Technology has become an inseparable part of the customer experience. However, the importance of how hospitality and airline staff use their communication skills with customers cannot be overstated. The first and last customer interactions are often face-to-face, and the most memorable and influential factor in determining customer loyalty.
Whether in food and beverage or travel-related industries, the day-to-day work centers around providing an enjoyable, easy encounter for people. The hospitality workforce is diverse too – many workers speak a second language and must learn to communicate in new ways. Not only does that involve remembering vocabulary and grammar, but it also requires communicating in high-pressure contexts.
The hospitality market value is predicted to grow by $6716.3 billion by 2028. Hence, meaning more opportunities for people to work and develop in the sector.
But before rushing to send applications, non-native English speakers should understand why communication is a priority.
Here’s the rundown, as well as recommendations to nurture better communication for customer-facing roles.
Humanizing the customer experience
Communication has a big impact on business success. In fact, one study found that 68% of people stopped dealing with a company and moved to a competitor after witnessing poor business communication skills in hospitality. Meanwhile, teams with effective communication strategies are 3.5 times more likely to outperform their peers.
The customer service sector is already competitive. Workers have to deal with challenging situations like guest complaints, unexpected outages, and last-minute changes to plans. All staff represent the brand and specific location they work for, and they have to be able to communicate well to overcome any friction and create a memorable experience for people. Employees who use communication to fix difficult situations put their business in a positive light and earn a competitive edge.
The same applies when it comes to technological advances. More companies are introducing tech like self-ordering kiosks, where customers can order and pay for food directly from a machine. The human element therefore has to meet a high standard, to carry forward the smooth and quick service that the machines deliver.
For example, the fast food chain Chick-Fil-A is rated as having the best customer service in the US. This is because it prioritizes face-to-face employee and customer interactions. Even if self kiosks are in place, the chain focuses on training employees to communicate in person too.
The success of Chick-Fil-A demonstrates why communication skills in hospitality are so crucial to business success. By communicating well, workers turn a difficult moment into a marketing technique and still accommodate their customers.
Share a common language
From the cabin crew on the plane to the receptionists at the hotel, the waiters in the restaurant, and the tour guides, customer service is ingrained in many industries, especially travel.
With people from all over the world exploring new places and having adventures, English is generally the default language they use. It’s important that workers speak English to best communicate with travelers. Sharing a common language enables personnel to understand customer needs more clearly and form positive relationships.
Think about when boarding a plane or taking off – the announcements are often made in English as well as the local language. Likewise, cabin crew members are expected to have a good level of English to be able to communicate with international passengers. Training in communication like learning English has also been a key factor for airlines that want to evolve the reputation of cabin crew from glamorous assistants to smart safety instructors.
With the many international logistics involved, having unified communication will always be valuable.
Increase productivity & business opportunities
There’s a reason why 97% of workers say that communication impacts their everyday tasks – it’s the foundation for people to carry out their duties.
Good communication not only increases productivity internally, it is also important for connecting with representatives from other businesses.
People who communicate well are able to introduce themselves and their company, and express how they’re different from other players. The ability to tell a story and distinguish themselves from the crowd can bring a lot of business potential.
Here at ELSA, we’ve recently partnered with Kazakhstan’s airline FlyArystan to help their international team of professionals better communicate between the cabin and crew, as well as to help individual employees learn English “on-the-fly” whenever it’s convenient for them, driving down communication training costs by up to 80%.
We are also an innovation partner of Singapore Airlines (SIA), where we work closely with teams to provide English communication training for cabin crew and other staff. Together, we have built the first AI-powered English training system for cabin crew, helping hospitality staff improve their fluency and confidence in English.
Improving English communication skills with AI
Excellent communication comes with practice and quick, in-depth feedback. What’s more, practice in context is key – i.e., in scenarios that reflect the workplace.
With Speech Analyzer, professionals can expand their vocabulary and build natural-sounding fluency that strengthens their overall communication.
Using the tool, professionals can upload recordings of themselves speaking in English and rehearse common circumstances they encounter in hospitality. An example of this could be responding to a guest complaint in a hotel. Speech Analyzer then gives feedback around grammar, intonation, vocabulary, and pronunciation.
Elsewhere, professionals can answer questions specifically designed for work environments or describe a selection of images shown on the screen. These activities help hospitality workers feel more confident verbalizing concepts and ideas off the cuff.
Communication will always play a core role in the working world. In hospitality, communication is the primary channel to deliver services. Even as more processes become digitized, human-to-human communication will still determine the value customers get from hospitality businesses and whether they return to them in the future.
If you’re in the hospitality industry, learn more about ELSA Speech Analyzer and how ELSA can help advance your employees’ English speaking skills.