How Happy Employees Make Happy Customers

Happy Hotel Employees and the Quantifiable Effect on Guest Satisfaction

Happy employees equals happy guests. This principle is as well-known as the idea that happy employees directly affect all the drivers that impact guest satisfaction. This makes sense, especially in the hospitality industry, where employees have prolonged contact with guests. While Happy Staff = Happy Guests is a great motto, it is more useful to look at data revealing the areas where the cause-and-effect create a competitive advantage.

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Guest satisfaction measurement is both an art and a science, which is why we and countless other industry analysts have used algorithms and normative data tools to study and compare hotel companies’ performance during the Guest Journey.

Because of the objectivity and depth of our measurement methodologies, our hotel mystery shopping data sheds significantly more light than the anecdotal on the Guest and Employee Happiness correlation, revealing verifiable direct and indirect correlations.

How Happy Employees Help Business: Kimpton’s Example

Let’s start by recapping what everyone knows. Kimpton Hotel and Restaurants does well across crucial  measures of satisfaction, both for guests and employees. According to the Market Metrix Hospitality Index, they consistently win higher scores in Guest Satisfaction (93%) and Emotional Attachment (89%) than any of their peers in the industry. What makes them excel in these regards? Kimpton consistently shines in key satisfaction drivers that include: value for the money, superior product (cleanliness and condition), and excellent service. “Surprise and Delight” features such as the Wine Reception and Pet Programs have also shown to be real crowd pleasers.

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Great scores in guest satisfaction don’t just come from hammering “the customer is always right” into the minds of your employees. It comes from cultivation, prioritization, care, and the creation of a positive work culture and learning environment.

This is most obviously seen in Kimpton’s eight-year high ranking in Fortune’s list of “100 Best Companies to Work For.” Employees cite Kimpton’s positive culture and opportunity for growth as big forces in their satisfaction – not to mention additional perks like paid parental leave, pet insurance, university classes and employee discounts. This information highlights the direct relationship between an overall better guest experience and employees who are not just satisfied, but motivated, supported and engaged.

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The Power of Engagement

Prioritizing employee satisfaction is a strategic maneuver that isn’t simply achieved by showering them with occasional perks. Instead, it requires a new way to approach employee satisfaction, better viewed in terms of employee engagement. What is especially notable is that the strongest links between employee engagement and business outcomes occur over the long-term and behind the scenes.

An engaged employee is more present and tends to be more observant of any and all things that relate to guest emotions. Research completed by the Cornell University School of Hotel Administration found that if employees believe that their job performance makes a difference in an excellent guest experience, they are more committed to practicing the behaviors that impact guests positively.

To demonstrate what we mean, our hotel mystery shopper benchmarking data revealed three significant areas where – as a result of superior staff engagement – Kimpton excels:  The Arrival, Anticipating Guest Needs and Service Recovery.


First impression matters. The first three minutes at a hotel will inform guests if they made the correct decision to stay there (buyer’s remorse), and they learn what to expect over the course of the stay. Our data clearly shows that Kimpton is out-performing the industry in these crucial first few minutes.

Highly engaged Kimpton staff are using their hospitality skills to read arriving guests, anticipate needs, and immediately deploy/reallocate resources based on capacity needs to create a great first impression.

Anticipating Guest Needs

Every hotel company in the world cites anticipating needs as the cornerstone to great service and hospitality. One major brand calls it the “Holy Grail.”

Anticipating guest needs is a learned skill. It begins with being engaged, and then practicing behaviors such as proactively addressing guests, asking ‘what or how’ questions, offering multiple solutions, and ensuring the outcomes are fully executed. Kimpton measures these (and more) behaviors with our hotel mystery shopping service, social media and guest satisfaction data inputs.

Service Recovery

We saved the most important for last. The guest journey is lengthy and complex, meaning that there will likely be challenging moments where things don’t go as planned. Research has pretty much proven that customer loyalty is increased significantly when the provider can prove the care and then solve customer problems. It needs to be cemented through actions though.

One ripple effect of anticipating needs is that disruptions in the guest journey are often discovered when they are small, before they erupt into a full-fledged complaint. This puts companies like Kimpton at a distinct advantage because smaller problems are easier to solve and the guest is still in-house where a true ‘recovery’ can take place.

Again, handling guest complaints and extraordinary needs starts with an engaged employee whose radar in on. Next, hotel staff have to skillfully execute behaviors such as listening, establishing empathy, offering an apology, collaborating regarding solutions and executing these solutions without fail. Kimpton uses our hotel mystery shopping program to measure these behaviors and our data shows them excelling in the vast majority of these disciplines above the industry. Moreover, they use the data to identify, recognize and model best practitioners. Staff learn the requisite skills they need from their peers through very compelling storytelling.

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Added Benefits

Retaining the Service Experts

A research study on the Impact of Service Recovery in the Hospitality Industry shows that effective service recovery not only increases customer loyalty, but it also increases the retention rate of employees; a truly virtuous circle.

Research has shown that the employees’ level of knowledge is a key factor in satisfying the needs of the customer. It’s worth noting here that the same research demonstrates that the longer an employee works at a hotel, the more a customer is satisfied, which can point to the importance of employee retention and expertise. This highlights another benefit of employee satisfaction and loyalty.

Great Advertising

Another benefit of Employee Satisfaction is less direct. A 2015 study on global corporate social responsibility by Cone Communications revealed that 84% of consumers consider a company’s social responsibility – including how they treat their employees – before deciding whether or not to support them.

Business Intelligence

Engaged and happy staff spend more time interacting and problem solving and are a source of fantastic business intelligence. Staff can naturally be more proactive in seeking guest feedback during interactions, garnering much more useful feedback than passive online surveys.


kimpton knows that personal experiences

© 2023 Coyle Hospitality Group. Reproduction of any material without written authorization is strictly prohibited.

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