Random acts of generosity

A major hotel chain rolls the dice with “random acts of generosity” to cultivate customer loyalty.

The New York Times recently profiled an interesting new initiative by Hyatt Hotels (click here to see the article).  The chain has instructed its employees to deliver “random acts of generosity” to certain guests (such as picking up the tab for your hotel-spa massage) in an effort to cultivate gratitude among its customers (and consequently, a stronger emotional bond with Hyatt).


It’s a fascinating plan on their part, but its success is not guaranteed for a couple of reasons.  First, as the article notes, Hyatt on one hand is trying to generate good public relations buzz about this program, while on the other hand they want these acts to be spontaneous and unexpected.


Consumers respond to authenticity – if people get a sense that Hyatt is trying to artificially create the kind of legendary service buzz that a chain like Ritz-Carlton has earned over decades, well that might just be a turn-off.


Second, and more importantly, consumers appreciate fairness in outcomes (except perhaps at a casino, when you expect that the person in front of you at the slots might get a different outcome than you do).  It could rub people the wrong way to know that the individual before them in line at the spa got her tab taken care of by Hyatt, even though she got the same treatment with the same quality at the same time you did.


What might be just as effective, but less risky, would be “deliberate acts of kindness” – actions that are triggered not by random, but by specific circumstances. 


So, for example, maybe they give their staff much greater latitude each day to “make it right” for customers who were somehow disappointed or unfulfilled by their guest experience.  That takes the randomness out of the equation but still gives Hyatt a chance to really impress folks who might have otherwise walked away flat.  In addition, other guests who witness such acts of kindness might respond more favorably (even though they weren’t the beneficiary), because they’re more likely to perceive a connection between the other guest’s circumstances and the ultimate outcome.


Only time will tell if this new Hyatt program succeeds in cultivating greater customer loyalty — or just a lot of guest consternation and displeasure.

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