‘Speaking’ to the bottom line

‘Speaking’ to the bottom line

I get inspired when new theories put into play produce unexpected and successful results.

Let’s take a look at a couple of ways that language might “effect” the quality of your organization. (I use “effect” in terms of bringing about change).

In terms of language, how guest-centric is your organization … really? How much attention do you pay to the language you choose to use? I guarantee the language you use is integral to the results you have. Let’s take a quick look at what might be some of the vernacular in your organization.

Does anyone ever say “no” to a guest (without an alternative) or use the term “no worries”? If eliminating words that don’t uplift or are at least neutral when dealing with guests isn’t part of your orientation and training, “negatives” might be rampant in your culture. Remember, even if everything was delivered on time, the staff was pleasant and the wake-up call came when expected, one poor interaction is all it takes to turn the entire experience upside down. And where do negative experiences show up? On TripAdvisor, in morale and at the competition.

Do you use the term “policy”? Part of what I think separates hotels from businesses such as post offices is the word “policy.” When a postal worker says we don’t accept packages past 4 p.m., we may grumble and leave and perhaps go to a competitor (now that the post office has competitors), or maybe we will just return tomorrow. Post offices do not refer to people that cross their thresholds as guests. Once you label someone a “guest,” I suggest you have a responsibility to respond appropriately ?again, recognize the implication that language has and how it calls us into being. “Client” has one implication, “customer” has another and “guest” takes the gold. (What do they call me at the post office? Oh, yes ? next in line!)

Staff titles present another great opportunity. As I’ve mentioned previously, I prefer that associates’ titles not be based upon the furniture they stand next to. Not just because it an old paradigm and devalues how we refer to our precious human resources, but it really could limit how outstanding their interactions with guests could be. The value lies in the box you place people in by virtue of their titles.

For example, I do not like the word housekeeping. I have been admonished for this in the past as GMs making six figures state that it is a noble profession. I’m not saying it isn’t. I was the director of a housekeeping department for a 1,600-room hotel in New Orleans. You can have more fun in this department than any other. It is also the one that everyone is most critical of. I always imagine a “housekeeper” sitting with her child, and the child inquires what mom does for a living. I don’t care how “noble” the profession, “housekeeper” has all sorts of menial implications. It also implies cleaning up the past. Why not offer a title that has the associate creating a haven for a future guest? In the last hotel I consulted for, we called them “designers.” Cleanliness, attitude and scores ramped up quickly.

You also must take care if undergoing this exercise not to be frivolous or contrived with alternate names, as that may cause embarrassment for both guest and associate, but I encourage you to consider a few. Again, just trading titles isn’t enough without a creating a distinctive culture to encompass those changes, a culture that is based upon understanding the power of language in terms of guest experience, associate experience and bottom-line results. 

Take the phrase “staff meetings” ? well, that’s obvious, look who’s attending. There must be new language for that to empower the agenda and corresponding results in your organization.

And while we are at it, since when does “Have a nice day” A) sound sincere, B) heard in luxury hotels C) bring you distinction D) make you memorable as the last line of the experience?

Think different. Speak different. Expect different results.