4 Principles of Psychology You Can Use to Improve Your Hospitality Skills

April 20, 2020 •

5 min reading

Psychology can be used to improve your hospitality skills

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Psychology offers much more than help solving personal problems. In the hospitality industry, psychology can play an integral role in helping you attain and keep your guests. The principles of psychology can be applied to every situation. It’s learning how to apply the correct principle at the right time that can be your key to hospitality success!

The good news is, you don’t have to go back to college to earn a degree in psychology in order to master these principles. A lot of it is simple human nature and the rest of it has been tried, tested and proven by the greatest psychology leaders in all of time. Here are four principles of psychology that you can use starting right now, in order to improve your hospitality skills and the hospitality skills of your staff members.

1. Personalization

Personalization relates to psychology because we as humans need to relate to other humans. The pleasures of personal interaction with others is unsurpassed by other pleasures in life. This is one reason why solitary confinement—either forced or self-imposed—is so very painful and harmful to the mental state. There are a multitude of simple ways to incorporate the psychology principle of personalization into your hospitality practices:

  • Smile during guest interactions. Employees who smile when speaking with guests will evoke positive emotions and are likely to elicit a smile in return, which further anchors the positive feelings.
  • Introduce yourself by name. When employees introduce themselves by name, they subconsciously make the relationship more personal and welcoming. For example, saying, “Hello, I’m the manager. How may I help you?” isn’t as good as, “Hello, I’m Carl Jackson, the hotel manager. May I be of assistance?” Also, with this method, the guest has an opportunity to address you by name, which makes the guest feel that he knows someone at the establishment.
  • Use guests’ names whenever possible. Most guests will enjoy being addressed by name instead of being treated like an anonymous passerby. Don’t overdo it, of course, but use names whenever it feels appropriate.

2. Positivity

Positivity in psychology has to do with perspective. If a psychologist can get the patient to see things from a new perspective, insight could be the next stage and then recovery. In hospitality, positivity can also be a powerful technique for altering perspective. Following are some ways to implement this psychology principle in your establishment:

  • Use distraction when necessary. Sometimes, things go wrong despite your best intentions. For instance, let’s say a guest arrives at your hotel desk and there is a disruption nearby from another guest, or a spill or slight accident. This kind of unpleasantness could leave your guest with a negative impression. But your job here is to change the perspective of your guest so they stop focusing on what might be happening nearby. You can do this with simple distraction and positivity. A simple way would be to upgrade your guest’s reservation or, in the case of a restaurant, present them with a complimentary drink or plate. Gestures like these quickly supplant a negative impression with positive feelings.
  • Speak of pleasant things. Never engage guests with tales of things gone wrong. Also, converse about pleasant things, such as the weather, the lack of traffic, the beautiful view, etc. Even when something dreadful happened in the news, don’t make conversation about it unless the guest initiates it and clearly wishes to discuss it.
  • Offer sincere compliments. Compliments make guests feel good about themselves and the choices they make. This is why well-bred waitstaff will always say things like, “My compliments on your choice of wine, sir.” Only offer compliments when you mean them. False compliments come off as shallow flattery and could look like you are fishing for a tip. When appropriate, you could say things like, “My compliments on your taste in luggage,” or “You’re looking especially lovely tonight, Ms. Edith.”

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3. Professionalism

In the practice of psychology, it’s expected that the practitioner maintains a professional attitude toward the patient. This not only assures that the relationship stays professional only; it is also an assurance for the patient that the relationship between practitioner and patient precludes personal judgment. The patient must always feel that they can be honest and open in order for the treatments to be effective.  In the hospitality industries, professionalism is paramount. Here are some practical ways to use this psychology principle in your hospitality business:

  • Maintain the veil. In the world of hospitality, there should always be a “veil” between the guest and the server. Avoid making inappropriate comments or suggestions that could be mistaken as “overstepping.” Even on your bad days, don’t “vent” to customers. Never complain about your work situation in front of or to a guest. Never gossip about other guests. While friendliness is the order of the day, professionalism is most important of all.
  • Use professional language. Whatever language you may use at home may not be appropriate for use at work. When engaging with guests, avoid slang words and profanities. Avoid acronyms for profanities, as well. Always use your best vocabulary and strive to be professional in your tone of voice and enunciation.
  • Always be presentable. Over time, it's easy for employees to feel so comfortable at their place of employment that they begin to slip on their personal appearance. Slacks don't get pressed, hair goes too long without being washed, or other issues start popping up. Always maintain a professional appearance, from head to toe. In practice, it makes sense to periodically review the appearance of your staff in a group setting.

4. Surprise

Pleasant surprises are a key principle of psychology. You may have heard of the phrase, “exceed expectations” in marketing. This is the core of surprise. People enjoy being surprised by the level of service they receive, and this is one of the easiest psychology principles to apply to your hospitality business. Here are some ideas to put this into practice:

  • Give more than is expected. Most guests at hospitality establishments do expect a certain amount of “freebies.” Maybe it’s a mint on the hotel bed pillow, or a free cookie with their after dinner coffee. But to implement the psychology principle of surprise, give more than is expected. For example, when guests are leaving after dinner, present them with a small “midnight snack” bag that they can enjoy in their room later on. Or give each guest a voucher for a free drink at the bar when they register at the hotel. These are pleasant surprises they will really appreciate.
  • Provide surprise entertainment. On weekend nights, consider setting up your common areas as casual lounges. Hire a cello player, harpist or another kind of musician to play instrumentals in the corner of the lobby. Set up a makeshift bar and serve complimentary drinks during the cocktail hour that guests can enjoy before they depart for their evening plans.
  • Care more. Whenever you have an unusual circumstance occur with a guest, you have an opportunity to demonstrate that you care about their wellbeing. Did a guest check in with a head cold? Send some complimentary chicken soup and extra soft tissues to their hotel room. Did an airline lose a guest’s luggage? Offer to have one of your staff run an errand to pick up some fundamental garments so your guest can stay and sort things out with the airline.

As you can see, applying these principles of psychology is very easy when you just consider that your guests are just looking to be treated in a special way. Share these principles with your peers so that everyone is on board with making your guests feel at home away from home.

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Lecturer and International Career Coordinator at EHL Passugg

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