The term ‘emotional intelligence' (EQ) was popularised by the psychologist, Daniel Goleman, who has stated that self-awareness is the cornerstone of EQ and without it, individuals have little chance of demonstrating other competencies, such as empathy and adaptability, which are crucial to the hotel industry. In order to become more self-aware, one needs to constantly assess one’s own feelings and moods. It is important to understand why certain moods recur and what causes them.
Importance for hospitality and tourism
Emotional intelligence is particularly important for hospitality and tourism because it plays a dual role. First of all, a high level of emotional intelligence is essential for successful service delivery. Hotel customers - especially those of high-end establishments- have become jaded and are ever more difficult to satisfy. What is needed to cement customer loyalty is service that “surprises and delights” guests through highly personalised touches, or at least doesn’t annoy them in some way. In order to achieve this goal, it is essential that employees are able to anticipate what a customer’s specific needs or wants are before he or she actually verbalises them.
Secondly, a high level of emotional intelligence on the part of managers is essential for building a strong team that is motivated to give its best, whether in the kitchen, the dining room or at reception. In a team where feelings are valued and there is a culture of empathy and understanding, employees are more likely to feel and perform at their best. Not only does this make for a better guest experience, but it should have significant positive impact on employee retention levels and absenteeism.
Quality assurance has evolved
Historically, the hotel industry has made use of various tools, such as mystery shoppers, inspectors and auditors to assess the level of quality in a hotel or across the portfolio of a major chain. While such techniques certainly have a place in the evaluation of hotel service, more recently managers are increasingly looking at the emotional aspect of guest feedback and are placing less emphasis on scores and ratings, based on objective criteria. This approach leads to increased advocacy. Customer decisions are driven by emotions, and surely the most important of those decisions that can be influenced is whether or not a guest will return to and recommend the hotel. Of course, the cumulative effect of standardised service and a good quality, clean product, will always have a positive impact. However, it is the employees who are real the differentiating factor for a hotel; they are in the best position to be able to shape and influence the emotions, and therefore decisions of their guests
Asking ‘how do you feel?’ may not seem like a very targeted approach, but it is important in hospitality. This is why it is essential not to overlook the emotional intelligence of employees and guests alike. It taps into the need to be understood. Human beings have an underlying desire to be understood. If a hotel’s guests feel consistently understood, the establishment is already quite likely to outdistancing its competitors.
Rigid standards can impede personalised service
In the drive to adhere to standards, staff are often providing the service which they have been trained to deliver, rather than the service that the guest really wants. An example would be the practice of having waiting staff go into lengthy explanations of dishes as they are served. But what if the people at the table are engaged in animated conversation? Would it really be the right approach to interrupt the guests to deliver a spiel that may be of little or no interest to them and which may even represent a mild annoyance?
Reaping the benefit of EQ
So how can a hotel reap the benefits from emotionally fulfilled guests and employees? First of all it is essential to promote self-awareness. Secondly, it is important to pause, look and listen, not to stop, but to just pause. It is evident that in the heat of a busy service, the instinct can be simply “to get the job done”. While employees may not have the time to stop, they should make a conscious effort to pause, look and listen to each individual guest. Not listening can be the single biggest cause of service errors and the prime source of guest frustration. In addition, by not looking, opportunities to pick up on cues that would allow staff to provide personalised service may be missed.
For example, seeing a 5% overall increase in a hotel’s recent mystery shopping audit, or an increase in bar receipts will certainly generate a certain ‘feel-good’ factor. But how good does it feel to receive great personalised written or verbal feedback? In the same way that emotions will drive advocacy in guests, they will promote good feeling and a culture of empathy and emotional intelligence in a hotel’s staff.