The New York Times Magazine recently ran a very intriguing article that illustrates how a genuine “Thank You” can create loyalty in the consumer marketplace. In his Consumed column Rob Walker tells about a new program at Hyatt Hotels encouraging employees to perform “random acts of generosity” for customers starting this summer; posted at “Hyatt’s Random Acts of Generosity“.
Hyatt CEO Mark Hoplamazian announced the program on a USA Today travel blog “Hotel Check-In” titled Hyatt CEO announces random “surprises” for loyalty members saying: “We will be empowering hotel employees to perform what we’re calling random acts of generosity. So, don’t be surprised if Gold Passport picks up your bar tab, comps your massage or treats your family to breakfast. It’s part of bringing authentic hospitality to life and making you feel more than welcome.”
It can be tricky, however, to generate such an authentic act of gratitude in the marketplace. It’s a point not lost in the blogosphere.
Posted on the Economist’s Gulliver blog: ”…at the risk of quibbling, it’s not quite down-home ‘authentic hospitality.’ Deducting items from the bills of certain treasured guests is more a sensible commercial decision than a charming gesture.”
And 5 Circles Research’s Mike Pritchard questions in his company’s blog whether Hyatt’s program is a “good idea or off target.”
Research by the University of Washington’s Robert Palmer, an associate professor of marketing, says that “a customer who is made to feel grateful most likely becomes enduringly loyal as a result,” according to Walker’s column. He continues: “Gratitude, as the paper bluntly puts it, can ‘increase purchase intentions, sales growth and share of wallet.’ Psychological studies have shown that people feel good reciprocating genuine acts of gratitude and guilt when they do not. It’s a point that businesses should well note with caution that it’s not all that easy to do.
Walker’s column and the debate it has stirred reminds me of an experience we had several years ago on a stop at the Mall of America. My family dined at the Bubba Gump Shrimp Co. restaurant and were stunned when, after a very messy spill by my then-toddler and meal replacement, the waiter picked up our entire tab! We were genuinely thankful, and gave a tip to match our gratitude. This random act put a new, positive spin on what was winding down to a terrible travel day.
It’s that sort of event, when things could be better (or couldn’t be worse) that the random act of generosity has the most impact. Two examples, Hampton Inns guarantees 100% satisfaction; no questions asked. Period. When the Internet connection didn’t happen a few years back the hotel comped me the entire night. Gratis! Wow, was that a delight! I didn’t request it. In fact I suggested a discount. But, the front desk manager insisted.
Finally, for a recent round-number birthday my wife, toddler and I were dining at DisneyWorld‘s Wolfgang Puck restaurant when the server asked our three year old if she wanted to watch her pizza made; regardless, what a relief to have an antsy youngster be ably entertained away from our table for ten minutes. Again, we tipped generously. How often would you feel great about a 25% gratuity? The next night? Same thing; different Disney restaurant. Talk about great training; that’s what makes Disney, Disney. Everyone at Disney does it; no hesitation.
Generosity Inc. = Gratitude Squared (GI = G x G)
We’ll be back. Promise.
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