Today's hotel guests have a wide range of tools to share information about their experiences, good and bad. Yelp, TripAdvisor, Google, Facebook, and other channels now offer consumers a public platform to share hotel guest feedback, whether it's kudos and grievances. These channels also provide hotel operators a means of gathering input. Unfortunately, that input can be highly unreliable and may not provide a representative sample or accurate reflection of overall guest sentiment. If you're not using other quantitative means of evaluating guest feedback, you may have a flawed perspective of how you're performing.
If you're not using other quantitative means of evaluating guest feedback, you may have a flawed perspective of how you're doing.
All Feedback Is Not Created Equal
Mark Heymann is founder and CEO of UniFocus, a workforce performance consulting firm. He offers some advice to hotel professionals, “With all of the recent press touting the importance of using online review content to evaluate a hotel's performance, it is time to step back and not lose sight of best practices for assessing hotel guest attitudes," he says.
In order to improve operations and allocation of resources, Heymann stresses the importance of using statistically valid samples of guest experiences while maintaining their collection process.
Random input from consumers who self-select and choose to go to public sites to share their feedback and concerns (and, it's generally concerns they choose to share) provide a skewed view of the guess experience. While hoteliers shouldn't ignore these comments, and must be prepared to respond to them, they should also seek statistically valid and reliable feedback to help accurately assess guest experiences and opportunities for improvement. Ideally, says Heymann, that process would involve:
- A diverse sample of guest experiences
- Reliable sampling over time
- Response history with trending over time
- Benchmarked performance by market segment
- Clearly defined actionable opportunities for improvement
- Statistical assessment of what is important to guests
- Key drivers of guest intent to recommend*
- Goal-setting based on statistically valid data
Using a valid sample and comparing results over time and against others (benchmarking) are best practices for ensuring the feedback you gather is valuable and actionable.
*Note: This is a very important type of question, generally referred to as a net promoter score. The more likely a guest is to recommend your property, the more likely they will become a loyal customer.
A Range of Options
Not all hotel pros will have the time or budget available to take the quickest route to gathering statistically valid input from guests. But this type of feedback is most critical when making expensive or potentially risky decisions. Between random public postings on review sites and full-blown survey input, there are a range of other options available:
- Survey only guests who stay frequently at your facility.
- Survey only guests who have stayed only once at your facility and have not returned.
- Solicit feedback from staff who may have stayed at your property with friends and family. Staff members could also be gathered for small focus groups for more in-depth feedback and input.
- Gather input at the point of departure – this can be done through hard-copy comment cards as well as through online electronic checkout systems.
- Capture guest email addresses to send a follow-up “thank you" and request input after their stay.
- Develop processes and train staff to solicit feedback during their regular interactions with guests: at check-in, when delivering room-service meals, when they encounter guests in the hallway, or at check-out. This plays a dual role in both gathering information and sending a strong message that the entire staff cares about the guest experience.
The bottom line: there are many opportunities for hotel operators to gather valuable guest feedback about their properties, their service, and the guest experience. Whether you take the formal route, use quick “pulse" surveys, or some combination of all of the above, the input you receive will help to ensure you're providing experiences to delight your guests and boost the odds of return visits and recommendations.