to you or not so nice,” he said. “If you need to vent, just come here to the back office and let it out, but out there you have a role to play on that stage for our audience.”

As my career progressed up the ranks from supervisor, to front office manager, and later even while at the corporate office level, and quite frankly now as a hotel industry trainer, I have used this advice for over 35 years.

It makes sense, doesn’t it? Working most jobs in the hotel business really is a lot like being an actor, whether at the front desk, as a bell person or concierge, as a food server or bartender, or – if you stretch the analogy – even on the phone.

The lobby is the stage, the uniform is the costume, and the hospitality communications essentials are the “script” that we must make sound as if it is genuine dialogue being delivered for the first time each time we perform it.

While this philosophy can help us every day, it especially helps when our day is off to a bad start before we arrive. In the real world of acting, I’m certain those movie stars and Broadway actors don’t always feel it either. Yet once the show starts, when the spotlight is on, or when the movie camera is rolling, they must get “in the zone” and forget their own personal worries. Whereas performers make it all about an audience experience, so we should make it all about the guest experience.

Focus on them and not us will help us forget about our own life challenges for the moment, and before you know it you just might find that your own spirits have been lifted for real, just as you have lifted the spirits of those on the other side of the desk, the other end of the phone call, across the bar, or behind that guest room door.

M. Cathy Cook is the Executive Director of Training & Development for the Kennedy Training Network, Inc., a leading provider of hotel sales, guest service, reservations, and front desk training programs and telephone mystery shopping services for the lodging and hospitality industry. She also conducts operational and systems consulting for KTN’s clients. www.KennedyTrainingNetwork.com Email her directly at: cathy@kennedytrainingnetwork.com

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