Rethinking the traditional hotel guest satisfaction survey

NB: This is a viewpoint from Michelle Wohl, vice president of marketing at Revinate.

The popularity of online reviews and the importance of social media are changing the way that hotels are approaching how to gather customer feedback.

Historically, hotels have relied on extensive post-stay surveys and mystery shoppers to ascertain service levels, customer satisfaction, and areas for improvement.

Today, online reviews are providing hoteliers with rich data about guest satisfaction to help them please customers. In addition, online reviews provide a social currency that drives new bookings and trust in hotels.

We can learn a lot from the growth of online reviews to determine better ways to administer and use survey data.

First, and perhaps most obvious, online reviews are useful to both hoteliers and consumers because of their free-form structure that allows guests to talk only about the services and amenities that impacted their stays.

With traditional surveys, primarily closed-ended questions such as “please rate your satisfaction with your room from one to ten” will not yield rich data about what a customer liked or disliked about, for example, his room, or who at the hotel made his hotel special.

Rather, traditional surveys are formulated by hotels to focus on areas that they feel need to be measured, rather than what is most important and top of mind to customers.

The highly structured nature of traditional surveys used to be critical for accurately measuring and reporting on guest satisfaction but today new sentiment analysis technology makes it possible to easily analyze and report on unstructured data in just as reliable a way, with a much richer data-set.

Through reports that show which topics, from ontology specific to hospitality, are trending positively or negatively, management doesn’t have to know what to ask in advance to find hot-button issues or get detailed feedback about any service or amenity on property.

With reliable reporting comes the ability to fully operationalize the data, even basing compensation plans on the results. Equally important, it allows you to bring voice of the customer data into your discussions around capital improvements, training programs and operational changes.

The second reason why many hoteliers are rethinking traditional guest satisfaction survey methods is because they recognize the value that public guest feedback has on new bookings.

The TripBarometer Survey states that 93% of travellers worldwide say online reviews have an impact on their booking decisions.

This trend, in addition to SEO benefits and the fact that TripAdvisor’s Popularity Index takes review frequency in mind, makes it clear that hoteliers should focus on driving guests to share feedback publicly, through social channels, to reap the best rewards.

For hoteliers that worry what will happen when survey feedback can be shared publicly, it’s time to accept the reality that your guests are already writing and reading online reviews, tweets and posts about your hotel at an increasing rate.

Embrace the transparency as it drives consumer trust, allows you to connect with guests and access data not only about your hotel, but your competition. This competitive data can be easily mined to understand where you are winning and losing in guests’ eyes.

In April, 2012, the largest hospitality company in the world, Wyndham Hotels & Resorts replaced its traditional guest survey system with a solution that collects review style feedback directly from guests.

The decision was based on extensive research and testing, and this bold move has successfully unleashed the power of feedback to drive marketing exposure and bookings, in addition to providing even richer intelligence.

As a result, the hotels are benefiting from powerful insights about their guests that they can easily analyze with sentiment analysis technology, along with more public reviews, which is helping drive awareness of the hotels, in addition to popularity index scores.

NB: This is a viewpoint from Michelle Wohl, vice president of marketing at Revinate.

NB2: Survey image via Shutterstock.

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About the Writer :: Viewpoints

A founding principle of tnooz was a diversity of viewpoints from across the spectrum. Viewpoints are articles by guest contributors from around the travel and hospitality industries. The views expressed are those of the author. and do not necessarily reflect those of the author's employer, or tnooz and its partners.



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  1. Dan Bergeron

    It would be nice to see hotels use social tools to collect surveys, satisfaction, experiences and photos. There’s a lot of great tools out there and so many hotels ignore if their guests had a positive or negative experience. Here’s a great video series from the Jetblue customer satisfaction team.

  2. Emily Woods

    It’s time hoteliers move on to advanced online surveys such as SoGoSurvey, which offer advanced features, ensuring a wholesome feedback.

  3. will

    Yes feedback is changing and becoming very valuable for business owners. With traditional advertising not working like it used to, companies are realizing the way to reach their customers is through online feedback.

  4. Caroline Doherty

    MIchelle, great article. I agree that hotels need to rethink traditional customer surveys. They need to focus less on merely measuring satisfaction with what the hotel offers and think instead about how the guest experiences the hotel. Surveys need to capture whether the hotel provided guests with the experience they were looking for and at an appropriate price. That information will help hotels make smarter pricing and investment decisions, and ensure their offering remains relevant to customer needs.

    Sentiment analysis does go some way to providing this question. However, people leaving reviews are a self-selecting group, the veracity of some reviews is questionable, and even where reviews are true, they are often the outliers (i.e. people who have had an unusually good or bad experience due to a particular incident). For these reasons I would be nervous about a hotel making its pricing and investment decisions (and its compensation policies as you suggest) based on this data alone.

    To get the full picture there must still be a place for customer feedback collection at check-out (or even during the guest’s stay). However, the form that feedback collection takes is something that needs to be reconsidered. Merely asking guests to tick a box from one to ten is not the smartest way of going about it.

    Caroline (Director of Marketing, Hotel Trail)


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