How to Win Guests and Influence Customers

It’s been more than eight decades since Dale Carnegie wrote his famous book, How to Win Friends and Influence People. Self-help books come and go, but this seminal work remains popular today. Why? The advice is not only practical and timely but also logical and straightforward. If Carnegie’s advice could be distilled into one sentence, it might be this: Be a natural leader through kindness, patience, and genuine curiosity toward others. This wisdom perfectly applies to the hospitality industry, helping your hotel to win guests and influence customers.

Let’s explore Carnegie’s central principles as they relate to your hotel operations. There are no smoke and mirrors here, no marketing jargon. We’re talking about making genuine connections that result in motivated employees, increased staff retention, happier guests, and greater customer loyalty. Ready? Let’s go!

An Authentic Approach

While still relevant and popular today, Carnegie’s How to Win Friends and Influence People has faced some criticism for being superficial and self-centered, relying on tips and tricks instead of authenticity. With sections that include “Six Ways to Make People Like You” and “How to Win People Over to Your Way of Thinking,” Carnegie’s advice sounds somewhat superficial at best and downright manipulative at worst. However, his tips and tricks are a useful way to simplify more complex ideas about connection.

For instance, one of Carnegie’s tips for getting people to like you is to smile and be a good listener. If you weren’t skilled at listening before, intentionally practicing listening can lead to a genuine interest in others. That’s the transformational power that’s available to you as a person and as a hotel manager. 

As a result, your relationships, whether with front-of-house or back-of-house staff, become more genuine. You will foster affinity and loyalty among guests and employees. Consequently, you may experience improved staff retention and an increase in repeat bookings, all in a genuinely positive manner. 

Handling Hospitality

“The rare individual who unselfishly tries to serve others has an enormous advantage.” – Dale Carnegie

Carnegie’s book is a good match for hoteliers since its principles revolve around positive human interactions conducted with tact and respect. In his book, Carnegie emphasizes handling people without criticism, offering sincere appreciation, and arousing an “eager want” in others. As the quote above so aptly describes, hospitality professionals already possess a significant advantage!

Focus on the Positive

In communications—whether with guests or employees—focus on the positive and take criticisms and complaints off the table. Negative approaches are ineffective in winning people over or resolving conflicts. Instead, express genuine appreciation at every guest touchpoint, from your website to your front desk.

An Eager Want

When it comes to handling people, Carnegie also describes “eager want.” This concept underscores the importance of demonstrating genuine enthusiasm and a strong desire to achieve goals while considering the wants and needs of others. Richard Branson, the founder of Virgin, embodies this ideal. It is difficult not to become excited alongside him, no matter what he talks about! 

Enthusiasm is contagious. Cultivate excitement about your offerings internally, and it will spread externally to your guests too. Apply this approach to your marketing materials as well. 

A smiling hotel receptionist helps happy guests at the front desk
A smile makes all the difference

Make Guests Like You (and Your Hotel)

Getting people to like you seems self-evident when it comes to winning friends. As a hotelier, you’re also in the business of persuading customers to like your property. While your hotel’s appearance, amenities, and offers are important, Carnegie reminds us that it’s the human element that makes a difference.


Carnegie once said, “Actions speak louder than words. A smile says, ‘I like you. I am glad to see you.'” While it may seem obvious to smile at your guests, it’s not always common practice. If you’ve encountered indifferent frontline staff during your travels, it’s likely due to a training issue. Make sure all staff members, from the front desk to housekeeping, understand that flashing their pearly whites is an effective way to keep guests happy.

Address Guests by Name

Carnegie noted, “Remember a name and call it easily, and you have paid a subtle and very effective compliment.” Personalization is a significant hospitality trend with plenty of technological tools available to support it. However, when it comes to winning people over, nothing beats this simple gesture. Smaller hotels and inns have an advantage over larger establishments in this regard. 

Take the time to remember your guests’ names and greet them whenever you cross paths. Additionally, utilize SMS or email communication before, during, and after their stay, making sure to address guests by name. This can be easily achieved (and automated) through your property management system.

How to Win Guests Over to Your Line of Thinking

“You can’t win an argument. If you lose it, you lose it; and if you win it, you lose it.” – Dale Carnegie

When making friends, arguing is off the table. A happy relationship is never about who wins but rather finding the middle ground where two parties can agree. When faced with an unhappy guest (it happens at even the best hotels), it’s crucial to bear in mind that: “Three-fourths of the people you will meet are hungering for sympathy. Give it to them and they will love you.” Applied to the hospitality industry, Carnegie’s words suggest that by showing empathy towards complaints instead of being defensive, you have already taken the first step in healing the relationship. Above all, guests want to feel heard and have their concerns taken seriously.

Train staff to handle complaints with an empathetic and solution-based approach to make guests feel important and valued:

  • Begin with a friendly and sympathetic demeanor
  • Let guests do most of the talking
  • Actively listen and show respect for your guests’ opinions
  • Try to understand the issue from the guest’s point of view
  • Express empathy and understanding
  • Willingly admit any wrongdoing 
  • Collaborate with the guest to find a mutually satisfactory solution

Remember, it’s not about proving the customer wrong or right. Instead of focusing on a win/lose dynamic, prioritize maintaining a positive relationship (win/win).

A hotel manager and her team celebrate success
Teamwork for the win!

Be a Hotel Leader & Make Your Hotel Happier

Dale Carnegie stresses the importance of presenting yourself as a leader. As a hotel owner or manager, you naturally assume a leadership role. However, it is also possible for every staff member to present themselves as a leader. According to Carnegie, leadership is a mindset and demeanor that we can all possess, and it reflects in our behavior. 

The Ted Lasso Effect

Lead by example with professionalism and integrity, inspiring your staff while earning likeability from your guests. It all starts with an attitude of appreciation (Ted Lasso is a great example!). Just like water is essential for plants to grow, gratitude and praise are vital for people.

Ask, Don’t Order

As Carnegie suggests, “Ask questions instead of giving orders.” This approach prevents conflict and eliminates defensiveness. Involving staff in decision-making and task planning serves as a wonderful motivator. As Carnegie points out, “People are more likely to accept an order if they had a part in the decision that led to the order being issued.” (This also works well for chores at home!)

No Mistakes, Only Learnings

As a leader of people (and people are only human), someone is bound to make a mistake, yourself included. Criticizing employees or even guests for a mistake serves no purpose, as Carnegie states, “Criticism is dangerous because it wounds a person’s pride, hurts his sense of importance, and arouses resentment.”

Instead, help staff members who make mistakes save face by sharing a time when you made a mistake, framing it as a learning opportunity. Ask for their ideas on how to correct the situation or what could be done differently next time.

When a guest makes a mistake, take responsibility for any lack of timely communication or unclear terms and conditions. Ask the guest what could have helped prevent the situation so you can make changes for future guests. 

Happy Hotel, Happy Guests

Investing time in creating a happy and enthusiastic hotel staff is invaluable, as attitude is everything. Happy employees cultivate a positive attitude towards guests, ultimately enhancing their experience. A positive hotel atmosphere also reduces negative guest feedback. We foresee an increase in glowing reviews and repeat bookings in your hotel’s future!

Dale Carnegie’s timeless principles from his book How to Win Friends and Influence People hold incredible value for the hospitality industry. Remember, it’s not just about the physical aspects of a hotel but the human element that truly makes a difference. By focusing on positive interactions, demonstrating enthusiasm, personalizing experiences, handling complaints with empathy, and leading by example, hoteliers create an inviting atmosphere that wins guests and influences customer loyalty.