Thursday, 23 March 2017

Final synopsis draft

1.    INTRODUCTION

This report aims to address verbally abusive guests and complaints where are typical interpersonal communications problem commonly experienced in the service industry. The scope of the study is limited to the hospitality industry, in particular, the hotel sector. Specifically, we shall be investigating service encounters at a hotel front office. However, this issue can happen in any area, such as food & beverage establishments, where service staff would have to interact with customers.

1.1 About the Hospitality Industry

The hospitality industry belongs to a broad category within service industry that includes lodging, event planning, theme parks, transportation, cruise, and additional fields within the tourism industry. It is a multibillion-dollar industry that depends on the availability of leisure time and disposable income of travellers. A hospitality unit such as a restaurant, hotel, or an amusement park consists of multiple parties such as facility maintenance and direct operations (servers, housekeepers, porters, kitchen workers, bartenders, management, marketing, and human resources etc.).

1.2 Difference between City Hotels and Resorts

City hotels are accommodation places that are located in city centres. They are mainly situated near business districts or MICE (meeting, incentives, convention and exhibition) venues. Henceforth, these properties caters more towards business travellers who travel for work purpose. According to Harding (1993), these group of travellers wants a hassle-free environment and wanting the hotel to provide exactly the services and amenities that they sought for (Callan & Kyndt, 2001). Due to their busy schedule and fast pace of living, business travellers tends to have higher expectations towards hotel efficiency, such as speed for check in and out and time taken for laundry service.

In contrast, resorts target a different segment of travellers that have different level of expectations. Usually located near coastal areas, away from the cities, resorts attract more leisure travellers. The environment and atmosphere of a resort is more relaxing and laid back. Therefore, guests expectation is lower. They more receptive towards a slower pace of service so long there are activities for entertainment.


2.    PROBLEM IDENTIFICATION

Being in the highly interactive hospitality industry, staff will have to face guests all the time. Thus, it is bound to be a time when staff will encounter with unpleasant situations such as dealing with angry or upset guests. Such situations can be easily seen happening in frontline operation especially in the setting of city hotels due to high expectations from guests. Undesirable emotions are often involved as communication and interaction between both parties turned bad after all the complaints and arguments. Despite receiving negative and nasty words from guests, staff are not allowed to respond back with the same attitude as it will adversely affect the image of the hotel. Staff behaviours are being closely monitored as service attitude in city hotels is expected to be more formal and professional as compared to lodging in leisure destinations. Therefore, the interpersonal communication problem identified is about how service staff could manage personal feelings while having to deal with angry guests in a professional manner.

3.    PROFESSIONAL IMPORTANCE

All members in the team have significant working experiences in city hotel, integrated resort as well as beach resort. Based on the accumulated experiences, the team has identified the gap between training given and the skillset of staff in handling difficult guests. It is common for hotels to provide training for frontline staff help them interact better with guests. These trainings tend to be covering more general knowledge such as service verbiage and ways to form excellent first impression which are useful to form the foundation of good service attitude. However, the team agreed that staff are still lacking the skill to deal with specific or problematic situations such as interaction with upset guests. This might be due to the common practice of manager taking over the responsibility in such encounters. However, as mentioned, these are in fact frequent and unavoidable encounters faced by frontline staff on a daily basis.

Therefore, the focus of this study is to educate front desk officers on the skills that enable them to handle difficult guests. With the right skills, staff will be more composed in facing the problem and dealing it with confidence. It also allows them  to be independent in responding directly to guests instead of seeking help from managers. Furthermore, it also acts as a guideline that all staff can adhere to, aligning it with the hotel standard of service in order to strengthen the standardised service protocol. This will help to minimise aggravating the situation further due to inconsistent information and service provided by staff. Therefore, the information should be short and concise to be easily understood.


4.    RESEARCH METHODOLOGY

Learning from real life experiences is determined to be effective especially for knowledge which is more hands-on based. Critical reflection of past experience through practice and sharing of the outcomes enable people to improve ongoing skills by using the information and knowledge gained from the experience (Helyer, 2015). As such, the team conducted a face-to-face interview with experienced hotel frontline staff to learn from their reflections. The primary research is to gather information by listening to the past stories of the interviewee and understand how each individual handles such difficult encounters. Ms Cheryl Chong, a guest relation officer who is currently working at Equarius Hotel and Ms Lynnette Woo who holds the same position at St Regis Hotel were interviewed for the purpose of this study. On top of that, secondary research was carried out to obtain information on general conflict resolving techniques which have been proven to be effective in the industry.



5.    SUGGESTED SOLUTIONS

The study will address the two scenarios that are likely to happen at hotel front office - guests complaints and agitated guest that uses verbal abuse.

5.1      HANDLING GUEST COMPLAINTS

A study conducted by Huey Chern Boo (2013) has shown that the recovery actions performed by service staff was sometimes inadequate and even incorrect. Most of the time employees did nothing to address the situation. On the other hand, the root cause of the service failure was not properly addressed. Therefore, the report has suggested the “L.E.A.F.” approach to be used when handling with guest complaints. “L.E.A.F.” stands for “listen, show empathy, act and follow up”.

Firstly, staff should listen attentively to the guest’s complaint before responding. Attentiveness could be shown by standing up straight and maintain an eye contact with the guest. Nod subtly as a form of acknowledgement to what the guest had said.

Secondly, showing empathy towards guest when listening to the complaint. Staff should understand from the guest point of view and be more understanding. As supported by the interviewee, Ms Cheryl Chong who works as a guest relation officer at Equarius Hotel, one must first think from guest’s point of view and handle the complaint objectively as it is not a personal issue.

Thirdly, staff should act in a manner that helps to resolve the complaint. The staff then proceeds to explain to the guest that the complaint will be brought up to the relevant department to conduct an investigation on the matter.

Lastly, there must be a follow-up to the complaint. The staff must remember to hone her words to communicate with the relevant department regarding the complaint. Front office manager should also be informed of the situation.  When the final investigation report is out, the guest must be informed of the result as a form of follow up.


5.2      HANDLING VERBALLY ABUSIVE CUSTOMERS

On the other hand, despite the above-mentioned method, the customer may refuse to accept the explanation and may turn verbally to the service staff.

In such a scenario, the report suggested three basic steps to deal with such customers.

Firstly, always remain calm and cool, even when the customer continues to be abusive. Always maintain a non-aggressive eye contact with the customer to show that you are listening to their concern attentively, but do not make any verbal response at the moment. At the same time, look out whether customer is carrying any offensive object or showing signs of attack.

Secondly , it is to control emotions when facing the aggressive guest. This can be done by using “self-talk” to remind oneself of the professional role that one is in. As mentioned by Watson (2016), things that you say to yourself (self talk) has a great impact on how you feel and what you do. It is also important to remember that do not allow guest to affect one’s day and to resolve the problem quickly without causing more problems. It is important to keep the emotion in check and feel proud when the situation is handled well.

Lastly, remember to follow up the action. If the customer continues to be difficult and abusive, gently inform the customer that there are other customers in line and would feedback to the manager. However, if the customer continue to create a nuisance, security could be called in. If the customer accepts, carry on with your work, and attend to him later. At the very last resort, if he continues to be abusive, call the security or superior for advice.


6.    POTENTIAL BENEFITS

As mentioned above, the suggested solution for handling complaints is an acronym that spell out as “L.E.A.F” while the solution for handling angry guests is an easy three-steps method. These solutions are short and simple which makes it easy for staff to internalise. The visual aid proposed in the project will help to enhance learning experience through the reenactment of proper way of dealing with difficult work situations. It is able to create a clearer and lasting impression on the mind of staff as compared to written descriptions.

With the necessary knowledge and skills, staff across all front line departments will thus be able to handle difficult situations in a consistent way, ensuring that it follows according to the hotel standard operation procedures. Not only it elevates the professionalism of service staff, it also upholds the image of the hotel.

Guests, after all, are consumers who need to be satisfied given the amount of money they have paid for the hotel stay. As mentioned, service industry is highly interactive and the main operations revolve around guest satisfactions. Hence, the training of interpersonal communication skills could be only part of the initial orientation and ongoing in-service recap. In the future, with staff being equipped with such knowledge, it is possible for hotel to use incentives to initiate “pass it forward” campaign to encourage action-based peers learning and influences (Angrosino, 2010).

7.    CONCLUSION

In short, the proposed project will be effective in imparting skills and knowledge to hotel service personnel in resolving interpersonal communication conflicts which involve emotions.






8.         REFERENCES

Angrosino, M. V. (2010). The Process of Social Intrapreneur. Florida, United States of America: Waveland Press, Inc. Retrieved 15 March, 2017, from https://books.google.com.sg/books?id=7l9ybA-0WLgC&pg=PA84&lpg=PA84&dq=leaf+listen+emphatise+act+follow+up&source=bl&ots=mxabEhUvOz&sig=lRwlzcKm9CVtIFVuKehpiqvn0LY&hl=en&sa=X&ved=0ahUKEwjm1-H82dvSAhXMsI8KHf10D1QQ6AEIIjAC#v=onepage&q=leaf%20listen%20

Boo, H. C., Mattila, A. S., & Tan, C. Y. (2013). Effectiveness of recovery actions on deviant customer behavior—The moderating role of gender. International Journal of Hospitality Management, 35, 180–192. Retrieved from http://10.0.3.248/j.ijhm.2013.06.005

Callan, R. J., & Kyndt, G. (2001). Business Travellers' Perception of Service Quality: A Prefatory Study of Two European City Centre Hotels. Internationl Journal of Tourism Research, 313-323.

Helyer, R. (2015). Learning through reflection: the critical role of reflection in work-based learning. Journal of Work-Applied Management, 7(1), 15-27. Retrieved 16 March, 2017, from Emerald Insight: http://www.emeraldinsight.com/doi/pdfplus/10.1108/JWAM-10-2015-003

Shao, R., & Skarlicki, D. P. (2014). Service Employees’ Reactions to Mistreatment by Customers: A Comparison Between North America and East Asia. Personnel Psychology, 67(1), 23. Retrieved from https://libproxy.singaporetech.edu.sg/login?url=http://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&AuthType=cookie,ip,uid&db=edb&AN=94280015&site=eds-live

Watson, V. (2016). Dealing with Angry Customers: A Practical Guide to Achieving Customer Satisfaction. Australia: ESales International Pty Ltd.



Friday, 17 February 2017

In Class Writing: Letter of Service Recovery

Dear Mr Bennert,

Thank you for taking the time to share your valued feedback with us. I am disappointed to read about the inconveniences that you encountered during your stay with us. Please allow me to assure you that your feedback is important to us.

I am sorry to hear about your reservation record that was without breakfast during check-in. The manager has kindly agreed to do the respective refund for your breakfast.  

Regarding the rooftop pool experience, I am very sorry to hear that the key for the roof top pool was malfunctioned, causing great inconvenience for you. It can be better managed, and we have put in place a more robust plan for managing similar situations for these facilities, while placing the highest emphasis on the needs and well-being of our guests.

Please accept my sincere apologies for the disappointment and frustration you experienced, and I do hope that we can regain your confidence in our hotel in the near future.

Warm Regards,
Xianda
Guest Service Agent

Wednesday, 15 February 2017

Reflection: Interpersonal Communication Problem



An interpersonal communication problem that occurred to my supervisor and I was during my four month internship at Equarius hotel while working at the concierge. As an assistant concierge, one of my duties was to handle transport services where I have to display an excellent knowledge of the resort’s transportation services in handling inquiries and efficiency in arranging transportation requests with accuracy to ensure that guests are provided with the required services. 

As Equarius Hotel is under the purview of Resort’s World Sentosa (RWS), most of the guest enquiries are routed through RWS call centres located in either Singapore or Manila. During that particular incident, I was attending to a guest’s transportation needs as I picked up the call from the concierge desk, a lady from Manila spoke to me and requested to help arrange for an airport limousine arrival transfer for an Ocean Suite guest. The message was relayed in broken English and I could barely make out what she is saying. 

After some attempts, I managed to obtain some important information that is essential to make a successful booking, such as the guest’s flight number and time, date of arrival and terminal location. I have also indicated such request in the property management system. With no other means of contacting the overseas guest and the call centre in Manila, there is no other way to confirm the information at a later time. 

Thankfully the guest arrived at the hotel as planned, and proceeded to stay at the Ocean Suite. However, the problem started to surface when the guest checked out of the hotel. It also happened that it was my off day during that time. My manager thus handled the guest’s enquiry. As they were Japanese guests, their communication with the manager was also weak as they could not speak proper English. According to my manager, the guests said “My car, where? To Airport?” . At first my manager thought that the guest wanted us to book a taxi to the airport. However, she was expecting a departure limousine transfer. 

As my manager could not locate any bookings for a departure limousine transfer, she immediately called me on my off day to clarify the incident, as I was the one who handled the arrival booking. After several rounds of questioning, it turns out to be a miscommunication between the call centre agent in Manila and the guest, as well as the information being relayed to me during the previous call. The call centre agent might have heard from the guest wrongly, or the guest did not actually specify a departure booking at all.  

Whatever the case was, the mistake still falls on our side as we had failed to deliver a service as promised (or as claimed by the guest). The Japanese guest was furious and demanded to have the limousine transfer. They were also unable to fit into a taxi because they were a family of six with many baggage. Therefore, the concierge had to actually arrange an emergency limousine service at the very last minute for the guest. Nevertheless, their trip was delayed for quite some time and they almost missed their flight back to Japan. 

Reflecting back on this incident, I had realised the importance of clear and coherent interpersonal communication, especially on the verbal communication aspects as neither the call centre agent nor the guest were able to speak English fluently. Therefore, how should I have handled such guest requests? Is there a need to remove the intermediary? (ie. the call centre in Manila). What could I have done differently to avoid such situation?

Friday, 10 February 2017

Personal Branding

How time flies, we are now into week 5 of our school term. My brain cells are in its most active state as we constantly absorb new knowledge being taught to us. Likewise for CPD, we are almost wrapping up on the topic on personal branding during interpersonal communications. Although it seems to be such a common topic, it is definitely important to make it right. To me personal branding is all about selling and promoting yourself in a positive way as how you would do promoting a product in a business. There are things you should and shouldn’t do to build up a positive brand image of yourself.

We learnt in class about the communication climate, which is the type of atmosphere and emotional tone that we expresses to people through verbal and non-verbal messages. It is created by how both parties feel about each other in a setting, and can be supportive or defensive in nature. A supportive communication climate tends to value people's comments where interactions are done in a confident and polite manner. Ideas tend to be provisional and problem-orientated, with rooms for discussions and brainstorming. In contrast, a defensive communication climate makes it difficult for people to communicate ideas across, and exchange of information tends to be limited. For myself, I tend to adopt a supportive communication climate as I believe in working together in harmony and not finding fault with the other party. It also boils down to my personality where I tend to be more soft-spoken and empathetic.

Working in the service industry, it is especially important to show empathy and concern to others as it is all about the human touch that guest wants to look for. "Treat others like how you would be treated" is the Four Season Hotel's Golden Rule. On the other hand, we must not neglect our internal staff too as they are equally important as external guest alike.

In the recent lesson, I was quite suprised and overwhelmed as to how my personal hobbies and interests in transportation also contributed to my overall personal branding. Both Joshua and Charmaine commented that I am actually the "face" of public transportation, as evident from my hobby and Youtube site. The way I phrase my sentences as well as graphics and illustrations that I adopt in my sites actually reflects a certain style and personality that is tied to my personal branding. That inspired me greatly and I will definitely put in greater effort in creating and maintaning a strong personal branding associated to my hobbies and interest.

Monday, 16 January 2017

Formal Self-Introduction E-mail



From: 15SHB009K@sit.singaporetech.edu.sg
To: brad.blackstone@singaporetech.edu.sg
CC: -
Subject: Self-Introduction about myself
Date: 16 January 2017

Dear Brad,


Good day to you. My name is Cai Xianda, currently pursuing a bachelor’s degree in hospitality business at Singapore Institute of Technology (SIT). Formerly, I graduated from Temasek Polytechnic with a diploma in hospitality and tourism management.


During my polytechnic days, I interned at Dynasty Travel, a tour operator. My role as a travel consultant requires good listening and communication skills in order to understand customers’ needs and wants about their travel arrangement, planning an itinerary and communicate to them the different travel options and attractions that the country has to offer.


On the other hand, I had my first foray into the hotel industry while interning in Equarius Hotel at Resorts World Sentosa while in SIT. While working as an assistant concierge, my role is to provide special guest arrangements for any occasions, on top of providing guests with information about attractions and travel directions.


In communication, my peers regarded me as a good listener and a great source for travel and transportation advices. I tried many different communication styles through various group projects and presentations, as well as during my working experiences when interacting with colleagues and customers from all walks of life.


However, when it comes to addressing a crowd, my former self of being shy and nervous tends to return, having the tendency to forget the things I wanted to speak and looking at the screen periodically. I might stammer at certain point of delivery, reducing the clarity of my speech to the audience. Sometimes, I tend to be overly descriptive and not being concise in my choice of words. Therefore, mastering the art of summary is equally important so as not to overwhelm the audience and preventing misunderstanding.


Good Interpersonal communication is important, as it is a key to better living and foster healthy relationships among others, be it in the workplace or among our families and peers. Therefore, I hope to improve my communication skills further under your guidance throughout the course of the module.



Yours sincerely,


Cai Xianda


(Revision 3.0)
(Accurate as at 9 February 2017)