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Although hotels generally try for consistency, efficiency, and economy in service, guests appreciate employees’ willingness to depart from scripted outlines and improvise service processes. This study of 320 hotel managers and 137 hotel employees highlights the nature and effects of organizational improvisation by examining three key elements of service improvisation—creativity, spontaneity, and bricolage, which is the ability to assemble new services from available resources. Employees at higher-end hotels reported being more likely to improvise, in part because they feel empowered to do so and have more resources at their disposal. Additionally, their guests expect a favorable response to unusual requests. Ironically, the opportunity to improve guest satisfaction through service improvisation is actually greater in lower-tier hotels where guests do not have such high expectations. Guests particularly appreciate it when employees at lower tier hotels are encouraged to improvise. One interesting finding is that the managers’ estimate of the extent to which their employees used improvisation was noticeably lower than the levels of improvisation reported by the employees themselves.


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