Hyatt Hotels recently announced a program for delivering “random acts of generosity” to clients. These unexpected actions include things like picking up the tab for a bar bill or a massage in the spa. The thinking is that these surprise “gifts” will make customers grateful, which is a potentially a more valuable emotion than satisfaction.
This approach makes sense given new research in the Journal Of Marketing called The Role Of Customer Gratitude In Relationship Marketing by Robert W. Palmatier from the University of Washington. The research looked at the reaction of consumers who “perceive themselves to be the recipient of an intentionally rendered benefit.” Here are some key insights in the research:
- Gratitude generates short-term feelings of reciprocity that creates an environment for building stronger relationships.
- The propensity to reciprocate from gratitude decays over time; so mechanisms must be setup to take advantage of those feelings.
- The feelings of gratitude are strengthened when the actions are viewed as benevolent and not self-serving for the company.
- The feelings of gratitude are strengthened when the actions are perceived as coming from the free-will of an employee (without any direct benefits for the employee).
These findings also fit nicely into the Kano Model that I periodically discuss in this blog. Hyatt’s “acts of kindness” represent what Kano would call “attractive” features; valuable but unexpected elements that can create a significant positive emotional response from customers.
When companies think about designing customer experiences, they should think about eliminating problems, consistently meeting customer needs, and delivering some unexpected acts of generosity.
The bottom line: Create an enviornment that encourages employees to do unexpectedly kind things for customers.