Chocolate Pillow | Why your service really isn’t as bad as some people say!
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Why your service really isn’t as bad as some people say!

09 Oct Why your service really isn’t as bad as some people say!

Hi again all; well it is 2 weeks today that I head off on my Bali adventure, jetting off around the world and hopefully experiencing some of the best service that hospitality industries have to offer – or then again it could be that the service is atrocious; but who really cares when you are half way around the world with the sun shining and a lovely sandy beach?

Now this post is actually inspired by this one on HotCatUK – you can either read it, or not, your choice – but I would recommend giving it a read – to summarise, a guy is unhappy that he arrived to find his booking did not exist at the hotel and he had no help finding anywhere else to stay etc. And my response on the forum inspired this post.

Now, there are many hundreds of aspects that make up someone’s experience, expectations and worldly perception of events – probably too many for the most eminent of all psychologists to fathom; but there are a few things that are extraordinarily useful to know as a hotelier, manager, or in fact if ever you have contact with anyone who access your business.

The first thing to know about is something called Schemas. (See for more) This is generally what actually makes people unhappy with the hotel, even if they are content with the service; or makes them unhappy with the service despite being thrilled with the rooms. As humans, we hold many different schema’s that operate simultaneously. For example we may have a specific schema about certain types of people, or certain types of building – think of a schema as like a stereotype – a schema sets out a standard definition within your mind of how something should be.  When that standard expected definition is not met, you can end up with a negative emotional response, or a positive one depending on what the schema defined in the first place.  Take for example the person whose experiences with the police are all positive, then has a negative experience with the police – the experience will be a lot more negative to that person because it has not fit with their standard schema.  If they always had negative experiences with a dentist (as with most people because you usually result in ‘dentist = pain’ as the schema), and then went to the dentist to be told all is fine and nothing wrong – you feel emotionally like you have succeeded in a mild victory because your schema says that the dentist should result in pain, so when it doesn’t, you feel slightly elated.  Let me put this into context for hospitality:

Guest stays at 5 star luxury hotels, then stays in an unrated budget hotel.  Their schemas say ‘Hotels = Superior service and hospitality’ and also ‘budget = cheap, low service’.  They have conflicting schemas in a sense as one says high-end experience, and the other says low-end experience.  But see how they interact with each other – the guest knows there is no pool, room service or other frills.  The guest also knows the rate they paid is very low (schema here is ‘price = quality’ which most consumers share).  So when they have a bed with a mark on the cover, they accept it and say no more – but when they have to pay for wi-fi access they complain – this is because their schema of wi-fi is that ‘hotel wi-fi = free’; sometimes you get the opposite where people double- and triple-check that wi-fi is definitely free, this is because their schema says that wi-fi costs money in hotels.

To summarise – everything will always be perfect as long as you are conforming to the schema of the guest, or modifying that schema in a positive way (i.e. in a way that provides emotional satisfaction and enhancement to the guest – which is when you get ‘excellent’ feedback).  Things go wrong when you are not conforming to the guests schema of things, or are modifying the schema in a negative way.  Now think about everything that you offer and whether everyone will perceive it the same or not – suddenly you begin to realise the entire set of schemas in operation as each schema is built on past experiences and is modified by current ones.

Outcome – DO NOT knock yourself over one or two bad comments – if they are consistent about the same thing, then sort out that issue.  Otherwise, accept that everyone has different perceptions – you will never be 100% perfect for everyone, all the time!   But you can still damn well try!

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The second thing I want to talk about, leading on from schema’s, is a process known as transference. This was something discovered by Siegmund Freud when he noticed his patients falling in love with him.  The standard definition is “The projection of attitudes, wishes, desires, libidinous and aggressive thoughts to another party” (McGraw-Hill Concise Dictionary of Modern Medicine) – the process whereby you transfer the feelings and emotions of yourself on to another person; essentially you take your perceptions and expectations of behaviour and actions, and then ‘project’ them on to the other person – you then begin to interact with that other person as though they were behaving in the way that you expect them to.

To simplify – Your schema says that all brown-haired people are angry and rude to you.  Then you go to a hotel and get greeted by a brown-haired receptionist.  Transference occurs.  Because you expect the person to be angry and rude to you, everything said or done is interpreted as angry and rude, despite that not being the intention of the receptionist.  You then react to the receptionist as though they are angry and rude – this then results in a complaint about the staff member (ever heard a staff member complained about and then saying ‘But I wasn’t being rude’?).  Transference does not occur with inanimate objects and is not an immediate recognition – the person undergoing the transference process (as in the person transferring the emotion or perception) does not know they are undergoing it.

Now it is important to also recognise that transference works in other ways too – think about you and your staff.  You have a guest who complains and becomes abusive; they are wearing a pair of glasses and a suit.  The next guest with glasses and a suit also complains and becomes abusive.  You now start to have a schema defined for your staff member’s perception of men in suits wearing glasses.  Now a man in a suit and glasses comes to the desk to say the light bulb in the desk lamp is not working and asking very nicely if they can have a new bulb for the lamp.  Your staff member may transfer their previous experience and reactions on to that guest; the guest suddenly becomes a ‘moaner’ or ‘arsey’ and the receptionist offers a refund of the room because the light is broken and the guy complained – transference has occurred because the receptionist has behaved as though the customer was abusive, or was going to be abusive, despite the opposite being true – they also interpreted his actions and the situation differently to someone else who may would not have had the same experience.

Definitely some food for thought… and now we come to something often misinterpreted or misunderstood…

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Now I am sure you have dealt with, at some point, a customer who is Passive-Aggressive – and quite possibly some staff who are too!  Someone who is passive-aggressive copes with stress put upon them by being aggressive towards someone however does this by passive means.  For example, someone stays at the hotel, complains and is offered compensation. They then agree the compensation offered is adequate, but write a scathing review on TripAdvisor stating the complaint has not been resolved, or writes to the hotel Head Office complaining about the staff attitude or complaint response.  This is the typical passive-aggressive response for a hotel customer.  Need I say much more on this – I am sure that almost every hotel employee has come across this at some point – it is a method utilised as a form of coping strategy for many people because this is their chance to ‘get back at you’, without having to deal with the confrontation.

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So there you go; three reasons that psychology gives on why you should not always read too much in to what people may say or compare you to, or say you are worse than.  All feedback is valuable and not every person who complains is disingenuous – the theories laid out above are only a few of the many different aspects of human nature that can be used to explain why someone takes the action, or says the words that they do.

The point I make here mainly is that if you are receiving excellent feedback consistently, then suddenly get that one ‘terrible’ review, do not knock yourself too much and do not take it out on your teams – remain professional and accept that this person has their own history, their own experiences, their own standards and their own model of the world and how they interact with it.  I like big comfy boutique burlesque-style hotels and loads of facilities and features, but some peopel hate this type of thing and prefer modern and stylised or even 1970’s chintz and floral patterns – people like different things and think about things differently.  Once you accept this, you can actually finally accept you cannot keep everyone happy.

Do not just disregard that one complaint out of 999 other positive responses, just accept that how the person sees the hotel, perceives their interactiion with others and deals with situations, could be far different to your own.

Until next time peeps!

[box style=”light-yellow rounded” ]Thank you to for providing supporting articles to back up my ramblings in this post![/box]
Matt Shiells-Jones

Husband, Author, Hotel Manager and ambitious 'old cat lady'

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