'Please Let Me Help You!' - The Yin and Yang Of Altruistic Behavior

By Sapna Mehta Mangal Associate Professor, School of Hospitality Management, Kendall College at National Louis University | April 01, 2018

The word altruism or autrui has its roots in French and means "other people." Altruism is also derived from the Latin word "alter" meaning kindness for others. Often, altruism behavior is associated with something that is purely selfless and truly noble. A notable tenet of altruistic behavior is the act of putting others ahead of self by undertaking kind and selfless gestures. It is often referred to as organization citizen behavior, which is a term that will be used interchangeably throughout this article.

So, are empathy and altruism different or are they switchable? Empathy is the ability to fill someone's shoes by feeling their pain and sadness. It is not necessarily followed by an act. It is, however, widely known within the scientific community that empathy can lead to altruistic behavior. So, they are connected but truly different.

Benefits of Altruistic Behavior

The ability to help others whether it is providing something as mundane like allowing a waiting family of four in a taxi line to take the cab prior to oneself or giving up a seat to a senior citizen on a crowded train. These good deeds put a smile on the recipients' face and the giver acquires a "helper high." Psychologically speaking, kinder people tend to live longer and are for the most part happier. Moreover, it should be underscored that this type of behavior can impact positive morale amongst staff thus boosting overall work performance.

As employees engage in altruistic behavior and guests in turn display their good emotional experiences on user generated content sites like Yelp or Trip advisor, businesses can continue to boast their grandiose guest service review ratings. Research states that even one bad review can result in as many as a fifth of potential guests looking for another hotel during the purchase state of the buying cycle, whereas more than two thirds of those that come across a positive review are inclined to complete their purchase cycle with a room booking. Therefore, sprinkles of positivity to reviews can add to an enriched business. Moreover, to most guests, quality of service is far more vital than the room rates. An altruistic organization culture can beget quality service which in turn can beget positive reviews. Thus, a chain effect is evident.

Altruism, can also be extended to social kindness which can help defuse bad service. Businesses can influence the number of guest complaints, by promoting and communicating the message of corporate social responsibility within their organization to customers. This commitment to donate to a good cause engulfs a guests' self-guilt and terminates the guest's desire to complain. Therefore, altruism can help mollify bad service, thus maintaining an overall positive reputation for businesses.

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Guest Service: A Culture of YES

In a recent global consumers report, 97% of the participants said that customer service is a major factor in their loyalty to a brand, and 76% said they view customer service as the true test of how much a company values them. And since there is no industry more reliant on customer satisfaction than the hotel industry, managers must be unrelenting in their determination to hire, train and empower the very best people, and to create a culture of exceptional customer service within their organization. Of course, this begins with hiring the right people. There are people who are naturally service-oriented; people who are warm, empathetic, enthusiastic, pleasant, thoughtful and optimistic; people who take pride in their ability to solve problems for the hotel guests they are serving. Then, those same employees must be empowered to solve problems using their own judgment, without having to track down a manager to do it. This is how seamless problem solving and conflict resolution are achieved in guest service. This willingness to empower employees is part of creating a Culture of Yes within an organization.  The goal is to create an environment in which everyone is striving to say “Yes”, rather than figuring out ways to say, “No”. It is essential that this attitude be instilled in all frontline, customer-facing, employees. Finally, in order to ensure that the hotel can generate a consistent level of performance across a wide variety of situations, management must also put in place well-defined systems and standards, and then educate their employees about them. Every employee must be aware of and responsible for every standard that applies in their department. The April issue of the Hotel Business Review will document what some leading hotels are doing to cultivate and manage guest satisfaction in their operations.