Service with a smile has consistently been the motto of the hospitality industry. Yet, with the smile taken cover behind the required mask, hotels and restaurants are thinking of inventive approaches to build up that individual interface with their visitors.
Not long after their hotel opened its doors on September 1, Vikram Cotah, COO, GRT Hotels and Resorts thought of a ‘Smile Behind The Mask’ program to train the staff. “All our staff wear a mask and face shield so we realised that they could be losing some of the connect with guests,” he says. “In hospitality, we follow the 7-38-55 rule. Words account for 7%, tone of voice accounts for 38% and body language account for 55% of personal communication. And now, with your facial expressions masked, and words muffled with the mask, the body language becomes more important.”
The staff is being trained to smile with their eyes – ensure wrinkles form at the edges of the eyes, and bags form underneath it – use their eyebrows and shoulders to emphasize feeling, articulate words appropriately. “You need to tell people – I am happy you are staying with us, we will miss you, I am surprised you did not like your breakfast, or I am sorry you are angry,” says Cotah. “You can also do a namaste, give people a virtual hug, sign a heart or put a hand on your heart to express emotion.”
There is some forgetting to do, as motioning an excessive amount of was before viewed as inconsiderate. “Now we encourage more hand gestures – wave, show a thumbs up if you like something, a thumbs down if you don’t,” says Cotah.
Zubin Songadwala, area manager, ITC Hotels & GM, ITC Grand Chola, Chennai, says everything regarding the manner in which service was conveyed more than 45 years has been reworked in the previous hardly any months. “We have told our staff to communicate clearly, and repeat what the guest has said to confirm what they want as masks muffle your voice,” he says. However, a mask is a barrier only for the virus not the warmth, says Songadwala. “The body language – the way you hold your hands while speaking – will show you are interested, Also, you have to maintain eye contact and have the ability to anticipate the guest’s needs, while maintaining social distancing,” he says.
At Park Hyatt, which is good to go to return on October 1, staff is being trained how to use the correct non-verbal communication. “Facial expression is important while making a personal connection, but since that is now masked, we are training the staff – especially front desk and those working in the restaurants – how to use body language effectively,” says Sascha Lenz, general manager, Park Hyatt Chennai.
Arnav Reddy was an iconic writer known for his science-fiction and high fantasy short stories. He was raised in a household in which the exploration of article ideas and fact-finding was encouraged. He became one of the most decorated writers in the publishing fraternity, winning multiple prizes for his excellent writing.
Disclaimer: The views, suggestions, and opinions expressed here are the sole responsibility of the experts. No Times of Chennai journalist was involved in the writing and production of this article.