The hospitality industry is facing a double whammy when it comes to the COVID-19 pandemic. It’s not just about the immediate loss of business. Guests who do arrive may have come in recent contact with COVID-19 as they traveled. This exposes staff and other guests to potential infection. The impact on this industry, its guests and staff cannot be overstated.
Those properties that can show current and potential guests that they’re handling the coronavirus crisis the right way are a step ahead of the game. They can help instill a level of trust that will be necessary for a faster return to profitability. What many fail to understand is that this trust isn’t created with simple outbound communications. External email blasts from “corporate” to guests are actually just one piece of the puzzle. Instead, the vast majority of this trust is earned and reinforced through staff interactions with guests… from the moment they book their stays through the time they depart.
The Importance of Staff Crisis Communication During the Coronavirus Outbreak
If staff really are responsible for taking care of guests and instilling trust at each property, then much of the hospitality industry’s COVID-19 communication strategy should focus internally. A crisis communication and action plan for hotel staff can be broken down into a few categories. It’s all about giving staff the information they need to make good decisions at the local level. Staff need to feel up-to-date, empowered, and fully supported. Frequent and consistent communication is key. Here are three areas of focus:
What you want staff to know.
- The straightforward facts about COVID-19, as verified by trusted sources, detailing what it is, the symptoms, how it spreads, how to prevent and treat it.
- How your company as a whole and your individual properties may be affected.
- What your executive leadership team is doing to ensure that the company, individual properties, and staff are kept in the loop.
- What resources are dedicated to addressing this outbreak.
- The policy on presenteeism and staffing coordination.
- On-site sanitizing enhancements.
- Any messaging that will be or has already been sent directly to guests.
- What staff may say to guests about the outbreak and the hotel’s policies.
How you want staff to behave.
- Each staff member should be mindful of their health & hygiene so that they themselves do not spread an illness. Include reminders about not touching one’s face, shaking hands, and basic transmission prevention. They should feel empowered to stay at home when ill.
- Everyone should become a COVID-19 prevention evangelist. And let staff know they all have access to extra sanitizing methods as needed.
- Staff should be patient with guests who are under additional stress from travel restrictions and concerns about the outbreak. (Are staff members empowered to offer guests extra incentives and comfort items during this difficult time without consulting management?)
- Being able to recognize when guests may be showing signs of illness and may need intervention.
What you want staff to pass on to guests.
- When guests arrive, they should be shown that your property and staff members are doing everything recommended by trusted sources such as the CDC, WHO, etc. to help guests have a pleasant, healthy stay.
- Point out all the extra measures that are being taken. Does this include full room/bedding/facility sanitizing? Perhaps highlight the frequency of hand-surface sanitizing, including door handles, elevator buttons, etc. Do guests know how to find extra hand sanitizer stations, sinks, paper towels and everything they need to keep germ-free?
- If your property is suffering from staff shortages, on-site staff should be able to discuss and pass along your company’s strict policy against presenteeism—one of the best ways to prevent COVID-19 transmission to guests.
- Compassion: Let guests know that staff will do everything possible to listen and assist in any way possible.
Be sure to keep up the internal communication throughout this crisis. It shouldn’t just be a one-and-done communication event. Use all available internal communication methods, including workplace digital signage for back-of-house messaging at your property. This way, everyone can see the same content and discuss it for even greater understanding and reinforcement.