By Elliot Rieth from our editorial team
In the hospitality industry, owners and employees are facing the task of providing the optimal individual experience for every customer who chooses to stay at their place of business.
The unique and personal requirements that accompany creating the perfect experience in the hotel industry have been significantly disrupted by the regulations now in place to prevent the spread of COVID-19. With some accommodations becoming impossible to achieve, as well as other rules forcing hotels to create a less luxurious experience, many management teams are revisiting the question: is the customer always right?
Keeping the Customer Safe Against All Odds
COVID-19 has influenced every aspect of the modern business’ everyday operation, especially the hotel industry. Being on the frontlines of direct customer service, hotels, particularly, have faced the challenge of how to ensure that their customers remain safe.
From increased cleaning procedures to providing sanitizer in guests’ rooms and lobbies, hotel staff are tasked with the demanding responsibility of protecting not only their current guests but all future guests from a potential outbreak.
There have been approximately 4.8 million jobs lost since February, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, and this dichotomy of increased work and decreased staff has only heightened the level of strain placed on employers. Ensuring that guests are both safe and content is a task that truly highlights the particular pressures of the hospitality industry.
The duty of business owners to create a safe environment for their guests negates the possibility of some requests that may provide a more comfortable or enjoyable stay. Commodities that guests often specifically seek in the hotels they choose, such as pool access, hot breakfast, and exercise rooms, are no longer available. These can be a point of friction for guests who are not understanding of the regulations that hotels must uphold in the age of COVID.
When the Customer Cannot Be Right
With all of the new regulations required of both staff and guests in the hospitality industry, and opinions being somewhat divisive on the validity of those regulations, tempers can flare when otherwise desired commodities are unavailable. So, when it comes down to breaking the rules to fulfil the desires of guests, is the customer always right? No, they are not.
Although it is the perceived duty of those in the hospitality industry to provide each guest with the perfect experience, the overarching responsibility of protecting every guest who comes through the door cannot be compromised. So, when guests make unsafe requests or submit complaints, managers are now placed in the challenging position of having to reject them and accept criticisms with an unwavering conviction that is relatively abnormal in the hospitality industry.
Consumers are not omniscient and often cannot fully understand the strain that hotels are under new restrictions. Most guests will only see how their stay is affected by these restrictions. Some will appreciate the efforts that the staff and management are putting in to protect their guests, but some will not.
Those that do not will only see these restrictions as a negative, and a segment of these guests will attempt to fight them. In an industry hallmarked for its flexibility and accommodating nature, COVID presents the challenge of still providing some semblance of satisfaction of customers’ needs while remaining compliant
Finding the Balance
Although many services typically associated with staying at a hotel are now unsafe to offer, that doesn’t mean that there aren’t ways for customers to be somewhat right when it comes to finding ways to make their stay as close to normal as possible. Updating such features as complimentary breakfast and room service provides a COVID compliant way for guests to enjoy their stay.
By updating services like breakfast to be cold items only and single servings, as well as providing contactless room service, hotels can offer the personal touches that many guests desire without compromising new cleanliness regulations. By finding a middle ground of hospitality and safety, owners and managers can minimize the level of burden placed upon their staff, while also maximizing the experience of the guests that choose to stay at their establishment.
These compromises will not universally appease the minority of guests who are unable to empathize with the individual situation hotel staff are facing. That said, it is essential for management to support their team, emotionally and professionally, to ensure that they know they are in the right and that they are not alone when faced with conflict.
It certainly is a hardship to be unable to make the changes that would alleviate the number and degree of guest grievances. However, in the end, the protection of guest welfare overrides the age-old saying in customer service. In the age of COVID, we have truly learned, the customer is not always right.
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