George frequents a certain hotel chain where he has had consistently good service. Last week he arrived for a short vacation, reservation in hand. The desk clerk asked how many were in his party; he told her his wife was with him, a fact that was missing on the reservation form. The desk clerk then informed him, there would be an additional $45 charge. When he asked why, the chipper desk clerk said: “This is a destination hotel. There are no others in the area. That means we can add extra charges at the manager’s discretion.”
This was unwelcome news to George, who had eagerly anticipated the vacation. He felt they were taking advantage of him despite his confirmed reservation and his history with the chain. The desk clerk’s chipper attitude didn’t help; he felt she took great pleasure in the exchange. In the end, he was able to get the extra charge rescinded based on his history with the chain, part of the manager’s discretionary policy. It left a bad impression and seriously damaged his chain loyalty.
It is not just your words that impact others. Your tonality, body language and attitude also send messages. Attitude is critical as it affects your words, tonality and body gestures. The listener hears and interprets all these messages and reacts according to his or her interpretation. It is, therefore, important to keep your words, tonality, body language and attitude congruent so they all send the same message. If they are incongruent, the messages can be confusing and damaging.
It is also important to consider the audience’s perspective and possible reaction when choosing how to relate your message. To make news easier for the audience to hear, address their likely concerns.
The problem in the hotel interaction was the desk clerk’s attitude:
- She didn’t consider how George would hear her message, and so made no attempt to address his probable concerns. Her narrow focus was enforcing hotel policy, not customer service.
- She didn’t check into his past history with the hotel chain or she would have seen he had accumulated a substantial number of points. This should have been a flag to treat this customer with extra courtesy.
- While being chipper is generally a good trait in her job, it is not appropriate when delivering unwelcome news. Her chipper attitude made her sound inappropriately happy to tell him they were charging him more “because they could”.
- She waited until George raised the issue of his points instead of automatically looking for ways to mitigate the situation even though the manager’s discretionary policy addressed it.
It’s easy to understand how he felt disrespected. She clearly needs more training.
When you speak, do you consider how your audience might hear you? Are your words, tonality, body gestures and attitude congruent? If delivering bad news, do you first look for ways to mitigate the situation?