Emotional Contagion in Hospitality

A Key to Optimal Guest Satisfaction and Shaping Hospitality Experiences

A Key to Optimal Guest Satisfaction and Shaping Hospitality Experiences
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April 1, 2024
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In an industry where the experience is the product, understanding the intricate dance of emotions at play is crucial. Welcome to our deep dive into the world of emotional dynamics in the hospitality sector. As we navigate through the labyrinth of guest interactions, it's clear that understanding and managing emotions can mean the difference between a one-time visitor and a loyal customer. This article will dissect the role of emotions in hospitality, demonstrate how they influence guest satisfaction, and provide practical strategies to make the most of every guest interaction. From solo travelers to group dynamics, from young explorers to older leisure seekers - we aim to provide valuable insights that can help tailor your offerings and enhance your guests' experiences. In addition, we'll delve into the contagion theory, explore how staff members and the environment can impact guests' perceptions, and how understanding the influence of our internal state on perception can lead to increased guest satisfaction. So buckle up and let's embark on this exciting journey into the heart of hospitality.

Emotions in hospitality

Emotions play a pivotal role in the hospitality industry, significantly influencing guest satisfaction. It is crucial to comprehend and effectively manage emotions to create exceptional experiences for guests. The dimensional model of emotions, focusing on valence and arousal, provides valuable insights into the intricate nature of emotional experiences. In the context of hospitality, common emotions observed in restaurants and front desks include pleasure, joy, boredom, disappointment, and a mixture of disgust and annoyance, which can be referred to as soft-anger. These emotions are closely linked to guest satisfaction, which is intricately tied to their expectations.

Understanding the expression of emotions is essential in the hospitality sector, as it allows for better anticipation and response to guests' needs. By recognizing the vocal cues and prosody of speech associated with different emotions, hospitality providers can gain valuable insights into the emotional states of their guests.

This understanding enables them to tailor their services and interactions accordingly, exceeding guest expectations and fostering positive experiences. It is important to create an environment where emotions are skilfully managed, ensuring that guests feel heard, valued, and satisfied throughout their stay or dining experience [2,3,4,5]. To know more check the first  part of this series: Viqal Blog | Understanding Guest Emotions in Hospitality

Try yourself. Below are two examples of positive and negative emotion detection based purely on acoustic features. The example shows video for the purposes of making it more visual, but video is not used to detect emotions, purely acoustic features. Try to identify which emotion conveys by the audio  soft-anger-disappointment, joy-happiness, pleasure, or disappointment. I am confident that you will identify if the examples are positive or negative.

Understanding Guest Behaviour in Hotels: Solo, Couple, and Group

Guest behaviour in hotels can vary significantly depending on whether individuals are travelling alone, as a couple, or in groups. When alone, guests often seek solitude and relaxation, valuing privacy and personal space. Couples, on the other hand, tend to engage in more intimate and romantic experiences, focusing on shared moments and creating memories together. In contrast, group dynamics in hotels involve a collective atmosphere where guests participate in activities, share experiences, and foster a sense of camaraderie. Understanding these behavioural patterns is essential for hotels to provide tailored services and amenities that cater to the specific needs and preferences of their target audience.

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What is your target public? This provocative question aims to prompt reflection and strategic planning for hospitality establishments. Identifying the target audience is crucial for hotels and restaurants to align their offerings with the preferences and expectations of their intended clientele. By understanding the behavioural tendencies and desires of their target audience, establishments can create experiences that resonate with and cater to their guests' unique preferences, leading to higher satisfaction and increased guest loyalty.

Age plays a significant role in shaping guest behaviour in hospitality settings. Different age groups have distinct preferences, priorities, and comfort levels. Younger guests may seek vibrant and energetic environments, desiring social interactions and engaging in adventurous activities. In contrast, older guests may prefer a more relaxed and tranquil atmosphere, valuing comfort, privacy, and personalized services. Understanding how age influences behaviour allows hospitality providers to adapt their offerings and services accordingly, ensuring a tailored and satisfying experience for guests of all age groups.

One example of group behaviour in restaurants is the communal dining experience. When dining as a group, guests often engage in lively conversations, laughter, and shared interactions, enhancing their overall dining experience. Group members may share dishes, discuss menu options, and partake in group activities such as toasting or celebrating special occasions. This collective dining dynamic fosters a sense of togetherness and creates a memorable and enjoyable experience for all participants.

The influence of staff members in hotels and restaurants on guests' perceptions and experiences should not be overlooked. The interactions, attitude, and attentiveness of the staff can significantly impact guests' emotions, satisfaction, and overall impression of the establishment. Friendly, knowledgeable, and attentive staff members create a positive and welcoming atmosphere, leading to enhanced guest satisfaction and loyalty. Conversely, unresponsive or unfriendly staff may result in negative experiences and affect guests' perception of the establishment's quality.

On Contagion Theory: Understanding the Spread of Emotions

Emotion contagion theory posits that emotions can be transferred from one individual to another through social interactions, resulting in a shared emotional experience. According to this theory, individuals can "catch" emotions from others through nonverbal cues, facial expressions, vocal tone, and other forms of emotional expression. This phenomenon has significant implications for the hospitality industry, as guests' emotions can be influenced by the emotional displays of staff members and other guests, ultimately shaping their overall experience and satisfaction [1,11].

a guest who is feeling stressed or anxious may perceive a crowded lobby as chaotic and overwhelming, while a guest in a relaxed state of mind may perceive the same environment as lively and vibrant

For example, when someone smiles at us, it is natural to respond with a smile in order to align ourselves with the other person's emotion [A]Barger and Grandey. Humans have an instinctive tendency to synchronize with the emotional states they perceive during interactions [6,10]. Research indicates that emotions can be contagious and elicit both mental and physiological arousal [16].

Numerous studies have explored emotional contagion theory and its impact on various contexts [11,12,13,14,15]. That is also applied to hospitality settings.

Environmental influence

Environment plays a crucial role in shaping guests' perceptions and overall experience. The physical surroundings, ambience, and atmosphere of a hospitality establishment significantly influence how guests perceive the quality of service, comfort, and value. A well-designed and maintained environment can create a positive impression and contribute to a sense of relaxation, luxury, and satisfaction. On the other hand, a poorly maintained or unpleasant environment may negatively impact guests' perceptions, leading to lower satisfaction levels and a diminished desire to return. The layout, lighting, decor, and cleanliness of the space all contribute to the guests' perception of the establishment's quality and can influence their emotions and behaviour during their stay.

Lisa Feldman Barrett's work sheds light on the intricate relationship between our internal state and how we perceive our surroundings. According to her research, our internal state, which includes our emotions, beliefs, and past experiences, significantly influences how we interpret and make sense of what we see and hear.

Our internal state acts as a filter through which we process sensory information, and it shapes our perception of the world around us. In the context of hospitality, guests' internal states, such as their current emotional state or expectations, can influence how they perceive and interpret their hotel or restaurant experience. For example, a guest who is feeling stressed or anxious may perceive a crowded lobby as chaotic and overwhelming, while a guest in a relaxed state of mind may perceive the same environment as lively and vibrant. It is important to read these signs in the underlines of guest expressions and revert an unfavourable situation using interpersonal stances strategies. To know more about it we recommend the second part of this series: Viqal Blog | Improve Staff-Guest Interaction at the Hotel Front Desk.

Understanding the influence of our internal state on perception can help hospitality providers create tailored experiences that align with guests' emotional needs and enhance their overall satisfaction.

Conclusion

Overall, understanding and effectively managing emotions, recognizing guest behaviour patterns, identifying the target audience, and creating suitable environments are essential in the hospitality industry to provide exceptional guest experiences and foster guest satisfaction and loyalty.

  • Emotions in hospitality: Emotions play a crucial role in the hospitality industry and significantly impact guest satisfaction. The dimensional model of emotions, focusing on valence and arousal, provides valuable insights into emotional experiences. Common emotions observed in hospitality settings include pleasure, joy, boredom, disappointment, and soft-anger. Understanding and managing emotions are key to creating exceptional guest experiences.
  • Understanding the expression of emotions: Recognizing vocal cues and prosody of speech associated with different emotions allows hospitality providers to gain insights into guests' emotional states. This understanding enables tailored services and interactions that exceed guest expectations.
  • Guest behaviour in hotels: Guest behaviour varies based on whether they are traveling alone, as a couple, or in groups. Understanding these behavioural patterns helps hotels provide tailored services and amenities that cater to the specific needs and preferences of their target audience.
  • Target audience identification: Identifying the target audience is crucial for hotels and restaurants to align their offerings with preferences and expectations. Understanding behavioural tendencies and desires of the target audience leads to higher satisfaction and increased guest loyalty.
  • Age and guest behaviour: Different age groups have distinct preferences and comfort levels. Adapting offerings and services based on age allows hospitality providers to ensure a tailored and satisfying experience for guests of all age groups.
  • Influence of staff members: Interactions, attitude, and attentiveness of staff significantly impact guests' emotions, satisfaction, and overall impression of the establishment. Friendly, knowledgeable, and attentive staff create a positive atmosphere, leading to enhanced guest satisfaction and loyalty.
  • Contagion theory and spread of emotions: Emotional contagion theory suggests that emotions can be transferred from one individual to another through social interactions. Guests' emotions can be influenced by the emotional displays of staff members and other guests, shaping their overall experience and satisfaction.
  • Environment influence: The physical surroundings, ambience, and atmosphere of a hospitality establishment significantly influence guests' perceptions and experiences. A well-designed and maintained environment creates a positive impression, while a poorly maintained one can negatively impact guest perceptions.
  • Influence of internal state on perception: Guests' internal states, such as their emotional state or expectations, influence how they perceive and interpret their hospitality experience. Understanding this influence helps in creating tailored experiences that align with guests' emotional needs and enhance their overall satisfaction.

References

  1. Herrando, C., & Constantinides, E. (2021). Emotional Contagion: A Brief Overview and Future Directions. Frontiers in Psychology, 12, 712606. https://doi.org/10.3389/fpsyg.2021.712606
  2. Russell, J. A. (2003). Core affect and the psychological construction of emotion. Psychological review, 110(1), 145-172.
  3. Ekman, P. (1992). An argument for basic emotions. Cognition & emotion, 6(3-4), 169-200.
  4. Barrett, L. F. (2017). The theory of constructed emotion: an active inference account of interoception and categorization. Social cognitive and affective neuroscience, 12(1), 1-23.
  5. Cowen, A. S., & Keltner, D. (2017). Self-report captures 27 distinct categories of emotion bridged by continuous gradients. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 114(38), E7900-E7909.
  6. Barger, P. B., and Grandey, A. A. (2006). Service with a smile and encounter satisfaction: emotional contagion and appraisal mechanisms. Acad. Manage. J. 49, 1229–1238. doi: 10.5465/amj.2006.23478695.
  7. Hennig-Thurau, T., Groth, M., Paul, M., and Gremler, D. D. (2006). Are all smiles created equal? How emotional contagion and emotional labor affect service relationships. J. Market. 70, 58–73. doi: 10.1509/jmkg.70.3.058.
  8. Smith, L. W., and Rose, R. L. (2020). Service with a smiley face: Emotional contagion in digitally mediated relationships. Int. J. Res. Market. 37, 301–319. doi: 10.1016/j.ijresmar.2019.09.004.
  9. Ekman, P., Levenson, R. W., and Friesen, W. V. (1983). Autonomic nervous system activity distinguishes among emotions. Science 221, 1208–1210. doi: 10.1126/science.6612338.
  10. Kim, J. J., & Han, H. (2020). Hotel of the future: exploring the attributes of a smart hotel adopting a mixed-methods approach. Journal Name, Volume(Issue), Pages 804-822.
  11. Hatfield, E., Cacioppo, J. T., & Rapson, R. L. (1994). Emotional contagion. Cambridgeniversity Press.
  12. Papousek, I., Freudenthaler, H. H., and Schulter, G. (2011). Typical performance measures of emotion regulation and emotion perception and frontal EEG asymmetry in an emotional contagion paradigm. Pers. Individ. Dif. 51, 1018–1022. doi: 10.1016/j.paid.2011.08.013.
  13. Kramer, A. D., Guillory, J. E., and Hancock, J. T. (2014). Experimental evidence of massive-scale emotional contagion through social networks. Proc. Nat. Acad. Sci. 111, 8788–8790. doi: 10.1073/pnas.1320040111.
  14. Dixon, M. L., Thiruchselvam, R., Todd, R., and Christoff, K. (2017). Emotion and the prefrontal cortex: an integrative review. Psychol. Bull. 143, 1033–1081. doi: 10.1037/bul0000096.
  15. Prochazkova, E., and Kret, M. E. (2017). Connecting minds and sharing emotions through mimicry: a neurocognitive model of emotional contagion. Neurosci. Biobehav. Rev. 80, 99–114. doi: 10.1016/j.neubiorev.2017.05.013.
  16. Schachter, S., and Singer, J. (1962). Cognitive, social, and physiological determinants of emotional state. Psychol. Rev. 69, 379–399. doi: 10.1037/h0046234.

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Frequently Asked Questions

01

How do emotions influence guest satisfaction in the hospitality industry?

Emotions significantly influence guest satisfaction in the hospitality industry. Understanding and managing these emotions is essential for creating exceptional guest experiences. By analyzing emotional expressions and cues, hospitality providers can tailor services to meet and exceed guest expectations, leading to enhanced satisfaction and loyalty.

02

What are some common emotional responses observed in hospitality settings?

Common emotional responses in hospitality settings include pleasure, joy, boredom, disappointment, and soft-anger. These emotions are linked to guest satisfaction and are influenced by their expectations. Recognizing these emotional cues allows hospitality staff to respond appropriately, ensuring guests feel valued and satisfied.

03

How can understanding guest behavior improve service delivery in hotels?

Understanding guest behavior, such as preferences for privacy, communal experiences, or specific activities based on whether they are solo travelers, couples, or groups, allows hotels to offer personalized services and amenities. Tailoring experiences to meet these distinct behaviors enhances guest satisfaction and loyalty.