Why hospitality should be focusing on the emotional impact of service

By Giles Gordon-Smith

- Last updated on GMT

Why hospitality should be focusing on the emotional impact of service

Related tags: Emotion

Giles Gordon-Smith, founder and consultant at Penshee, explains why the hospitality industry should be looking at the emotional impact of service.

There is an undeniable place for quality assurance (mystery shoppers, inspectors and auditors) in the hospitality industry. This helps to drive quality of service through commitment to standards, and hotels in particular quite rightly take the results very seriously.

More recently, however, management has started to look at the emotional aspect of guest feedback and placed less emphasis on scores and ratings. Asking ‘how do you feel?’ may not seem like a targeted approach but is important in hospitality.

Here’s why it is essential that we don’t overlook the emotional intelligence of our employees and guests alike: 

It taps into our need to be understood

We humans have an underlying desire to be understood. If you can make your guests feel consistently understood, you are more than likely already doing more than your competitors. In the relentless drive to adhere to standards, staff are too often providing the service that they are trained to deliver, rather than the service that the guest really wants.

It leads to increased advocacy

Customer decisions are driven by emotions, and surely the most important of those decisions that we have influence over is whether or not a guest will return to, and recommend our hotel

Of course, the cumulative effect of standardised service and a good quality, clean product, will have an impact. However, it is the 'real bricks and mortar of the place' - the employees - who are in the best position to be able to shape and influence the emotions, and therefore decisions of their guests.

It results in engaged employees

In a team where feelings are valued and there is a culture of empathy and understanding, employees are likely to feel and perform at their best. Not only does this make for a better guest experience, but it will have significant positive impact on employee retention levels and absenteeism. 

So how can you reap the benefits from emotionally fulfilled guests and employees alike? Here are my top tips to injecting some emotional intelligence​ into your business:  

Promote self-awareness​   

The term ‘emotional intelligence' (EQ) was brought into mainstream perception by psychologist Daniel Goleman, considered to be one of the most influential business thinkers of our age. He states that self-awareness is the cornerstone of EQ and without it, individuals have little or no chance of demonstrating other competencies such as empathy and adaptability, which are crucial in our industry. To become more self aware, we need to be constantly assessing our own feelings and moods. We need to understand why certain moods recur and what causes them. The simplest way to do this is to start by asking yourself three times on a daily basis (morning, noon and night) 'how do I feel?'. Simply by asking this of yourself, you are already becoming more self-aware.

Pause, look and listen

Notice I say ‘pause’ and not ‘stop’. We all know how in the heat of a busy service, the instinct can be simply to get the job done. You might not have time to stop, but you should make a conscious effort to pause, look and listen to each individual guest. Not listening is in my experience the single biggest cause of service errors and the root of much guest frustration. In addition, by not looking, you miss opportunities to pick up on cues that would allow you to serve the guest in a way that is unique to them. It might sound like your hospitality ABCs, but there’s a big difference between going through the motions and actively looking to serve every guest as an individual.  

Embrace an emotional dialogue

Seeing a five per cent overall increase in your recent mystery shopping audit, or a hike in your bar turnover is more than likely to have a certain feel-good factor. How good does it feel however, to receive great personalised written or verbal feedback? In the same way that emotions will drive advocacy in your guests, they will promote good feeling and a culture of empathy and emotional intelligence in your team. So at morning meetings or in your departmental briefing, don’t be afraid to ask your team how they feel. Share good feedback and encourage your team to ask themselves how they think that guests felt, having received their service. Emotions are contagious, so make sure that your team’s are positive ones. 

Giles Gordon-Smith of Penshee​ is an expert in emotional intelligence and has previously worked in management at The Goring hotel as well as a hotel inspector, inspecting 490 5 star hotels in 88 countries. 

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