I just survived my first hotel strike. That’s not saying much, except after 600 nights of hotel time in the last decade, I’ve never stayed in one that had a strike. And by survived I’m stretching it! Certainly I had food and water, and the survival necessities. I didn’t have the usual perks and amenities I’ve grown accustomed to.   Last year I went on an all-inclusive vacation with a travel group. We had an entire resort to ourselves, which was awesome, until nearly 2/3 of the travel group had dysentery or food poisoning, or worse. I was fortunate to have only food poisoning.

What do these two experiences have in common? Communication. Or lack thereof.  In both instances it was obvious to all that there was a problem. and denying the existence of the strike or the illness did nothing for the people who were caught in it. Let’s bring that closer to home. In the financial crisis of 2008 and 2009 many organizations dealt with a reduction in force, or a layoff. The magnitude of the layoffs depended on the industry, and this isn’t about any specific industry. When there is no communication strategy, people are left to fill in the blank.

I checked into the hotel after the strike had begun. I was told there would be no disruption in the service levels of the hotel. That means the person who is charge of the front desk had the wrong communication with the staff at the desk. Or maybe no communication at all. A missing strategy that changed the whole experience. How important are expectations to your travel experience, to your daily experience? A communication strategy addresses the gap between expectation and reality and is included in your disaster planning, right? I hope so. I also suggest you have one for changes you implement – changes where the expectation and the reality will have a gap.

Think how easy it would have been to report to the guests checking in that your room may not get cleaned each day, that your towels will be near the elevator if you need them, and the restaurants aren’t at their usual level of service. What would the guest experience be then? Or the travel company, who stood before us each day to share the activities and highlights, mentions that people are not well, and while they don’t know the cause they also know it’s no fun to be sick on vacation. This acknowledgement could have been followed by a voucher for a future booking with them, or some other form of response that created a better alignment between the experience and the expectation.

We know change is inevitable. Alongside that new thing you are planning to implement are many things you didn’t expect, and having a communication strategy for both aligns the experience for your people. Maybe if we can each do this in our small ways, big organizations will follow along.

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About Judy Hissong

Judy Hissong is the President of Nesso Strategies. A former law firm Chief Operating Officer, she helps firms become more profitable by developing leaders. Her mission is “world domination for Good.” By creating actionable, lightbulb moments that leaders want to share and spread, she intends to improve the world one person at a time.

Judy Hissong