April 07, 2016 / by Carolyn Neville
I call this the ‘dumbing down’ of language – and sadly it is prevalent everywhere – even in the hospitality industry.
From senior managers to lower level staff, it is not uncommon to hear managers refer to their staff as ‘guys’, for waiters to greet guests with a ‘hi guys’, and then to acknowledge an order placed by a guest with an ‘okay’.
On an even more serious level, I was checking out of an hotel last year, and the receptionist was struggling to print the bill, she looked up at me and with an exasperated look, apologised for the delay “I’m sorry it is taking so long, the printer’s f**d”!
Why is this happening and it is acceptable?
Of course, it is true that generally language has become more and more casual over the years, - written communication is a classic example. Thankfully, the days of ‘hereinunder’ and ‘forthwith’ are over. Language has indeed become more direct, and consequently much clearer and easier to understand. The acronym
S hort and
is a helpful guideline when communicating – especially in written format. We should all be wary of expressions like “as soon as possible” – what does this actually mean? Within in the next five minutes/five hours/five days?!
In addition, there is a common understanding that SMS or texting language such as ‘thx’ and ‘u’ and ‘shld’ are not acceptable in written communication, and yet when I am marking assignments of third year hospitality students, I have to correct these errors and explain why this is not acceptable.
Many hotels have now resorted to the dreaded template letter which will, at least, ensure that the letter a guest receives is more professional, spelt correctly and that the grammar is correct. Sadly, often these template letters do not address the specific problem raised by the guest, and can, therefore, sound somewhat insincere and impersonal.
In short, we should pay more attention to our verbal language skills – we should say what we mean, and mean what we say. We should not use slang or swear words when talking to guests – this is disrespectful and unprofessional. Let us get back to basics and communicate well with our guests:
- “Good morning/ afternoon/ evening” instead of “Hi there” or “hello”
- “May I offer you something to drink from the bar?” as opposed to “what can I get you?”
- “Certainly Sir or Ma’am” instead of “okay”
- “Excuse me” rather than “sorry” when you are entering the guest’s space
- Never saying “no we don’t have that/no you can’t do that” but rather saying “unfortunately we are currently out of stock but may I suggest….instead”
- Referring to staff or colleagues as “team” instead of “guys” or “chaps”, and never ever referring to guests as “guys” or “chaps” but “ladies and gentlemen”.