The world is full of experiences, big and small. In travel, there’s a lot of focus on the peak experiences like that instagrammable moment at the top of Mt. Everest. But micro-experiences may be more important, not only for our health and well-being, but for our humanity too. Plus, it can supercharge customer loyalty with brands.

I was recently at O’Hare airport in Chicago and during the 2 hours I had to kill between flights, I did not interact with another person. Everything was contactless, from purchasing a bottle of water and a magazine to ordering lunch. Although I was in an airport with people all around, I felt isolated and lonely.

For obvious reasons, contactless technology has taken off over the past few years. Working in hospitality, I have been part of a lot of debates about contactless technology, especially for luxury resorts where high touch is part of what guests expect. But as with any new technology, although something may be gained, something important is lost too, in this case, it’s the micro-experience.

The Science of Micro-Moments

Barbara Frederickson is a psychology researcher at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill where she is the director of the Positive Emotions and Psychophysiology Lab (PEP Lab). She has pioneered research in “micro-moments”, which are small hits of daily positive emotions with others, specifically with strangers and acquaintances.

These micro-moments can last a few seconds and involve a sense of connection. For example, when you share a high-five with a stranger at a sporting event or catch someone’s eye in a crowd and share a laugh about a funny moment.

Frederickson discovered that a shared positive emotion with a stranger or acquaintance is equally powerful as with someone you love. In fact, these micro-moments with our “weak ties” improve what she calls our “communal virtues”, which are qualities like compassion, kindness, and care for all people. Basically they improve our humanity.

This is not about talking to strangers in unsafe ways but if we don’t interact with strangers and acquaintances in these small, safe ways, we can erode our concern for others.

Micro-Moments in Hospitality

Hotels and resorts are full of micro-experiences at every touch point with people that your guests don’t know, from the hotel staff to other guests. There are countless opportunities for teams to charge these moments and make them meaningful.

Staff warmth and concern, what Six Senses CEO, Neil Jacobs, calls “emotional hospitality” creates the culture and feel of a place. Does the check-in person look you in the eye and offer an authentic smile? What about the porter taking your bags up to your room? That brief chat in the elevator is another opportunity to build connections that can have far-reaching effects.

As travel brands, how do we support our guest-facing staff to deliver meaningful micro-experiences to customers? Do we have to hire for this, or can we train our staffs to show up with more presence?

One of the top luxury brands in the world brought in a leading mindfulness expert to train their senior executives in mindfulness practice because they wanted that spirit to infuse every guest interaction. It’s not about skill-building, it’s about inner state-building.

In terms of training our staff, it’s not enough to tell a check-in person to look a guest in the eye. It’s developing the skills to cultivate inner positivity that can then be shared with a guest.

Here are three ways to support staff in cultivating more positive presence:

  1. Obviously, miserable and overworked staff will not be able to show up and generate positive resonance. One of the key factors in employee happiness is the relationship with one’s direct supervisor. Training supervisors in the science and power of micro-moments is a way to strengthen this relationship and have staff feel safe and positive at work.
  2. Build in social connection in meetings. It’s easy to jump right into work but research shows taking a few moments in a meeting to check in with everyone is humanizing and connecting. Sharing about hobbies, hopes and dreams builds bonds at work that can cultivate greater resilience during stressful times and difficult guest interactions.
  3. Replace Your Gratitude Practice with This. One of Frederickson’s students, Bethany Kok, has shown that taking a minute each day to record how connected you felt when interacting with others can improve both heart function and day-to-day positive emotions. This twist on your classic gratitude practice involves writing down 2 - 3 moments when you felt connected to another as a way to savor these moments and strengthen the good feelings. Inviting staff to document a meaningful moment everyday can have long-term positive benefits.


Not only do immune systems get weakened without connection but our emotional systems do as well. Fortunately, these connections can be found everywhere when we look.

It’s these micro-experiences of care and connection that can differentiate you in a world that’s growing increasingly contact-less. The brands that are high-touch in caring, responsive ways will create stronger bonds with customers.

It’s worth the effort to train staff to understand the why and the how of connection as well as how to use your CMS system. Not only does this support the guest’s journey, it supports your staff’s health too. These micro-experiences of authentic connection are a two-way street and will also provide benefit to your staff.

Every interaction, no matter how much we try, will not be perfect though. Attempts to smile at a guest who has just arrived after a long flight may not work if the person is too distracted or exhausted to connect so there shouldn’t be an expectation that all our interactions will be full of positive resonance. But even savoring one or two moments a day can have long-lasting benefits to your mindset and health.

These micro-moments then resource staff so they have more to give, which in turn will help guests feel more cared for and connected and more bonded to your hotel because of how good they felt there. An additional benefit, guests, feeling more connected, will be kinder in their interactions with others. It’s the start of a virtuous cycle.

Love blossoms any time two or more people -- even strangers -- connect over a shared positive emotion, be it mild or strong. And decades of research now shows that love, seen as these micro-moments of positive connection, fortifies the connection between your brain and your heart and makes you healthier. Barbara Frederickson, in Love 2.0

As the world’s professional hosts, we have an opportunity to help build a healthier and more loving world through how we show up for our guests and each other. As Frederickson’s research shows, it doesn’t have to be big and complicated. These small experiences can have great impact. But as with anything important between people, it is an inside job first.

Interested in learning how you can add micro-moments to your guest experience to build loyalty? Reach out to book at consultation at [email protected].

Susie Arnett
Canyon Ranch®