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.

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