The Guest is Not the Enemy

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It sounds like a ridiculous statement. “The guest is not the enemy". Of course they aren’t! But to many of us, the guest is the enemy. How quickly we can take that guest at the front desk and turn them into fire breathing dragons, monsters that have every staff member on edge and scared to death.

Here is a scenario on how one of your guests becomes the enemy: Jane Guestarama has been bumped from two flights on the way to your hotel. She had an argument with her boyfriend about where they are going to spend the holidays while she waited for the next flight. Half of her luggage was sent to Mars. The taxi that delivered her to your front door smelled like a locker room, she has a really bad headache and now she is standing at your front desk. The standard welcome is not received well by Jane, she needs more. The front desk agent quickly categorizes Jane as “a problem" and without even thinking about it, puts up a wall of indifference to Jane’s situation. Jane checks in and heads to her room, her headache growing. The front desk agent summons a bellman to deliver her luggage, but before the bellman leaves, the front desk agent makes sure to tell him “careful, she’s a @#$%". So the bellman, thinking that most “@#$%’s" don’t leave good tips decides to take another delivery first. Jane calls the front desk and asks where her luggage is and is told “it is on it’s way" by another front desk agent. They hang up and agree with the front desk agent who checked Jane in, “your right, she is a #$%#". Another bellman sees the luggage and decides to deliver it. He is greeted by a not so happy Jane and is not tipped.

He leaves and tells his friend the doorman about the rude guest who doesn’t tip.

About this time the a supervisor inquires with the front desk about how the evening is going. She is attacked by the two front desk agents who tell the story about Jane and how rude she is and how they have to put up with so many rude guests. They elaborate on Jane and how they heard that she didn’t tip the bellman. The new supervisor agrees with her staff and tells them that they should not have to deal with rude guests like Jane. The supervisor then goes to the restaurant manager and tells them to “watch out" for Jane, this guest is a real @#$% and she won’t tip. So of course when Jane hits the restaurant for dinner she is greeted with distance and coldness. She gets a really bad table and the server, who has been instructed to “watch out" takes her time getting to Jane’s table.

This goes on for two days. Jane’s reputation as a @#$% continues to grow like a virus. Jane gets the cold shoulder wherever she goes in the hotel. It gets so bad that she decides to call the general manager. Of course the general manager also knows who Jane is. The entire operations team discussed her at the morning standup. By the second day of her stay, the entire hotel, even some other guests were keenly aware that Jane was a @#$%, a monster…. the enemy. So now the general manager has to speak to her. The GM gathers her strength and returns Jane’s call. Jane goes on about how rude the hotel staff is and how she had been treated so poorly. The GM chides back and says “maybe this is not the hotel for you" and offers a one night refund. Jane accepts the refund and agrees that this is not the hotel for her. Jane never returns and neither do any of her 100 employees who travel to that city for business on a regular basis.

Do you see how quickly the staff turned a simply tired guest into the enemy? This happens every day at hotels around the world. You can’t necessarily control what happens to your guests before they arrive at your front door, but you darn better make sure that when they do arrive they are treated like your guest, not the enemy. If your front desk agent comes to your office to complain about “Jane", stop them and ask some more questions. Instead of spreading the message that this guest is “special attention" decide right there that it is your goal and the goal of your entire team to make this guest into a raving fan. Call the guest, see what you can do for them. Make sure they feel welcome. Make sure your team does this too. Most often when a tired guest like Jane is inundated with warmth and the “servant mentality" at the beginning of their stay, they will become a loyal guest.

So when you hear and see your staff going down the road of turning one of your guests into the enemy, make sure you stop them in their tracks. This sounds simple. I will even bet that you are thinking that “this would never happen with my team". I bet you are wrong. Check it (and yourself) out.

Kurt Bjorkman, a 20 year veteran of the hotel industry is the owner of over5, a hotel consulting company that focuses on smaller, non-branded hotels and resorts. He is also the author of “Hotelier", a non-fiction book about the reality of working int the hotel business. To contact Kurt please e-mail him at kurt@over5consulting or visit his website at


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