Seeing Red: A Path to Mastering Stress and Improving Service, Employee Retention, and Customer Satisfaction - Part 1

June 04, 2024 | 341 Views

Seeing Red: A Path to Mastering Stress and Improving Service, Employee Retention, and Customer Satisfaction - Part 1

Dr. Elizabeth Lombardo

Keynote Speaker and Peak Performance Consultant | Elizabeth Lombardo International, LLC.

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In the hospitality industry, every personal interaction counts. The smile of a restaurant host. The helpfulness of the front desk attendant. The attention of a server. And where exceptional service can turn a first-time guest into a loyal customer—poor service and inappropriate responses to concerns can turn raving fans into ranting critics.

It’s this constant pressure to please and perform that often pushes hospitality employees into what I call "the Red Zone." This reactive, primal mental state triggered by overwhelming stress can wreak havoc on personal well-being and professional performance—especially if no skills are developed to counteract it.

Imagine this: You're juggling multiple guest requests, a colleague calls in sick, and a customer complaint is escalating—and these don’t include any of the worries or demands from home. In these heightened moments of distress, the brain “sees red,” and it’s much easier to see why

Those of us who have trained employees for better performance know that there’s no resilience or “bouncing back” in the Red Zone. There’s also no learning or empathy. And hospitality isn’t high on the list either.

All the more reason to equip hospitality employees with better ways to master stress—both on the job and beyond.

The Impact of the Red Zone on Hospitality Employees

Research shows that hotel employees report stressors on 40 to 62 percent of days, nearly double that of the national average on their best days. (Interestingly, the most significant stressors come not from guests but from interactions with fellow team members.)

Restaurant and food service workers also face significant challenges. In a recent survey, 58% reported being happy or extremely happy with their jobs, while 56% simultaneously felt burned out. Additionally, 37% say they are stressed, highlighting the pervasive nature of stress in this sector.

Customer Interactions and the Red Zone

The stress employees face often spills over into customer interactions—and vice versa. And it’s on the rise. According to this recent survey from the CCMC, 43% of customers have yelled or raised their voices out of anger about their concerns—up from 35% a decade before.

This statistic underscores the critical need for effective stress mastery strategies in the hospitality industry, as one negative customer experience requires twelve positive experiences to make up for it.

The Benefits of Managing Stress and Staying Out of the Red Zone

Helping team members manage stress and stay out of the Red Zone is not just beneficial for employees but also for business outcomes. Here's why:

Transitioning from the Red Zone to the Green Zone

To move from the Red Zone to the Green Zone, where the brain's frontal lobe is activated and in control, employees need the tools and training to manage stress effectively. The Green Zone is characterized by:

When employees operate in the Green Zone, they are better equipped to handle setbacks and challenges, maintaining high performance and positive customer interactions.

Serving “In the Green”

The hospitality industry is more than just service; it’s a beacon of ideal human behavior, connections, and conversations. When hospitality professionals operate in the Green Zone, they not only elevate guest experiences but also set a standard for positive interactions and emotional intelligence. This ripple effect extends beyond the workplace, fostering a culture of empathy, patience, and resilience that benefits everyone.
In the end, helping hospitality teams manage stress is a win for all of us. It leads to better customer experiences, healthier work environments, and a more compassionate society.

Ready to Lead out of the Red Zone?

Listen to my upcoming keynote at Chart 106 Chicago where you’ll gain breakthrough, science-driven insights on recognizing and leading your team out of the Red Zone, so your teams can tap into peak performance—and turn stress into success. And stay tuned for Part 2 of this series, where I’ll be delivering specific tools and tips to master stress.

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