Sunday, March 19, 2017

Final Project Synopsis

Workplace Context
The workplace context chosen for study is in a hotel setting, where interpersonal communications occur daily, between guests and staff. The study aims to investigate how front desk staff tackle situations which they will experience frequently such as rejecting guest’s request. Guests’ requests can range from reasonable to straight up outrageous. A front desk staff member must know how to handle such a situation when it occurs. When it is not possible to accede to a request, a front desk staff must be able to tactfully decline the guest without agitating them further. The goal of a hospitality service staff is to ensure maximum guest satisfaction (Belcher, 2013) and the interaction between employees and guests at the front desk forms guest’s first impression of one’s hotel standards of service (Högnäs, 2015).
As the study is tailored towards SIT students of the hospitality industry, selecting a hotel as a workplace context is highly relevant to their course of study. It can also serve as a reminder for all SIT hospitality students heading for the Integrated Work Study Programme (IWSP) in May 2017. It is with the intention of preparing and educating students that when such situations arises, they are fully equipped to handle it.
Thematic Focus
The project’s thematic focus is on the front desk of a hotel. It is the place with the highest level of interaction with guests, and where the most things can and will go wrong (Hartline, 1996). It is said that the front desk is where the first impression of a hotel is formed, and first impressions mean everything in the hospitality industry. Therefore, it is paramount to ensure that front desk staff are widely acquainted with the necessary knowledge and skills to handle any situations.
The project mainly focuses on the appropriate tone, verbal, non-verbal language and body language used in two areas, rejecting guests for early check in and rejecting inappropriate guest requests. Subsequently, study highlights the service etiquette required when front desk staff encounter such situations during their course of work. Lastly, the study re-emphasizes the need to understand guests, how to strategically reject them politely with right service decorum and to encourage discussion between trainees on how they would handle this situation.
Interpersonal Communication Problem
The interpersonal communication problem being explored is that front desk staff may not be declining guests in the best possible manner. Although, the front desk staff members are expected to be able to handle such situations, there is a distinct lack of training provided to the staff in the aspect of declining guests request. Hence, in the heat of the moment, staff members may unwittingly offend the guest through their words and body language, further enraging an angry guest who just had his or her request rejected. It is a situation which all hotels want to avoid as it often results in poor feedback and scathing reviews on travel websites (McEvilly, 2015).
This research study investigates fundamental communication skills and knowledge required to deal with common issues that one may face during IWSP and subsequently along career progression. In addition, the study explores the essential skills and knowledge vital to career success in hospitality industry.
Objective of Study
The aim of this study is to identify the verbal and non-verbal language in rejecting guests’ requests. It seeks to explore on how front desk staffs should positively carry themselves as service ambassadors for the hotel. In addition, this study highlights aspects of communication that front desk staff may not be actively conscious about, such as their facial expression, tone of voice and body posture that are of paramount importance during service encounters that guest indefinitely evaluate ones’ service quality.
Research Methodology
In order to fully capture the importance of interpersonal communication between hotel front desk staff and guest, primary research would be derived from personal experience and conversations with three hospitality students who have had working experience at front office. It seeks to highlight feedback on students’ time spent at the front desk, the emotions they felt and how they handled such situations when it occurred to them. In addition, related online articles, academic papers and various educational sources with unique case studies will be referenced as our secondary research, highlighting the importance of good interpersonal communication through verbal and non-verbal gestures.
Proposed Solutions
On a daily basis, whenever front line staff encountered circumstances where they are inevitably required to reject guests’ request, it has to be handled tactfully and professionally. The appropriate body language, tone of delivery and essential verbiage will be detailed. Our potential solutions that we intend to include into our project will include suggested words and phrases that a front desk staff member could use to reject guests. Discussion about the study between trainees could be held to explore how they think they should respond to the situation at hand.
Firstly, the staff member should let the guest know that they are genuinely listening by using words such as ‘I understand’. It is not ideal to reject the guest outright.
Secondly, staff members should be gentle and provide solutions. Inform the guest of the company policies and always offer a solution or next step, as this will show what you’re doing correct the situation. A diplomatic way to turn away a customer is by suggesting alternative providers who may offer the exact product or service they are looking for. This approach is generally well received because you are still going out of your way to help them. Provide them with not only alternative solutions to their problem, but solutions that go above and beyond to demonstrate the value placed on the relationship. If you have to say no, be clear, transparent and upfront about it so expectations are not misconstrued.
Thirdly, staff should say no with kindness and gratitude and do so while maintaining their own values as well as the hotel’s. Let the guests understand where the staff are coming from. If they understand where your company is and where you are, they’ll understand why the staff not able to comply with their requests without losing their respect. Maintaining their respect means next time they need help, they might come back with more agreeable terms.
Benefits to Workplace
The application of the project would result in staff being well-trained to handle difficult guests and their requests. This project allows the management to assess the daily interactions that front line employees goes through and showcasing beneficial tactics in different unique situations. Furthermore, with the essential knowledge and tactical skills garnered, it will instill confidence to employees moving forward to take ownership in handling difficult guests. Consequently, hotels can forge closer relationships to customers and gain a competitive advantage by reducing guest dissatisfaction (Day, 1998).
This project has the potential to reduce guest complaints and dissatisfaction if carried out well. It can further venture into a requisite training programme for new employees showcasing updated real life case studies that has occurred in the hotel and how it was professionally rectified. Last but not least, active discussion between trainees can act as a team bonding activity and help build cohesion between the front desk staff.
The hotel is a dynamic environment and the front desk is the department where guest interactions can be polarising. Ultimately, this study aims to advise hospitality students on how to reduce the negative reactions that they may experience at the front desk. The proposed solutions will reduce dissatisfaction for both internal and external customers. The project aims to prepare students in the workplace by creating awareness and instilling confidence in them to step up and handle difficult guest and their requests in a professional yet graceful manner.
Belcher, L. M. (2013). Customer Satisfaction in the Hospitality Industry. Small Business Chron. Retrieved 2017, from
Day, J. D. (1998). Relationship Marketing: Its Key Role in Entrepreneurship. Long Range Planning .
Hartline, M. D., & Jones, K. C. (1996). Employee performance cues in a hotel service environment: Influence on perceived service quality, value, and word-of-mouth intentions. Journal of Business Research35(3), 207-215.
Högnäs, S. (2015). The Importance of the First Impression in Hotel Customer Service. University of Applied Science .
McEvilly, B. (2015, July 8). How Online Review Sites Are Affecting Your Hotel. Retrieved 2017, from hospitalitynet:
Hartline, M. D., & Jones, K. C. (1996). Employee performance cues in a hotel service environment: Influence on perceived service quality, value, and word-of-mouth intentions. Journal of Business Research35(3), 207-215.

Friday, February 17, 2017

Reflection on interpersonal communication problem

I recently encountered an interpersonal communication problem during one of my shift at Five Stones Hostel as a guest relation officer. My job scope is pretty similar to a front office agent in any hotel where I would need to check-in and out guest, handle enquiries and even email that comes in daily. Guest are usually backpackers or families and friends that are looking for a cheaper alternative. Comparing the services provided by a hotel, it is definitely different. But, guest generally doesn't expect much from a backpacker hostel. However,  sometimes, we do meet a problematic guest that brought us to some trouble.

The incident happened when I was on night shift with one of my colleagues. A French man, who is not that fluent in English walked into our hostel and ask for a room to stay for the night. As the hostel was running almost full occupancy, our private rooms are all fully booked and there was only a single bed left in the dorm room. I politely explained to him that he would need to share the room with other 9 guests and he just nodded.  He then paid for the bed and I showed him the way up to his room. 

We took the lift and went up to level three. Before reaching his room, he saw the toilets and commented asking why would people throw their towels on the floor. I tried to explain that the towel looking rug was just a floor mat but he stopped me by saying: "Do not try to teach me anything!" I was really taken aback by his words but I continue to do my duties by guiding him to his room. 

When we entered the room, he was shocked and he shouted at me asking me if he was staying with a bunch of uneducated monkeys who place their belongings all over the beds. Honestly, it is really a common sight in a hostel. He then stomped out of the room and demanded a full refund. I led him down to the check-in counter at level one and tried explaining to him that hostels are usually like that due to its smaller room size comparing to a hotel. I also told him that it is not possible to do any refund due to our 48 hours cancellation policy. This time, he banged the table top and shouted at me and my colleagues. My partner got so angry and she just refunded him by throwing back the notes on the table. 

After the incident, I felt a little apologetic about the whole situation.  I am pretty sure he would not never return to stay with us anymore. Perhaps the situation would not have happened if I have explained to him slowly and carefully what exactly a hostel is to lower his expectations. Knowing that he is not really fluent in English, I should have been more careful and patience when I talked to him. This incident was really an eye opener and it has taught me the importance of communication, whether it being verbal or non-verbal, any slight misunderstanding could result in a huge problem.

Were my actions and words appropriate? How should I react when he was rude? Also, how can I avoid such situation in the future? 

(Revised, 3 March 2017)

Letter of Service Recovery

Dear Mr Bennert,

Please allow me an opportunity to introduce myself; my name is Huiting and I am the Director of Rooms Division at the Kariting Hotel, Singapore. My Guest service team has advised me of the service you received during your stay with us; first and foremost I want to sincerely apologise for this.

We always strive to provide the best service to our guests and especially to valuable guest such as yourself. We are sorry to hear that we did not exceed your basic expectation this time round.

Regarding your breakfast arrangement, we have checked with Ag0da and clarified that your booking does not include any breakfast. For further clarification, please feel free to contact Ms Shu Fang from Ag0da reservations team at

I certainly hope this would not deter you from giving us another opportunity to prove that your experience was an exception rather than the rule and look forward to having the opportunity to regain your confidence level. Please contact my Front Office Manager, Mr Darren Seah at should your travelling plan brings you back to Singapore and he will personally look after your booking.

Yours sincerely,

Hui Ting

Director of Rooms Division

Kariting Hotel, Singapore

[189 words]

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Personal Branding

Personal branding is about how one portrays himself in the marketplace. It is comparable to how a product is being marketed to the public and it is extremely crucial in the beginning where the first impression usually make an impact. The way you bring yourself across to others will lead them to set a perception of you. 

Firstly, there is a need for self-awareness where one understand their own feelings and personality. Able to identify your strengths and weaknesses is essential because it will allow one to pursue personal growth and continue to seek for improvement each day.

Verbal and non-verbal communications also affect how others perceive us. We need to mindful of our appearance, facial expression, eye contact and even vocal expression. This is definitely critical in this phase of life where we are in the midst of the interviews for our eight months long internship. Employers do not know you in person, therefore, the impression you gave them matters. From your appearance when you walked into the interview room to maintaining eye contact and using of hand gestures when you are talking about your experience, all of these might be the deciding factors whether your application would be successful.

Also, in my opinion, showing understanding and empathy to others is definitely necessary for people in the hospitality industry. Not only to our guests, there is a need to show empathy to our internal guests who are our colleagues. As I will be pursuing human resource department for my upcoming internship, I would need to put myself in their shoes and listen to their says before I make any comments. Most of the time, many of them just need a listening ear.

In summary, personal branding is absolutely something that we could work on. By having more self-awareness to being attentive to our verbal and non-verbal cues and showing empathy to others definitely help to define our personal branding and I seek to continue to work on this to improve myself each day. 😀

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Formal Self-Introduction Email

To: Brad Blackstone
From: Yong Hui Ting
Date: 18 January 2017
Subject: Introduction of Myself

Dear Brad, 

My name is Yong Hui Ting and I am currently a second-year undergraduate from Singapore Institute of Technology's (SIT) Hospitality Business. This email will detail my education and professional experience, as well as my thoughts on my strengths and weaknesses in communication.

I remember watching a documentary about Hotel, Burj Al Arab, Dubai on Discovery Channel. I chanced upon the episode when I was about 14 years old. I was fascinated by how the hotel was constructed and the hospitality services that they offered. Due to this, I became interested with the hospitality industry.

Upon completing my O Levels, I went on to pursue Diploma in Hotel & Leisure Facilities Management in Singapore Polytechnic. The course has provided me with many insights and various opportunities in the hospitality industry. 

One of these opportunities was working in Marina Bay Sands. I rotated between Frontline and Operations jobs. When dealing with guests, I do my best in providing the solutions, making their stay enjoyable. Their smiles and appreciations gave me a sense of satisfaction. In addition, I was able to interact with guests from all walks of life. As an outgoing person, I really love the small talks and listening to their experiences. This reaffirms my interest and passion in the industry.

Upon graduation, I was enrolled to Seoul National University, Korean Language Program for a year.  I felt that being able to converse in an additional language would benefit me in this line. My 12 months stay in Korea has given me the chance to be classmates with people from all around the world. This enabled me to learn about the cultural differences and gain a different perspective about our world. 

As I was raised in a Chinese family, English language is my ultimate weakness and fear. However, through my working and overseas experience, I believe that my verbal communications have improved over the years. I am now able to initiate conversations and express my thoughts to a greater degree especially working part-time in a hostel as a front office guest relations officer. 

However, I have much to improve in my written communication. I often find it hard to express myself in writing. I often face situations where I was 'stuck' when given an assignment that required me to write an essay. I am currently cultivating a habit to read one article daily to improve my writing skill. Through this, I hope that I will be more comfortable in my writing ability. 

I hope that this introduction would give you a better understanding of my thoughts on my communication skills. I look forward to this journey with your upcoming classes.

Thank you and have a great day ahead! :)

Warmest Regards,
Yong Hui Ting