Posted in New by Harsha on November 30, 2007

I probably stayed in more hotels this past holiday week than all of 2007. So I was able to get a crash course in hospitality.

The #1 question that kept popping up in my head was “Why are you in this job?” No, it is not rhetorical but a genuine one question to understand why that person across the desk is in this business. If one choses to work at a hotel, is it just because one needs a job, or because one wants to work in hospitality?

If you work at a hotel, then you’re in the business of being hospitable. says hospitality is “the friendly reception and treatment of guests or strangers” or “the quality or disposition of receiving and treating guests and strangers in a warm, friendly, generous way”

The fundamental tenet of a hospitality job is being friendly to strangers, not just people you know, but mostly plain and simple strangers – people you don’t know or wouldn’t generally care about. Now you’ve got to care. How many times have you seen hotel employees laughing and chitchatting with their coworkers but then put on their game face (trying to be “professional”) when you walked up to the counter.

More often than not, people behind the counter are there because they need a job. This is a major problem for hotels that want to hire people who love hospitality. Service roles are the toughest gigs out there – try being nice to people on an 8-10 hour schedule, day-in and day-out. It is the hardest role and at the same time, so many people seem totally wrong for the job. You’d ask “how in the world did they hire that person for this job?”

The solution can be simple. One of the fundamental problems that I observed in tough situations in hospitality or other service roles is the assumption that the service provider (hotel clerk, cashier etc) kind-of expects you to know the routine (like checking into the hotel, payment methods at a store etc). They obviously know the process really well due to repetition so it frustrates them when you walk in and fumble around or ask questions. Your questions may be and are probably completely valid, but it “irritates” them to no end because the process is simple to them yet you don’t seem to get it. How silly are you?!

This is a training problem. This assumption needs to be systematically exorcised from the minds of service providers. The front desk team obviously know the check-in procedure really well. You won’t if you’re not a frequent traveler. Most “silly questions” come from your ignorance on these things.

Hospitality means you want to be with people. You’re the cat that is cat friendly. You either like dealing with these people problems or you don’t. However, I feel that all of us are service providers (think of a marketing manager dealing with the engineering team). So all of us need people skills and the ones that don’t automatically will fall off in the wayside and that is the process of natural selection at work and life.

So to reiterate this problem and tying it with my people experiments, the next time you’re interacting with a service provider (waitress, hotel clerk, bellboy etc), keep this post in mind. This is not a complex problem so when I tell you that the solution is that simple, you’ll probably disagree with me. Humans value complex solutions more than simple ones – come on, the problem of “bad customer service” is universal and yet the solution lies within you and is just a matter of empathy? That is ludicrous!! I don’t mean to sound “new age” or offer you alternative treatment for what you believe is a complex situation that warrants a good ol’ walloping on the wrongdoer’s backside. This is the reality of the experiments that I run almost daily. This is the result of those attempts at understanding how I can improve the situation for myself. Simple.