With so many companies around the globe requiring guests to wear facemasks in all public areas these days, it has fallen upon the frontline hospitality staff to enforce this policy, which in many cases is also municipal ordinance or decree. Although most guests comply voluntarily, some guests are challenging our staff’s authority to require compliance in a way that is confrontational and often demeaning.
It’s the frontline staff who are most often the receptors of a verbal barrage, as they are most likely to first encounter unmasked guests as they enter the welcome center, elevator or recreational areas.
Therefore, it is important to provide them with the training they need to de-escalate these encounters in the spirit of hospitality. Here are some tips to share with your guest contact staff.
Express Empathy and Apologize to Defuse the Encounter
As with all KTN training on service recovery, the first recommendation we have is to deflect the guest’s anger with a sincere statement of empathy, personalized and contextualized to their situation. Here are some examples:
- Empathize: “I can understand how you feel, and to be honest sir, I don’t like wearing a mask either, especially for a full shift here…” or “Indeed, Ms. Smith, I know how you feel and I wish we didn’t have to wear one either while on duty, especially with it being so hot this time of year…”
- Apologize: “…and I apologize for the inconvenience this pandemic situation has caused.” Or “…I apologize for this situation that is beyond my control here in town.”
Defer to a Higher Authority
Let the guest know that it is a higher authority who is mandating this requirement, such as a local, state or national decree.
- “Here in Anytown, the (Mayor, Council, Judge…) is requiring our business to comply and we must do so to avoid fines (or risk being closed down). Unfortunately, we are not able to welcome any guests who do not comply.” Or
- “Because the safety of our guests and staff is a top priority here at Brand X Rentals, our leaders are requiring all our guests to comply in order to protect those guests who are especially vulnerable during this pandemic.”
If they continue to object: First, just return to the first step and continue to express empathy and apologize. After you cycle through this a few times, most guests will relent and agree to comply.
If They Still Resist, Speak More Firmly
- “As it is sir, I am just not able to allow you to proceed, so may I kindly ask once again that you please put on this mask?”
If they still do not comply, it may be helpful to have a manager, or even a co-worker speak with them and take them through the same conversation.
The above steps will most likely resolve the issue, yet some guests will flat out refuse. As a manager, be sure to let your staff know where the line is drawn. When should they call for security or law enforcement?
Hopefully though, when frontline staff are trained on the previous de-escalation techniques, encounters will not come to this point.
Finally, this is a great time to remind the frontline staff that bringing out the best in others, brings out the best in ourselves. Remind the staff that although there will always be a small percentage of the traveling public who present as difficult guests, the vast majority of those who complain are simply nice people who are going through a rough spot. When we maintain our composure, guests are more likely to comply, rather than when we let our emotions get the best of us.