Understanding emotions can help hotels improve guest experiences: Loughborough study
New research from UK's Loughborough University has revealed that understanding emotions can help hotels improve guest experiences. Hotels can then use customisation strategies in service design to evoke different emotions.
Dr Kathy Pui Ying Lo from the University's School of the Arts initially undertook research studies to understand conflicting emotions often experienced during hotel stays. She has now undertaken additional research to examine how hotels can develop their design and service strategies to evoke different emotions.
The research studies involved hotel guests taking photos to show triggers of emotions in hotels, in-depth interviews and analysis of critical incidents. The studies used principles of psychology and service design to draw implications for hotel design strategies.
Dr Lo identified four prominent conflicting concerns that cause contradicting emotions during hotel stays:
1. Luxury v/s eco-friendliness- When extra amenities and service in hotels are offered beyond what are considered necessary by the hotel guest. This often evokes mixed emotions of happiness and guilt.
2. Exploration v/s familiarity- These conflicting concerns refer to the fact that guests like to take the opportunities of hotel stays to try something different, yet like to feel the familiar comfort of home.
3. Enjoyment v/s cost- Whilst extra touches such as free gifts elicit delight and happiness, they can also often trigger unpleasant emotions when guests think about the cost.
4. Novelty v/s practicality- This shows a clash between attitude and standard. Novelty evokes a pleasant emotion but if the feature or service does not fulfil its practical purpose, unpleasant emotions can arise.
To resolve these conflicts customisation is the key, Dr Lo suggests. The aim is to offer hotel guests more control of their hotel stay experiences based on their individual needs and wants. Three common types of customisation strategies enable hotels to evoke different emotions from hotel guests:
With a subtractive strategy, hotels offer the most basic room features and cheap room rate by taking away functional features or service that are not absolutely necessary. Guests may request subtracted features or service depending on their needs, usually with an additional cost. The intended emotional outcomes include happiness for saving money, contentment for getting value for money and satisfaction from selecting hotel features to spend on.
In contrast, hotels using an additive strategy offer comprehensive functional items. In addition, guests may add special features to try something different or enhance enjoyment. The aim is to promote exploration and discreet enjoyment. Additive strategies intend to evoke emotions such as amazement, excitement, wonder and delight. An example is Affinia Hotels, a boutique hotel chain in the USA that offers options such as a duck for the bath, fitness kit, cupcakes and even an acoustic guitar!
By using tailor made strategies, hotels personalise amenities and service to fit each individual guests' particular needs and preferences. Hotel staff observe and record guest needs and preferences proactively. The information is then stored in a database. Pleasant surprises are staged for individual guests through personalised and meaningful features or service. Since these exceed guest expectations they create pleasant surprises and make the stay memorable. For example a guest who arrives at their room to find their favourite drink on the table.
Dr Lo comments: "The nature of service in hotels is shifting. More hotels are offering guests what they exactly need instead of excessive extras. Understanding the connections between customisation strategies and guest emotions is useful for hoteliers to design for better emotional impacts of hotel stay experiences."