A little kindness goes a long way

In 2017 researchers from Oxford University, in conjunction with the U.S.-based non-profit, published data from three separate studies that all showed how random acts of kindness, both at home and in work, boosted wellbeing.

One of the studies involved nearly 700 participants from 39 different countries and asked them to perform acts of kindness on family, friends, work colleagues and, even, strangers. The data from the experiment indicated that kindness improved happiness, life satisfaction levels, compassion, trust, positive regard for humanity, social connection and more.

Contributed by Daniel Fryer, U.K.-based mental health and wellbeing expert and the author of The Four Thoughts That F*ck You Up (and how to fix them), Penguin Random House 

Science, then, confirms, that even the smallest acts of kindness can impact societies for the better; a fact that has not gone unnoticed by the hotel sector.

Getty Images
Getty Images

In 2019, Hilton celebrated its 100th anniversary by undertaking ‘Random Acts of Hospitality’ in its local communities and applied them in just about every destination you could think of, including Shanghai, Dublin, Dubai and more.

These acts included delivering treats to emergency workers, surprising guests with traditional local delicacies, offering car washes to local taxi drivers and more. What’s more, these acts were enjoyed by all.

Being kind doesn’t just trigger the release of happy hormones in the person receiving the act, it also triggers happy hormones in the person doing the giving.

Hilton’s Vice President of Corporate Responsibility Kate Mikesell said, “Creating a specific moment for this activity built a huge amount of buzz amongst our teams, who were buoyed by what they saw from colleagues across the world and the difference their actions were making to guests and the local community. This in turn built an incredible sense of pride and engagement internally, with hotels swapping experiences and learning from one another, subsequently making guests feel even more welcome and well-looked after, as well as strengthening positive feeling towards the brand in local communities.”

And Hilton hasn’t stopped there as it continues to encourage teams the world over to engage in these acts of hospitality.

“More recently and under very different circumstances, many of our hotels across the world have continued this legacy, supporting their local communities during the COVID-19 pandemic, from donating toiletries and cleaning supplies to local care homes, to cooking meals for the homeless,” Mikesell said.

However, acts of kindness in the hotel sector go back a lot further than Hilton’s centenary. In 2009, Hyatt Hotel staff were instructed to be kind to members of the hotel’s Gold Passport loyalty program.

Acts included picking up the tab at the bar or for a hotel spa massage, treating the family to breakfast and a whole host of other little surprises to make a guest’s stay more pleasant. However, these ‘random acts of generosity’ were anything but random. They were strategic. It is an initiative you are familiar with already: relationship marketing, which is why companies run loyalty programs in the first place. Collect enough points, and you get a free night. That kind of thing. But, there’s no kindness in there. Adding kindness to the mix does something extra.

Hyatt Hotels Corp. CEO and President Mark Hoplamazian called it a way of boosting the authenticity of Hyatt’s service delivery. “It’s also a shining example of the kind of corporate generosity that’s increasingly being sought by disillusioned consumers and offered by clued-in brands,” he said.

He believes that kindness and empathy translate into good business and that it all starts with being good human beings to one another.

But what if you went one better? What if you mined all the data you have on your guests to truly deliver a strategic act of kindness? After all, personalization isn’t just a buzzword being touted around, and it’s not just a trend; it’s a commitment to a concept. Personalization is the key to improving the guest experience.

In a 2018 travel study by Google and Phocuswright, more than half of the U.S. travellers polled said they wanted brands to tailor their information based on personal preferences and past behaviours.

Hotels have the data to do it. If you want to initiate acts of kindness in your hotel, don’t just comp them random stuff. Personalize it.

For instance, let’s say that you know that ‘Gregory Johnson,’ who stays with hotels in your brand five or six times a year favours an Argentinian Malbec. Then why not have a bottle for him waiting in his room. If a bottle seems too excessive, then prep your bar staff in advance of a stay. “Good evening Mister Johnson,” your barperson says. “A glass of your favourite Malbec, compliments of the house?” Data mined, kindness act initiated, and personalization achieved.

And then there’s ‘Jennifer Green.’ She stays at hotels within your brand, again for a good five or six times a year but, based on the data, you can see that sometimes she travels for work, sometimes with the family, sometimes with friends and sometimes as a solo escape. You could work out the purpose for each of her stays in advance and act accordingly. If she is there on her own, let her know you’ve booked her the quietest room you have and gift her a voucher for her e-reader. If she’s with friends and you know from your data that they go running together, plan out some great routes in advance and talk her through them. If it’s a family vacation, find out what family-orientated activities and events are going on in your area during the stay, see if you can swing them tickets for something. And, if it’s for business, chances are she will have an early meeting. Why not book her an early call and send a free breakfast to her room with it (tailored to previous breakfast choices, of course).

Another way of leveraging kindness is by responding to comments left by customers when they review their stay. Don’t just say ‘thank you for your response,’ respond to their actual comments. And, if there is a complaint or criticism in there, tell them what you will do about the next time they walk through your door. And then do it.

Kindness doesn’t just apply to the guest experience though. Staff who are treated kindly will always go the extra mile.  And it doesn’t have to cost much at all. Most kindness experiments feature acts selected for their ease and affordability, such as buying someone a token, writing them a thank you card, giving them a coffee and so on. And these experiments boost staff wellbeing every time.

Doctor Lee Rowland, who led the Oxford team mentioned above said, “these findings are supported by multiple experiments and have been confirmed in a meta-analysis we conducted in 2016 of more than 25 separate studies by other research teams.”

These studies and others like them show that staff who were treated kindly repaid that kindness by being 278% more generous to co-workers when compared to control groups that did nothing. Kindness initiatives at work increase productivity, wellbeing, morale and job satisfaction.

Kindness then, is crucial to success. Building acts of kindness and generosity into your hotel culture for both staff and guests alike is going to reap long term rewards in terms of happiness and satisfaction levels in both. And once you start, it’s very difficult to stop.

In another kindness study, this one from the University of Pennsylvania, researchers did a follow-up six months later, to find out how the participants felt later on down the line. A significant proportion of the participants still felt as good as when they participated in the study. When asked why that was, it was because they had kept the exercise up. When asked why they had done that, the general consensus was one of, ‘why wouldn’t I? It feels so great.’

Kindness then is contagious but in a good way. Good for your staff, good for your guests and good for your hotel.

As the saying goes, “when you give a little, you get a lot.”