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The Emotions of Hospitality.
By Mark Godfrey
Wednesday, 13th March 2013
As the world of customer experience has evolved over the last 15 years, we have seen an increasing focus on the importance of creating 'positive' experiences for customers.

Businesses across all sectors have been realising that it is relatively easy to replicate the physical offering of their competitors, so the battleground has moved to the 'emotional' experience, which is not so easy to replicate.

Initial research into the importance of emotions in an experience, has been undertaken by a UK-based consultancy firm called Beyond Philosophy. It suggests that emotions account for over 50% of the total experience. More recently another consultancy suggested this figure is now 70%(1). So clearly, in the hospitality industry we ignore emotions at our peril.

Guest Emotions

Do you know how your guests feel when they interact with you? What are the things you do that create positive emotions and what are you doing which might create negative feelings? Research has identified that guests like to feel "welcomed, valued, cared for and special", (2) which is no great surprise; so you should consider what you and your team can do to maximise these emotions in every area of your business.

For a company such as Disney this behaviour comes as second nature. It has calculated that visitors who are 'advocates' (score Disney 9 or 10 on NPS feedback scores) are worth four times as much to the organisation over their lifetime. So with this in mind, it's well worth the investment in learning and development for its front line staff.

Another great company with the same ethos is Ritz Carlton, which prides itself on delivering exceptionally high guest satisfaction scores - you can read some of their 'emotional' stories here

Key touch points where emotions are created include the welcome a guest receives in every part of a hotel. These touch points present opportunities to make guests feel valued and cared for. First and last impressions are very important to guests, so why is it that a welcome or goodbye can be such a disappointing experience?

In 2011 Visit Britain identified that if guests are given a good welcome, 20% will recommend, however if given a GREAT welcome, 78% will recommend. It might be the norm in many hotels to ask to swipe a guest's credit card when they walk through the front door, but does that create a great experience? Not necessarily!

As well as focussing on positive emotions, it is also worthwhile considering how and where we might be creating negative experiences for guests that will damage their experience, such as surly staff, mould growing in bathrooms, "petty" rules around spa use, etc. Once we start to create negative emotions, the guest will start looking for other things that are going wrong with their stay - and look out Trip Advisor because that's where all this negative comment will likely appear!

Colleague Emotions

4Hoteliers Image LibraryWe have long subscribed to the mantra of "recruit for attitude, train for skills". Hire people who love to serve guests and then train them in the technical skills to do their jobs well. If the service giver's attitude is wrong, the impact on the guest experience will be disastrous.

Hospitality leaders also need to consider what they can do to create the right culture within the business to create positive colleague emotions.

Colleagues also want to feel valued and cared for, so they need good leadership, to feel supported in their roles, to be empowered to deliver great service and to be coached and mentored constantly. Good communication is vital as colleagues like to know what is going on and feel involved with the business.

Shangri-La is a great example of a company investing in its people. It budgets 3% of payroll to train staff in a 'service culture' and I am sure it achieves a great ROI on this investment. Remember - Happy Colleagues = Happy Guests.

Sidona Group, customer experience experts that I have worked with in previous roles, are leading the way in researching the impact of emotions on the guest experience. They have developed a unique programme of tools and techniques to help leaders and front line staff identify, manage, and meet guests' emotional needs.


Emotions are an area that traditionally we have not given a lot of consideration in hospitality, but as they become increasingly important, now is the time to start thinking about how you can create more positive emotional experiences for your guests.

Ensure that your guest research programme includes something on emotions and is not just a long checklist of all the physical things you provide.

Companies with a proven track record in exceeding guest experience have common practices:

  • They recruit for attitude, train, engage and develop staff and give rewarding internal experiences
  • They take extensive steps to identify guest needs before they arrive so they know what emotions to evoke on arrival
  • They invest heavily in leadership and a good reward structure
  • Have strong organisational values and guiding principles which they stick to
As they say "It's been emotional". Thank you for reading.

(1) Circles, Turning Emotion into Engagement
(2) Sidona Group Research, 2011

Author: Mark Godfrey, Associate, EMEA

Mark offers clients practical advice specializing in the Independent Hotel sector, using his knowledge and experience of development and refurbishment in the repositioning of businesses. He works with clients to assess growth strategies, repositioning potential and turnaround projects. The Hotel Solutions Partnership Ltd
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