Ms. Nedry

Guest Service / Customer Experience Mgmt

Guest Service: Don't Call Me Sweetie!

By Roberta Nedry, President and Founder, Hospitality Excellence, Inc.

"Happy New Year 'Sweetie'! What can I get you?" "Hey 'Honey', let me help you with that?" "Let me put you on hold, 'Doll', while I check for you."

Aaaaggghhh! I don't know these people?!!! Do they think they know me well enough to forego all formalities? Why are they using such familiar terms upon our first encounter? I can actually feel the hairs on my neck stand up one by one when I hear these names. In a society that is often much less personal than it used to be, this is the other extreme...way more personal than appropriate.

"Terms of Endearment" was a fantastic movie and emotionally riveting. Terms of endearment from my husband or son are meaningful and touching. Terms of endearment from a waitress, valet or hotel employee are not any of these and in fact, are annoying, inappropriate and sometimes offensive. Why do employees use familiar or intimate terms with those with whom they are not familiar or intimate? The way employees address a guest can make such a positive or negative first, last and middle impression.

When employees serving guests and customers use these terms, they risk creating "uncomfortableness" and uncertainty. In some cases, while attempting to be friendly, they may instead be offending the guest. Instead, focus on other options that universally will be accepted and positive and get the experience started on the right foot with the words to follow.

Greeting a guest is the first powerful moment to make an impression. When a cheerful hello or welcome is made, followed by that employee's own name, the guest experience can begin to flow and both guest and employee are on sure footing. If a promiscuous greeting is made, the guest may be thrown off and the experience begins with uncertainty and possible discomfort. When an employee introduces themselves, they have begun to build a relationship with the guest versus the one-sided aspect of only calling the guest by name. It also makes it easier for the guest to call upon the employee by name, instead of "waiter" or "bellman." Employees, like guests, also like to hear their own names.

As Letitia Baldrige, the renowned protocol and manners expert once said, "People like to have their names and titles remembered and stated correctly, it's one of the 'emoluments' to which one feels entitled." I admit I had to look up the word emolument, but I loved its meaning of "a form of compensation" to capture the feeling of recognition and a form of reward from hearing one's own name.

And though friendliness is one of the most basic guest needs, you have to become friends first! Actually once a connection is made, knowing the guest's name can make the most personable and appropriate impact. Saying hello to "Mr. Johnson" or "Ms. Smith" shows respect and recognition for loyal patronage. Once a regular guest or customer says, "Please, call me John" or "you know me by now, please call me Doris", then the employee can make the next less formal move. Now, a gracious approach has been made and gracious permission has been granted. Both guest and employee can feel comfortable and empowered to be on more familiar terms.

However, the employee must still always take care and still use respect and professionalism even on this level. As Ms. Baldrige notes, "if you have to stop and think about whether or not you should use a person's first name when you greet him, the answer is you should not. Familiarity does indeed breed contempt and no one likes to be addressed by his or her first name by someone who does not have the right to do so." I remember this so well as a young girl. A few times, some of my friends would address my mom by her first name, without her permission. She was always Mrs. Nedry so this completely caught her off guard and I'd notice a red flushness in her cheeks. She was too much of a lady to say anything but I knew those friends were placed in her own version of a "contempt" box. I made sure never to do the same, knowing how uncomfortable it made my own mother.

In some cases, using sir or ma'am, may be more appropriate. Age and title distinction may warrant more formal salutations. When more senior guests show up, they may appreciate respect for their generation and a time when formality was more common. They may appreciate "Yes Sir" and "No Ma'am" and feel like their longevity has earned them those titles. If those senior guests then request less formality, the employee has permission to do so and has followed a gracious protocol. Dignitaries may also warrant formal salutations by virtue of their positions and titles. Showing deference is important. As Letitia Baldrige states, "Deference is defined as high regard and respect owed an elder or superior and we should pay deference to visitors from the outside (beyond our organization's walls)." Employers should determine standards for greeting guests and better define formal and informal possibilities.

Using nicknames with fellow employees can also undermine a guest or even an employee experiences. Back to "sweetie," "honey" and the plethora of other clever and catchy names...don't use them in any public environment, especially where the guest is being served. If one looks up the word "sweetie", it actually comes from the word "sweetheart" and one definition is "lover." If taken literally, a lot of eyebrows might go up as unnecessary impressions are formed. And, though fun with fellow employees, a guest or even fellow employees may not understand or more importantly want to understand why a nickname came to be. Why leave it to chance and allow guests and employees to ponder? Save the nicknames and fun names for after hours and when with those who know you on a personal level.

Another problem with using nouns other than a person's last name is they can sound patronizing, even without that intention. Perhaps a guest has a lot of questions and the employee is getting frustrated. An employee may attempt to use one of these terms to calm the guest down. Be prepared. They will become less calm. Keep the terms neutral and professional at all times.

Each of these thoughts applies to phone service delivery as well. Professional salutations are especially important as are employee name introductions. Without in person contact, the opportunity for misunderstanding or miscommunication can be greater. Do not allow that to happen by offending the caller with terms of endearment. Do introduce yourself and ask for permission for how to address the caller. The words and tone of those words will lead the call's effectiveness and impact.

Hospitality leaders and employers need to recognize the difference between using names and HOW to use names. Keep these points in mind when "name calling:"

Be aware of how jargon can "jar" guests into being gone! Understand how little words make big impressions and focus on the ones that make the guest experience difference.

Roberta Nedry is President and Founder of Hospitality Excellence, Inc. and has spent over 32 years exploring, delivering and managing guest and customer experiences and service training. She helps organizations to reach levels of exceptional service and regularly consults with executives and managers on transforming customer experiences. Her Hospitality Excellence Team is internationally recognized for its expertise in creating customer experience strategies that zero in on and inspire the DNA of each client yielding enhanced internal employee experiences and external customer and brand value. Ms. Nedry’s diverse background with both public and private companies allows clients to draw on her extensive career experience for business solutions. Ms. Nedry can be contacted at 877-436-3307 or roberta@hospitalityexcellence.com Extended Bio...

HotelExecutive.com retains the copyright to the articles published in the Hotel Business Review. Articles cannot be republished without prior written consent by HotelExecutive.com.

Receive our daily newsletter with the latest breaking news and hotel management best practices.
Hotel Business Review on Facebook
RESOURCE CENTER - SEARCH ARCHIVES
General Search:

APRIL: Guest Service: The Personalized Experience

Scott Hale

Home sweet home. Your dog recognizes the sound of your car pulling in the drive and waits anxiously for you at the front door. Your thermostat knows the temperature that you expect the kitchen to be as you prepare dinner. Your stereo knows what playlist works best with tonight’s recipe. Your television has your preferred programming all cued up when you’re done with your meal. The list goes on. Home sweet home. What if you could make your guests’ next experience at your hotel just like home – but better? You can. READ MORE

Tom O'Rourke

Mobile devices are not only important when planning trips, they are indispensable to guests when they are on the actual trip. According to the Expedia and Egencia Mobile Index published last year, travelers rank their smartphones as their top priority when on the go. Mobile devices are so important that survey respondents ranked them higher than a toothbrush or a driver’s license. The mobile experience extends beyond the point of booking the room—it’s now an integral part of the journey. READ MORE

Adele Gutman

Before the first shovel was in the ground, we knew Aria Hotel Budapest would be an extraordinary hotel. For the Library Hotel Collection and our founder, Henry Kallan, creating a hotel that is beyond ordinary is everything. We think about each detail of the design and experience to create wow factors for our guests. These elements generate rave reviews, and rave reviews are the cornerstone of our marketing program. This is how we became the #1 Hotel in the World in the TripAdvisor Travelers’ Choice Awards. READ MORE

Megan Wenzl

A personalized guest experience is important in today’s hospitality industry. Guests can voice their opinion about a hotel in seconds because of the Internet, and their feedback is contained in sources like social media sites and online reviews. Potential guests read this information when they are looking for where to stay on their next summer vacation. Guests will post online reviews about their experiences. According to research by ReviewTrackers, 45 percent of hotel guests are likely to leave to a review after a negative experience, while 37.6 percent of hotel guests are likely to leave a review after a positive experience READ MORE

Coming Up In The May Online Hotel Business Review




Feature Focus
Eco-Friendly Practices: The Value of Sustainability
The hotel industry continues to make remarkable progress in implementing sustainability policies and procedures in their properties throughout the world. As a result, they continue to reap the benefits of increased profitability, enhanced guest experiences, and improved community relations. In addition, as industry standards are codified and adopted worldwide, hotels can now compare how their operations measure up against their competitors in terms of sustainable practices and accomplishments. This capacity to publicly compare and contrast is spurring competition and driving innovation as hotels do not wish to be left behind in this area. Water management and conservation is still a primary issue as population growth, urbanization, pollution and wasteful consumption patterns place increasing demands on freshwater supply. Water recycling; installing low-flow fixtures; using digital sensors to control water usage; and even harvesting rainwater are just a few things that some hotels are doing to preserve this precious resource. Waste management is another major concern. Through policies of reduce, reuse and recycle, some hotels are implementing “zero-waste” programs with the goal of substantially reducing their landfill waste which produces carbon dioxide and methane gases. Other hotels have established comprehensive training programs that reinforce the value of sustainability. There is employee engagement through posters and quizzes, and even contests are held to increase innovation, sensitivity and environmental awareness. Some hotels are also monitoring a guest’s energy usage and rewarding those who consumed less energy with gifts and incentives. The May issue of the Hotel Business Review will document how some hotels are integrating eco-friendly practices into their operations and how they and the environment are benefiting from them.