Once upon a time, my past reception manager told me: speak to guests with mucho love, even when you write them an email.

Indeed, if there’s one thing I’ve learned from the years of living abroad, it is that words matter.

And using unintentionally one which can have a double meaning, can change entire conversation.

Seriously, it got me into trouble sooooo many times when I’ve talked with someone who was catching me for every word (I’m talking about you ex-boyfriend).

I speak Polish, English, Spanish. French hangs on the back with occasional comment ça va, bonjour, and Je suis Polonais (hell, even my fingers get tired by writing in French, haha). Despite speaking fluently in these languages, I still have word blackouts. So sometimes, I need to go around to explain something, even if there’s one word for it. 

When I use a word, which to me doesn’t carry any emotion, another person can take it negatively.

Come to think of it, I swear like hell in Spanish and English, and that’s because nasty words in these two languages don’t mean anything to me.

Because you see words are filled with emotions – good and bad ones.

Besides, hospitality is about making people feel at home. And when you’re at home, you want to feel comfortable and do what pleases you. So words that relate to denial evoke emotions opposite to being comfortable.

Without further ado, let’s go over 4 negative words and phrases to avoid in the guest communication online and in real life.

1. No 

Customers don’t like to hear “no” as an answer. Instead, try going around. Let’s imagine a guest wants to change the bed from the top bunk to the bottom (not so hard when you work in hostels). Maybe it’s not possible, but at least you can “try.” Say

“Let me see what I can do. Ok, so I can see that today all the bottoms are already taken; however, tomorrow it’s possible.”

2. Unfortunately

Yeah, I know “unfortunately we have no room available for these dates” is kind of automatic. Daaaah. Next time try this:

“For the dates you’re interested in, there’s no availability now. However, if you’re flexible in your dates we have a double room from xx to xx ”. Or something like that.

3. It’s not possible

Whenever there is a problem or complaint, guests want a solution right away. But, the reality is, it’s not always possible to give them what they want. However, you can trick them into feeling like it is. Maybe not right away, but soon.

“Let me quickly check what I can do”; 

“Maybe you will be interested in (place alternative) instead?”; 

“The super suit is occupied for today; however, it’s possible for the upgrade starting tomorrow.”

4. Sorry for the inconvenience

I think it’s always better to talk with customers in positive language. Being sorry seems like a polite way for everything but it also looks like admitting it’s your fault. It’s not always the case, right? It’s not your fault the room sink is clogged or that someone has stolen the guest’s milk from the shared refrigerator.

Use this instead:

“Thank you for your patience.”

Unless it’s your fault. Then be sorry.

What’s the punch line of this post? Use positive words in the guest’s communication to convey mucho love even when you can’t give them what they want.

damn it, I forgot the other phrases. Wanna help out by sharing in the comments?


Posted by Ewa Gabara

Posted by Ewa Gabara

Founder of Don’t Mess With The Receptionist. I geek out on hostels and I’m a long-time receptionist turned into a copywriter. I help the hospitality and travel brands conquer the world with words.

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