Mathematical Happiness: A Formula for Hoteliers


I read an interesting article this week that broke happiness down into a mathematical formula. The basic idea is:

Reality – Expectations = Happiness.

Although the idea is nothing new, this formula is fairly simple, makes sense, and applies directly to hospitality or any industry that hinges on the consumer experience. We all want happy customers, right? So what does this formula mean for hotels?

Bad news first – if reality is less than expectation, guests will be unhappy in direct proportion. The two things that immediately come to my mind are doctored property photos and fake reviews. Someone looking at photos of a peaceful, empty beach is going to be very upset when they arrive to crowds. Fake reviews about a pristine and quiet hotel do not bode well for a hotel in the midst of a remodel.

I’m not saying you can’t have a crowded beach or a remodeling project going on, I’m just saying to be honest about it. When reality meets expectation, the happiness of the guest lands in the neutral zone. At this point, loyalty and reviews are only swayed by how good or bad that reality actually is, which is good news for the good guys.

Better news – when reality exceeds expectation, you’ve earned built-in happiness points. I had this happen to me a few months ago. I went into a situation knowing that the outcome was not going to be exactly what I wanted. The people I dealt with went so over and above my expectations that what I thought would live in infamy as the worst service story ever  turned out to be one of the greatest.

So what does all of this mean in practice? Should hoteliers post terrible pictures and bad fake reviews? Of course not (but it would be a fun experiment.) Catching the interest and getting guests to book is always going to be the first goal. But be honest in your approach to that and set realistic expectations while constantly improving upon your guest experience. By continually raising the bar, your guests will be forever delightfully surprised – and that equals happy.