The Four Stages of Hotelier Competence

An Inspirational Guide to Continue Your Learning

By Larry Mogelonsky President & Founder, LMA Communications | September 01, 2013

Many months ago, I wrote an article discussing the great social psychologist Abraham Maslow and how his popular motivation theory of the 'Hierarchy of Needs' applies to hotels, guest expectations and everything in between. This pyramidal model of human behavior from the 1940s is widely recognized that it is still in use today – and rightfully so!

However, Maslow wasn't a one hit wonder, and he is often credited as one of the progenitors of another paradigm of behavioral psychology. Rising to prominence in the 1970s, the 'Four Stages of Competence' describes the pathology by which one acquires a new skill from the drudgeries of persistent failure to intact, reflexive action. Needless to say, this time-tested theory is rife with applications for hoteliers, primarily insofar as how we approach contemporary problems that face our properties and our industry.

The four stages, which we'll delve into in a minute, are unconscious incompetence, conscious incompetence, conscious competence and, lastly, unconscious competence. Don't let the word 'incompetence' alienate you. What's remarkable about this learning model is that it is not designed to presuppose certain people as 'smarter' or 'better' than any other. As professionals, we are all a spectrum of learned skills with various character traits falling into each of the four labels. In short, nobody's perfect.

Hence, we can all still learn, master or perfect some aspect of our daily routines. The key is to accept the fact that you're not perfect then be open to both personal criticism and new experiences which might widen your perspective. The hospitality industry is so diverse and panoptic that there's always something new the world can teach you. With this in mind, let us begin our hotel-focused adaptation of this magnificent psychology theory.

1. Unconscious Incompetence - "Two things are infinite: the universe and human stupidity, and I'm not sure about the universe"

I'd be remiss if I didn't insert at least one of my favorite Albert Einstein quotations to help get the ball rolling. However witty this great 20th century scientist was, he was also right about a lot of things, too – for one, blind ignorance abounds.

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Social Media: Getting Personal

There Social media platforms have revolutionized the hotel industry. Popular sites such as Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Instagram, Snapchat, YouTube and Tumblr now account for 2.3 billion active users, and this phenomenon has forever transformed how businesses interact with consumers. Given that social media allows for two-way communication between businesses and consumers, the emphasis of any marketing strategy must be to positively and personally engage the customer, and there are innumerable ways to accomplish that goal. One popular strategy is to encourage hotel guests to create their own personal content - typically videos and photos -which can be shared via their personal social media networks, reaching a sizeable audience. In addition, geo-locational tags and brand hashtags can be embedded in such posts which allow them to be found via metadata searches, substantially enlarging their scope. Influencer marketing is another prevalent social media strategy. Some hotels are paying popular social media stars and bloggers to endorse their brand on social media platforms. These kinds of endorsements generally elicit a strong response because the influencers are perceived as being trustworthy by their followers, and because an influencer's followers are likely to share similar psychographic and demographic traits. Travel review sites have also become vitally important in reputation management. Travelers consistently use social media to express pleasure or frustration about their guest experiences, so it is essential that every review be attended to personally. Assuming the responsibility to address and correct customer service concerns quickly is a way to mitigate complaints and to build brand loyalty. Plus, whether reviews are favorable or unfavorable, they are a vital source of information to managers about a hotel's operational performance.  The February Hotel Business Review will document what some hotels are doing to effectively incorporate social media strategies into their businesses.