Living in hotels sounds like a dream. You get daily housekeeping, live in a great location, and can get room service anytime you want. And that's all true.
But let me tell you—it's not all dreams and rainbows. Far from it actually.
Visiting a place and staying in a hotel is one thing. Staying full-time in multiple properties is quite another.
Not only in reality (at least most of the time) get disturbed through do not disturb signs, live in tiny rooms you'd never think about renting out long-term, and use blunt knives to cut into a lemon to make the guacamole you just put together yourself to avoid the salt-drenched restaurant food—you also get the hospitality bullshit.
You might be wondering—if a hotel is so bad why do you bother? That's a great question and something I'm still unsure of. However, having looked at several dismal and quite frankly shockingly prices apartments in London I'd rather stay in my little room with my silly blunt knife.
I digress. So hospitality bullshit. Isn't that a bit mean to the people working behind the front desk? I don't think, simply because it's not their fault they get trained with this stuff.
I can only imagine this hospitality bullshit gets hammered into them and their personalities get knocked out in return.
So what should you avoid that's hospitality-like? Here's a few ideas.
Apologizing for Any Inconvenience
If you've stayed in a hotel things are bound to go wrong, even just for a few days. Housekeeping forgetting to clean your room, not being able to check in until 8pm, or a loud party being hosted below your room.
There's loads of problems that can cause you to mention things at the front desk. And One thing that comes up 90% of the time is this particular phrase:
I'm sorry if this caused you any inconvenience
This doesn't usually come up in day-to-day customer interactions by email—I've only really seen it when there are system outages. For example:
At 10:43pm we had some downtime and customers were not able to access the system. We apologize if any inconvenience was caused.
There's a few things wrong with these sentences:
- Most of the time it's just not necessary. Customers want to be listened to rather than being fed a hospitality school monologue
- The "if" or "for any" waters down the apology (that again isn't necessary). It implies that it might not have been a problem at all
- One of the biggest weasel words has to be "inconvenience". An inconvenience is something like a temporary traffic light, not a housekeeper walking into your room with a do-not-disturb sign on the door 🧐
Rather than apologizing for any inconvenience, I'd recommend listening to the customer, writing down notes on what they're saying, and then saying what you'll do with the information.
Not Fixing the Core Problem
A major problem with customer support tickets is helping customers in a timely fashion while also keeping the rest of the team in the loop and making sure bugs or products get fixed.
In hotels, this is also a problem.
Let's say you get to your room and you want to pour a cup of water. You're about to pour the first drips of tap water—but wait. The glass has someone else's fingerprints and smudges on it. Kinda nasty but not a massive issue.
You'll just wash this one yourself and ask for clean glasses in the future—right?
I honestly wish I was joking, but almost every time I've asked for clean glasses it has turned into a major deal compared with simply washing every glass myself before using it.
So you ask for a clean glass next time, and it doesn't happen. The same smudges and fingerprints are there. No problem because you ask again for the next replacements to be cleaned this time.
But again these are dirty. Something is not right.
Then you realize—this is the same glass I had 3 days ago because now it has your lip marks on it. They're cleaning the glasses with a questionable rag inside your room rather than replacing them.
This is an example that happens all too often. You mention something and assume the core problem will be sorted out. But while the front desk also assumes the glasses are getting refreshed daily in the industrial dishwasher that's just not the case.
In customer support, it's a good idea to look past the problem the customer is having and see if there are any underlying issues that you might assume weren't there.
A common example is not being able to access a page properly. You might assume the page is down only to find that this specific version of the customer's browser isn't supported.
Misname or Misgender Customers
I've written about misgendering customers in the past. Another problem with hotels is misnaming you.
Once I checked into a hotel, and the friendly front desk agent said my name correctly but had absolutely butchered the spelling. No matter I thought, I'll just let them know the issue.
When I asked the person to change it they simply said "well that's how it sounds". Obviously, I was confused and asked them to change it which they eventually did.
Misnaming someone is something that happens surprisingly often though, especially if it's an uncommon name to the support person. It's awful being on the receiving end because it's likely it happens all the time (especially in Starbucks right?!).
Even if you think you know the spelling of a customer's name I'd always recommend double checking and using paste special to make sure it's 100% right.
Another quirk to look out for in emails is the name they give in their signature.
Let's say someone writes in with the name "Catherine Shroder" but they end the email with "Kate". Always refer to the person as Kate since it's obviously the name they want to be called.
And again with names—don't assume gender either in internal conversations, forwarding conversations, or threads with the customer directly.
Gatekeeping from Management
This last one is a little trickier because as a customer support person your job is to filter tickets so your manager doesn't deal with every little request or problem.
The issue in hotels is that every issue is stopped at the source. By gatekeeping, I mean not mentioning any issues at any meetings, even if the guest is pretty unhappy.
The amount of times no information has been passed up to any management in hotels is high. And if it is it's selective and tends to favor the front desk and miss out bits of key information.
Gatekeeping isn't a totally bad thing, but it can stop management from dealing with the core issue as I described earlier.
How can you stop gatekeeping yourself? Having levels of severity might be a good start. By fitting predefined criteria it's easier to understand what should be bubbled up and what shouldn't.
Mostly Just Listen
A lot of these problems with hotels could be avoided if listening was prioritized instead of "managing" customers. The same can be said for customer support for B2B and B2C companies running their support online.
Instead of getting the rule book out about how to deal with people, ask questions, get to the core issues people are having, and make sure you're treating customers with the respect they deserve.