About Aidan: “I am currently studying in my 4th semester at Les Roches in Switzerland, and I am proud to say that I am the current president of the Spark Society for hospitality innovation. After living in Massachusetts, decided to join the hospitality industry for the endless possibilities that come from human experiences, as well as for my growing passion for languages and travel.”
EP proudly provides a platform for the thoughts and voices of the future leaders of the Hospitality industry.
‘Grey zones’: how can we deal with ambiguous situations in hospitality?
As we all come to find out, there are no two days in hospitality that are truly alike. In fact, unclear situations happen on a daily basis whether there are contradicting guest expectations, an employee who makes a genuine error, or something entirely unpredictable like an outage of electricity. What becomes important is our attitude towards these situations. It is rare that complicated situations have clear black and white boundaries. In fact, large ‘grey zones’ better represent the ever-changing nature of the hospitality industry.
This became evident after my first internship as a front desk agent in a resort hotel, which provided as solid introduction into luxury hospitality. Aside from learning a new software system and the basics of hotel operations, the most taxing areas were the situations where I felt lost. In a recent study done by the Journal of Quality Assurance in Hospitality and Tourism, front line workers were recognised as boundary spanners who can either enforce or fall back on company standards, especially during ambiguous and conflicting situations.
To further elaborate on this idea, I interviewed a few colleagues and supervisors who taught me much of what I know. Many of their insights given expressed the personal attachment to difficult situations and how these situations can become positive stepping stones when handled correctly. We discussed managerial support, a topic many new studies cover to analyse the theoretical impact in terms of empowerment and error tolerance. However, when the guest in front of you is angry, the main goal becomes finding a solution regardless of whether there is a net to fall back on. This poses the question: what are the practical steps and solutions in dealing with difficult ambiguous situations?
Granted that learning curves and acclimating to properties, be it a hotel or restaurant, are often a long process before looking how an organisation can increase perceived support, the start can be giving employees a rundown of frequent and unique issues, a good example of a response, and some things to avoid. Loyalty programs are designed to help personalise experiences by tracking patterns, preferences and issues so that any line employee can see important information at a glance. Similar to this, we can track common issues and solutions to then help employees begin to intuit service expectations, both from the guests and from the organisation itself.
The main challenge for many people entering the workforce such as myself, are the ‘grey zones’ where there is no solid boundaries or guidance, and where it is not easy to intuit a solution. As many mistakes can easily happen which can both escalate issues and drain employees, taking practical steps will help employees guide themselves and begin to enjoy challenges, as it becomes a process to grow, intuit and provide better experiences.