When Kindness is King: Why and How Your Hospitality Business Can Use Empathy to Make a Positive Impact


For those of us who are in the hospitality business, empathy is certainly something we are knowledgeable about. Compassion and extending kindness to our customers have always been at the heart of our industry’s philosophy.

In our current post-pandemic culture, we are seeing an even higher demand for human connection, empathy, and the overall customer experience. Never before is providing exemplary service more vital to our business success. We encourage you to think about how you could improve on extending empathy to your customers. We understand that it can be challenging to fit in empathy exercises with all that you do. These tips can help you take the right steps.

Why is empathy in hospitality important?

The bottom line is that empathy directly translates into how your customers feel about your hospitality brand, which impacts your profitability.

Connecting and responding to your customers is crucial to your venue, hotel, restaurant, bar, or catering business. The empathy you provide has so many benefits, including your ability to:

  • Build brand credibility
  • Boost sales
  • Improve customer and employee satisfaction
  • Gain customer and employee loyalty
  • Drive new leads
  • Encourage innovation
  • Improve communication skills
  • Inspire others to be empathetic

Embrace the power you have

It’s incredibly empowering to be in the hospitality industry. You have the ability to provide joy to people every day. Because you are able to provide customers with an experience, whether it is hosting a dinner party, a wedding, or a corporate event, you have a significant impact on how they feel.

When difficulty arises with customers, you should put yourselves in their shoes when working to resolve the problem. Recognize that often a complaint occurs when a customer cares about an aspect of the event. Your customers want the same thing you do: event success! Use empathy to treat your customers positively and try to make them feel better. Small efforts of kindness go a long way.

Empathy in hospitality strategies

Here are some strategies that can help you demonstrate empathy in your customer service:

  • Be present and listen attentively
  • Cultivate curiosity and observe and talk to your customers
  • Read nonverbal cues, including facial expressions, tone of voice, and behavior
  • Treat your customers as individuals
  • Look for opportunities to help and do small acts of kindness
  • Understand expectations and deliver positive customer experiences
  • Be respectful during difficult conversations and reflect on needs and feelings
  • Proactively troubleshoot challenges and problems and offer alternatives
  • Be objective and examine any biases
  • Foster a customer-centric and empathetic culture

Activities to try to boost your empathy in hospitality

Use these three ideas to get the momentum going in your business:

1. Implement a new empathy component in your regular team meetings.

Have everyone on your team take a turn to share interactions with a negative customer. Then have the rest of the team brainstorm ways to respond in an empathetic mindset.

2. Practice using the right words.

Each week, share with your team an example of an empathetic statement like:

“I totally agree with you.”

“Tell me what you see as your choices here.”

“I support your position or choice here.”

3. Make kindness part of the workday.

Ask each team member to extend a small gesture of kindness daily, such as holding a door for someone, extending a compliment, or asking, “How can I help?” Have them report back on what they learned.

More empathy = a better culture and increased profitability

If you may be interested in taking the next steps in cultivating an empathic culture, it should not take up too much of your budget or your resources. It’s about encouraging a core culture that genuinely cares for its customers. Make sure you empower your employees to build on their empathy skills and get creative to have a customer-first mindset. No doubt you’ll find more success and profitability.