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Finding the balance between service ethics and employee appreciation

Posted by Beau Peters on Sep 6, 2021 3:45:00 PM
Beau Peters

Solid customer service ethics are central to any thriving hospitality industry business. Let’s face it, your company’s success depends on your consumers feeling as though their needs have been put first at all times. There should be no doubt at all of your responsibility to prioritize their safety, security, comfort, and wellbeing throughout your interactions.   

In the blog post, guest writer Beau Peters looks into how you can find the balance between providing great customer service and protecting your employees from bullying and harassment.

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Too often providing great customer service is mistakenly translated as the guest’s needs should come at the expense of the wellbeing of staff. The customer is not always right, particularly when they are pushing the edges of what we in the civilized world consider to be acceptable behavior. A recent survey found 40% of customers had witnessed a hospitality or retail staff member being abused by another customer. This kind of issue is certain to arise, but it is how you handle it that makes a difference. By putting the customer ahead of your staff, you run the risk of alienating – or even hurting – your valued employees. If you fall too hard on the side of your workers, there’s a risk of damaging your reputation.    

Your best option is to strive for a balance between your service ethics and showing your employees the appreciation they deserve. Here's how: 

Define the boundaries 

The area hospitality businesses tend to struggle with when maintaining an ethical balance is properly formalizing their standards. This leads to a lack of clarity that can make it easy for standards to slip. By definition, business ethics are a set of principles that direct the behavior and operations of the organization – both on an overarching basis and during day-to-day running. This doesn’t just apply to the honest business practices which give your guests a good experience but also to treating your staff well. It’s difficult for all stakeholders of the business to act in a consistent, ethical direction when there is no confirmation on what these principles are. This includes helping members of management to recognize when guests are falling outside of ethical bounds and how to step in to support staff at the receiving end. 

So, how can you best go about establishing ethical boundaries? Well, the important thing is to not simply operate from a dictatorial position. When a set of ethical guidelines are created from a single perspective, there’s little incentive for everyone to engage meaningfully with them. Wherever possible, involve all stakeholders in the discussion and setting of boundaries. Get insights from your staff not just about what the standards should be, but also why to prioritize them. This helps everyone to act in both the spirit and to the letter of your company’s business ethics. 

Following discussions, take time to create an accessible document outlining your ethical principles. This document removes any ambiguity about how to respond to difficult situations with customers. Regular training should also be given on understanding and applying these principles in practice. This way each member of your staff knows what values should guide their interactions to give the best service. But equally, they can identify when consumer behavior breaches moral standards.

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Prioritize communication 

Without effective communication, the potential for misunderstandings to occur and frustrations to flare tends to rise. Not to mention that even nuanced aspects of approach, tone, and content can make a significant impact on all parties involved.

Your first priority is implementing clear communications protocols throughout your hospitality business. From an external perspective, go through each step of the customer journey and identify where you can build options for the consumer to easily interact with you if they have questions or concerns. Make sure the availability of these is passed on through email confirmations, online check-ins, and interactions with staff members. Even during complaints when the consumer is incorrect or even abusive, maintaining consistent communications protocols is paramount.   

Internally, you must make certain communication is a part of ongoing skills training. This should include active listening so staff can both better attend to consumer needs and respond in an informed fashion when there are issues. Hospitality can also be a realm for emotions to run high, therefore effective de-escalation techniques should be passed on. Management should be educated to handle complaints while making sure they continually demonstrate their care and support of the staff members involved. This includes debriefings and follow-ups.   

Minimize risks

It is an indisputable aspect of business ethics that your hospitality business has a duty of care both to your customers and your employees. If the actions of anyone in the company results in neglecting this duty on either side, this can create an imbalance both in service ethics and employee appreciation. You must adopt measures minimizing the risks to anyone interacting with your business.  

Remember, each hospitality business has its own risks to consumers and staff alike. To manage these effectively you need to take time to understand and identify the combination of internal and external risks your company is subject to. Assess your operations and review all the basic categories of risk. This will include the physical risks to consumers and staff caused by food spillages or trip hazards. There may be location risks like susceptibility to earthquakes or extreme weather. Your staff and customers may be particularly open to human risks, like other customers’ behavior altered by alcohol or drug abuse.  

Once you’ve identified these you can then start the process of applying some of your problem-solving skills to prevent issues from occurring at all, and creating protocols for effective, supportive responses if they do. Often this will tie into your communications approach, making certain staff and customers are well informed and know what the response procedures are. This should also include not only attending to any physical losses or injuries sustained but also assessing any mental or emotional challenges.  

Consumers and staff each play a vital role in the success of your hospitality business. As such, you need to encourage protocols and behavior that maintain a balance between ethical service activities and making your staff feel supported. With some focus on defining ethical boundaries, solid communication, and mitigating risks you can put your company on a strong footing to keep all stakeholders happy.  


Beau Peters Typsy blog post writer

Beau Peters is a writer with an increasingly diverse portfolio and a history in business management. He has a passion for sharing what he has learned with others and enjoys making the world a better place. When he is not tucked behind a cup of coffee and a laptop, Beau likes to meet new people and try new things.

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Topics: Health and wellbeing, Hospitality managers, Hospitality staff