The Door of Opportunity Opens With a Smile

By Naomi Stark President, Stark Service Solutions, LLC | April 24, 2016

38,600,000. That is the number of results Google returns in .39 seconds on the search, "how many studies on smiling are there?" Scientists have explored every aspect of smiling. Apparently, it even was used in predicting the life span of baseball players in 1952 – extending the life of those with "beaming smiles" seven years. Wow.

Research studies prove every which way that our brain, our emotions, our body, our children's development, our stress level, blood pressure - you name it - just about everything is benefited by the all-powerful SMILE. You can slice and dice the data in a million ways to conclusively say we should all be doing this more. Something else that everyone seems to agree on, confirmed by You Tube and Facebook likes, is that children and pets readily bring smiles to our faces. So perhaps pet-friendly and family-centric hotels have greater guest satisfaction? (Maybe that is Disney's secret!)

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Did you know? Smiling is not just a universal means of communicating, it's also a frequent one. More than 30% of us smile more than 20 times a day and less than 14% of us smile less than 5 times a day. In fact, those with the greatest superpowers are actually children, who smile as many as 400 times per day

Recently, results show the connection and impact that smiling actually has on guest satisfaction. According to a recent survey by J.D. Power & Associates, travelers are more satisfied than ever with their hotels. Overall guest service satisfaction reached a score of 804, up 20 points from last year. It was the first time satisfaction has surpassed the 800-point mark (on a 1000-point scale). At the same time, there was a 20% reduction in the number of guests who reported a problem during their stay, which was the lowest number reported since 2006. How does this news pertain to customer experience management? Because the survey also found that employee demeanor has a significant impact on guest satisfaction. The average number of problems experienced when a staff member greeted guests with a smile "all the time" dropped 50% compared to when they were smiled at only "sometimes." The study also showed that guests are more loyal when they walk away from their stay feeling "delighted." Among those who were delighted, 80% said they "definitely will" recommend the hotel to a friend, relative, or colleague, and 66% said they would stay again.

These are colossal numbers which indisputably prove how crucial hotel employees are in achieving guest satisfaction. It is imperative that management be absolutely committed to recruiting the best talent, and then offering a wide-array of training and development procedures to facilitate superior and consistent guest service performance. Let's dig into the pivotal categories of guest satisfaction surveys which relate to Problems Experienced and Satisfaction with resolution and explore just how powerful a smile is in these essential categories.

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The hotel industry has undertaken a long-term effort to build more responsible and socially conscious businesses. What began with small efforts to reduce waste - such as paperless checkouts and refillable soap dispensers - has evolved into an international movement toward implementing sustainable development practices. In addition to establishing themselves as good corporate citizens, adopting eco-friendly practices is sound business for hotels. According to a recent report from Deloitte, 95% of business travelers believe the hotel industry should be undertaking “green” initiatives, and Millennials are twice as likely to support brands with strong management of environmental and social issues. Given these conclusions, hotels are continuing to innovate in the areas of environmental sustainability. For example, one leading hotel chain has designed special elevators that collect kinetic energy from the moving lift and in the process, they have reduced their energy consumption by 50%  over conventional elevators. Also, they installed an advanced air conditioning system which employs a magnetic mechanical system that makes them more energy efficient. Other hotels are installing Intelligent Building Systems which monitor and control temperatures in rooms, common areas and swimming pools, as well as ventilation and cold water systems. Some hotels are installing Electric Vehicle charging stations, planting rooftop gardens, implementing stringent recycling programs, and insisting on the use of biodegradable materials. Another trend is the creation of Green Teams within a hotel's operation that are tasked to implement earth-friendly practices and manage budgets for green projects. Some hotels have even gone so far as to curtail or eliminate room service, believing that keeping the kitchen open 24/7 isn't terribly sustainable. The May issue of the Hotel Business Review will document what some hotels are doing to integrate sustainable practices into their operations and how they are benefiting from them.