Want Loyalty? Get Your Guests Positively Emotional!
By Roberta Nedry President & Founder, Hospitality Excellence, Inc. | August 28, 2011
Oh.. what a feeling! Whether this expression comes from Irene Cara in Flashdance, Bad Boys Blue, Van Morrison, Solomon Burke, The Everly Brothers or Crowbar, the concept of" Feelings" and how they move people in all facets of life is really something to sing about! Joy! Excitement! Anger! Anxiety! Confusion, Clarity? Feelings? What role do these and other feelings play in the world of hospitality? Better yet, what are the emotions of service that cause those feelings and what kinds of emotion does service, good, bad or indifferent, cause in guests? Do we even want guests to get emotional about the service we are offering? Or, would we rather they keep their emotions to themselves and let us just do our jobs??? How critical are emotions to the success of any one hospitality experience and can they actually be defined and managed, by employee or guest, for the desired outcomes? Can they be contagious?
In many cases, we are taught not to get too emotional and that showing emotion can be a sign of weakness or lack of control. Why are so many people afraid of emotions? It may be true, that being too emotional can disrupt clear thinking or appropriate behavior but pure emotion can also produce the most memorable feelings and in turn, experiences that matter. In fact, most strongly held beliefs, especially loyalties, are developed in the emotional centers of the brain, not the logical areas! Experiences that generate positive emotions get the best reviews, result in repeat and referral guests and increase the bottom line of profit. Understanding how to orient employees to relate to, understand and inspire positive guest emotions and to better manage their own emotions as part of that process is an intriguing and powerful guest service strategy.
Jeanne Mills, newly elected President of Les Clefs d'Or, USA, the nation's only and top association of professional hotel concierges, and Chef Concierge of the MGM Grand in Las Vegas, says, "I always tell my team that at the end of the day, it's how you make people feel that matters most. It's more than just a paycheck."
One of my colleagues recently embarked on a two week Mediterranean cruise to celebrate major milestone birthdays for she and her husband as well as their 25th wedding anniversary. To honor my colleague and these three very significant events, I contacted the reservations department to arrange for a special amenity to greet them when they boarded the ship. My first contact was by email to find out how to handle the arrangements where I learned that the cruise line was confident their "Signature of Excellence" would surpass my expectations. Before I even made the phone call, I was pleased to know that they planned to surpass my expectations with this simple step. I was happy!
I made the call and told the agent who answered about my dear colleague and her three very special events. I was excited and could not wait for her to help me decide what to give them, especially with that promise of "Excellence!" Her immediate tone was aloof, disinterested and perfunctory. She asked me what I wanted to send. I was still excited about surprising this guest and her husband so once again, repeated the three events and asked her what she would recommend. She offered very few options and asked me to choose. My excitement started to diminish and my frustration began to build. I really had to push to come up with a creative option, champagne and chocolate covered strawberries and get her to ensure those would be delivered. At no point did she take initiative, share my enthusiasm or appreciate the extra dollars I was sending to the cruise line. Next, we had to draft the message. I still remember the pain of those moments. As I expressed heartfelt emotion for the message I wanted to convey, she became annoyed and told me I had too many letters and that I must shorten it. She pulled the rug of excitement right out from under me and let me fall on my face. She offered no suggestions or guidelines on how much space I had in the first place so I was just throwing things out and hoping they would fit. I finally figured it out and felt sad about the happy message I had created. I had to ask her to confirm everything to me and read it back. Once again, she did not offer to do anything to make my exceptional effort feel exceptional. Her attitude left me feeling annoyed, disappointed and inconvenienced, and her signature was anything but excellent.
And, to top it off, when my colleague returned, I found out she got the champagne, got the note…but did not get the chocolate covered strawberries. My emotional dismay continued, thanks to one very uncaring employee.] This agent caused feelings of frustration, displeasure, anxiety and anger when I started out at the complete opposite side of the emotional spectrum. This employee's emotions were nonexistent! Imagine what a happy and excited attitude on her part could have accomplished, addressing exactly the same situation.
All of us, are emotionally driven to want to form relationships. Hospitality experiences are built upon a series of relationships at each touch point of the guest experience. Each point of contact, each touchpoint, can make a guest feel a certain way. They want to feel happiness, relief, relaxation, excitement, trust and so many other emotions when they choose any one hospitality environment. They don't want to be upset or even feel neutral when they spend their leisure or business dollars. They want to have their expectations satisfied and surpassed and that will greatly be based on their emotions. The littlest things can exceed expectations and trigger positive emotions.
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