They can’t communicate and it’s costing you

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Help employees bridge the generational communication gap and deliver outstanding customer service.

by Pam Paquet

A hotel or hospitality venue is only as successful as the people working there. From top management and front-line staff to those keeping things running behind the scenes like maintenance or administration, a high standard of customer service and efficiency is necessary for success.

An efficient workplace is built on a number of good practices, and one that is critical is good communication. When efficiency is declining in a business, there is a tendency to shy away from communication and focus instead on the hard facts, like occupancy rates, booking engine stats, and increased sales per room.

This attention to the numbers is often easier for hotel management to embrace when there’s a need to solve problems. The finite nature of numbers is easier to deal with than human behavior, which lacks certainty. If it’s there in black and white, it should be easy to pinpoint and resolve areas that need improvement. Unfortunately, the information gleaned from numbers may highlight where the problem is but not necessarily why it is a problem. Deep research into numbers only gives insights into fluctuations, tendencies, and patterns; not solutions.

The numbers must be put aside and the focus shifted to people and how they communicate to resolve efficiency problems. People brought together in a business environment – including the hospitality industry, where everyone’s goal is to be a great host – are not friends or family members; differences and preferences are evident.

These differences in communication styles can become amplified when employees are from vastly different generations. There can be up to five different generations found in the workplace: Traditionalists (born before 1946), Baby Boomers (born 1946–1964), Generation X (born 1965–1976), Millennials (born 1977–1995), and now Generation Z (born 1996 and later). Think of your housekeeping team, management team, and front-desk staff. Chances are you have at least two of these generations, if not more, in these areas.

Each generation is unique and has clear preference for communication methods and styles. Older generations will always vote for face-to-face interactions where talk is engaging and purposeful. Generation X likes using technology to talk because it provides efficient communication. Millennials and Generation Z prefer the latest technology or app because interactions can be succinct, sporadic, and inclusive.

Since people are unique and generational differences make them categorically different, learning to communicate and work well together is an important skill to foster in the workplace.

The importance of good communication among generations doesn’t just apply to employees. It extends to customers, and in the hotel and hospitality industry, the variation of guest generations can fluctuate like a seasonal business. The ability to understand generational communication preferences becomes a critical skill not only for internal company efficiency but also for exemplary customer service.

Obviously, these differences can become problematic and impact business.

Think about the younger generations that are very comfortable, almost experts, with technology talk, but in face-to-face conversations, they freeze, fumble, or accidentally insult others.

Think about Gen Xers who don’t want to be told how to do something, so they may snap at overly helpful customers or react badly to supervisors or managers.

Think about the older generations that crave personal interaction and the need to be needed. How will they react when customers don’t compliment their expertise and colleagues are too busy with technology to connect?

The goal for every hotel should be to have its guests feel like their needs are understood and anticipated with seamless, exemplary service and memorable exchanges. With this, the right numbers will climb, while the reputation of the venue skyrockets.

Pam Paquet is the chief change officer for Pam Paquet & Associates Performance Management, a firm that specializes in organizational therapy, performance management, and exit-strategy planning. For more information on the concepts discussed here, please contact her at pam@thepossibilities.ca.

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