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Customer Service, Communication Theory, HospitalityResearch Paper

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Interpersonal Communication

Communication consists of the following elements: sender, message, feedback, channel, encoding, decoding and receiver (Chand, 2015). Interpersonal communication refers to communication that takes place between two or more people, using implying communication in person, without media. Each of these elements plays a critical role in successful communication. Each communication has a specific message that the sender intends the receive to receive, but the choice of channel along with the encoding, and the manner in which the receive decodes the message, are all critical to the communication process. Feedback is essentially an opportunity to ensure that the receiver has in fact received the message as intended. Without these elements, the communication is unlikely to be effective -- the message that the sender intends to transmit must pass through the encoding, channel and decoding to be the same as the message that the receiver receives (Holatova, 2003).

Thus, there are many ways in which the communication can be impeded. For example, communication can be impeded when the sender does not encode the message in a manner that will be interpreted as intended by the receiver. In the examples of poor communication, there are instances when the sender's method of encoding the message makes the message itself ambiguous. Anything that impedes the message is known as noise, and there are many different types of noise in communication. A noise source can be external in nature, or it can be something that inhibits the sender or receiver from encoding/decoding properly (Shannon, 1998). In the examples provided, for example, there are emotions that serve as noise because they inhibit effective encoding and decoding, leading to miscommunication between the parties. Effective communication demands that both the sender and receiver are aware of potential noise sources and seek to eliminate them, or minimize their impact on the communication at hand. There are basically three kinds of noise in the communication -- physical noise, semantic noise and psychological noise. So emotion is a form of psychological noise; semantic noise is when the choice of words obfuscates the message or conveys the wrong message, and physical noise is actual noise or distraction that prevents someone from fully engaging in the conversation (Dyke, 2015).

Gudykunst (1993) argues that effective interpersonal communication can also be influenced by motivation, knowledge and communication skills. For example, some communication requires a certain amount of technical knowledge in order to properly send the message. Further, people's motivations for a communication will be reflected in their choice of encoding and channel, so these things will also factor into the communication. One of the examples has the front desk person letting out a sigh -- not a problem if answering an email but definitely a problem when the customer is face-to-face. So when dealing face-to-face, motivations have to be perhaps more guarded, or more directly related to the interests of the guest, because they are part of the channel and coding of a message that, ultimately, the hotel does not want the guest to receive.

Another factor that comes into play specifically with interpersonal communication is that there is a relationship that forms, and the communication choices reflect that relationship (Hoover, O'Shea & Carroll, 1988). The staff member, for example, is not just forming a temporary relationship with the guest, but is also contributing to the overall relationship that the brand has with the guest, something that can be much longer-lasting. This reality has to frame the communication style that the staff member uses with the guest. This is derived from social exchange theory, wherein the communication reflects the social interaction, but incorporates the corporate dimension where it is recognized that the staff member is also acting as an agent on behalf of the business, not just engaging in an interpersonal social exchange between people (Bylund, Peterson & Cameron, 2011).

Communication in Hotels

There are basically two forms of communication in a hotel setting -- internal (between two people on staff) and external (between a staff member and a non-staff member, usually a guest). One of the examples highlights the communication between a manager and a subordinate. A manager at a hotel has a number of different roles, one of which is to maintain a high level of morale and motivation among the employees. Literature on leadership effectiveness is clear about the need for strong communication from the manager to the employees. Indeed, managerial communication plays a strong role in maintaining morale and motivation among the workers, but only when that communication is open, honest and effective (Gilley, Gilley & McMillan, 2009).

Managers therefore need to focus on their interpersonal communication skills. Studies of leader-member exchange have noted that relationship-based theories are based on trust, respect and mutual obligation, and that this approach is usually the most effective because both the workers and the leaders are engaged in trying to make the business more successful. When communication is leader-based the leader needs to set an example for the employee with respect to behavior in order for that communication style to work, and in employee-based style the employee needs to be able to motivate himself or herself. In any customer service business, the relationship-based communication style is the best because it allows the workers to be empowered and motivated to help the company succeed, which they otherwise might not be, but that lack of motivation would show through in poorer customer service (Graen & Bien, 1995).

In the example provided, there was miscommunication between the manager and the employee. The manager was concerned only with the easy solution to his own problems where the employee had a more relationship-based approach. But since the manager lacked that level of mutual respect, the communication broke down a little bit, leaving the employee dissatisfied with the encounter, and clearly stripping away some of the employee's motivation to work towards the betterment of the hotel in the future. The manager's poor communication skills, rooted in selfish interests rather than in motivation, proved to be negative in this situation, because the manager did not respect the employee on any meaningful level. Employees who feel disrespected typically become disengaged from their work (QSM, 2015).

Numerous studies have drawn conclusions about the effectiveness of communication in the service setting, and the influence that effective communication has on building customer relationship commitment (Sharma & Patterson, 1999). Any employee that communicates with a guest can therefore be seen as contributing to the relationship that the hotel has with that guest. This places emphasis on avoiding customer service and communication failures like the one in the example.

Communication is also an important part of delivering quality service. Guests expect that hotel staff will be courteous and professional at all times. This should reflect in the communication style that the customer service staff uses. Even when the staff must deliver a message that the guest does not wish to hear, the channel and coding need to be such that the guest does not get upset. This means using professional language and a courteous tone at all times, so that the guest correctly interprets that whatever the problem is not personal, and cannot be avoided. Service failure, unless accompanied by swift recovery, can result in guests leaving the brand for good (Lewis & McCann, 2004). Perceptions of service quality have been found to influence guests' behavioral intentions (Alexandris et al., 2002), so management needs to ensure that all communication with guests from all members of staff convey only the best service and this includes body language, too.

Transcripts

Conversation #1

Simon smiles at Samantha as she enters Simon's office without knocking. She looks tired and upset.

Simon: "How can I help you, Samantha?"

Sam: "Hi Simon, I would like to book a day off for Friday."

Simon: "Ok, let me check the schedule and see if there is anyone who can cover that shift."

Samantha: "I found someone, Brendan, who is willing to cover my shift. If that is okay, that would mean a lot to me. My mother is coming in from out of town, did not tell me ahead of time, and you know I haven't requested a day off in the two years that I have worked here."

Simon: "I know; you've been great. Let me just check the roster. Ok, Brendan isn't scheduled for Friday, so if he is willing to cover the shift that will be okay. I have confidence in him, because I hired him. Let me confirm with him that he is willing to work Friday. If he tells me he will take your shift, then you can have Friday off."

Samantha: "Thank you, Simon. I am grateful for you to accommodate me after the roster has been written."

Simon: "No worries, Samantha. We're a team here, we look out for one another."

Conversation #2

Samantha: "Hi sir, I'm sorry about the wait. Do you have a reservation?"

Tomson: "Yes, my name is Tomson."

Samantha: "Excellent, Mr. Tomson. Would you like some water, or a cup of coffee while I get… [END OF PREVIEW]

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