Do Customers Care How Employees Are Treated?


May 9, 2017

Most businesses carefully manage their reputations, keeping tabs on their customers’ Yelp reviews, Facebook posts and tweets. But there’s another source of company reputation that is often overlooked: Employee satisfaction in Glassdoor reviews.

Do satisfied employees translate into more satisfied customers? According to one new study looking at the hotel industry, the answer is yes.

How Satisfied Employees Affect Customers

In the new study, titled Extending the Scope of Hotel Client Reactions to Employee Injustice: Hotel Employer Reviews on the Internet, Santiago Melián-González and Jacques Bulchand-Gidumal from the University of Las Palmas de Gran Canaria found that employee reviews can influence guests’ opinions about the quality of a hotel they recently visited. And employee reviews can even change guests’ intentions to recommend the hotel to others or to come back for a repeat visit.

The study used real-world hotel employee reviews from Glassdoor to test how reading employee reviews influences hotel guests. Study participants, who had all stayed at a hotel within the previous 12 months, were asked to rate how satisfied they were with their most recent hotel visit. They were also asked about the hotel’s quality of service, how likely they were to recommend the hotel to others, and whether they intended to return for another stay.

Next, each participant was randomly chosen to view a positive, neutral, or negative review shared on Glassdoor by a hotel employee, with the name of the hotel removed. The positive review described the hotel’s excellent benefits and opportunities for employees, while the negative review talked about leadership problems and low pay. The intermediate or neutral review mentioned both good and bad points about working for the hotel.

After participants read the review, the researchers asked them to imagine that they had seen this review and other reviews like it about the last hotel they had visited. Participants then answered the same questions about their satisfaction with the hotel, its quality of service, their intention to recommend the hotel, and their intention to visit it in the future.

Happy Employees, Happy Customers

The results of the study show that opinions of hotel visitors are swayed by employee satisfaction — particularly those reporting negative workplace experiences.

In the study, participants who were shown a positive review formed a better opinion of the service at the hotel, although their overall satisfaction, intention to recommend the hotel, and intention to visit it again didn’t change. But participants who read a negative review gave significantly lower ratings for overall satisfaction, quality of service, intention to recommend the hotel to others, and intention to return to the hotel.

What It Means for Employers

The results of this study show that hotel guests do seem to care about the working conditions and job satisfaction of employees at the hotels they visit. According to the authors, “hotels should also pay attention to their employees’ comments about them: Their clients will be negatively influenced if they see negative comments made by employees regarding the treatment they receive.”

Seeing an online review from an employee can change customer perception of the hotel. And information about employees being mistreated or undervalued is especially concerning to guests, such that study participants actually reported changing their plans to revisit the hotel or to tell their friends about it in response.

When most companies think about how company culture affects financial performance, they usually focus on employee productivity. But this study suggests a different way company culture affects the bottom line: by influencing perceptions of consumers who are concerned about how companies treat their employees.

The findings of this new study suggest another reason why monitoring and cultivating a healthy workplace culture can be good for business — in addition to it being good for employees.

Read the full study, “Extending the Scope of Hotel Client Reactions to Employee Injustice: Hotel Employer Reviews on the Internet,” by Santiago Melián-González and Jacques Bulchand-Gidumal in the International Journal of Hospitality Management.