Mr. Jost

Guest Service / Customer Experience Mgmt

How Guest Feedback Aligns with Your Hotel's Top Goals

By Benjamin Jost, Co-Founder & CEO, TrustYou

In a recent interview, Airbnb co-founder and chief strategy officer Nathan Blecharczyk said their future goals lie in "becoming a platform for the entire trip, so no longer just about accommodations…really trying to reinvent every aspect of travel."

I believe hoteliers need to think along the same lines: how do we reinvent the travel experience - from search to booking to providing a top-notch experience on-site - to not only compete with the likes of Airbnb but also to achieve your hotel's top goals?

It starts with taking a step back and first identifying those top goals. Every CEO I speak to is struggling with the same challenges - and I've noticed these four things come up as the top goals:

  • Driving direct bookings
  • Lowering distribution costs
  • Increasing hotel revenue
  • Improving guest satisfaction

In these discussions, the next question becomes: okay - so what plan do I need to put into place to achieve those four goals? And then, while they're putting together that plan, they might ID some areas where guest feedback could be useful to aid that objective.

I challenge hoteliers to think about it in the reverse way: how can guest feedback help you achieve each of those four goals so that you use guest feedback across your entire customer journey (and not as an afterthought)?

In this article, I'm going to share how you can do that - by aligning guest feedback and your hotel goals with the 5 Ws.

1. What Type of Guest Feedback are Travelers Searching for?

The type of guest feedback that travelers like to see is dependent on their type of travel and their expectations. Let the data guide you here: a recent study asked travelers to simulate the booking of either a luxury or budget hotel in a controlled setting. When simulating booking a luxury hotel, the respondents were more likely to favor hotels with great rooms, impressive breakfast offerings and WiFi. However, when respondents were asked to book a budget hotel, they were significantly more likely to book hotels that were clean and comfortable. Why? It's not that luxury hotel respondents didn't also want a clean and comfortable place to stay. The differences have to do with expectations. When staying in a luxury hotel, you already presume that it will be clean and comfortable - that's not a concern. However, when staying in a budget hotel, then expectations change so those attributes become more important.

Connection to Your Hotel Goals - Knowing what type of feedback guests want to see can drive direct bookings. Instead of providing every review on your website, you could categorize it based on types of travelers you want to target, their preferences and the type of property you're offering. Using a tool like TrustYou, which summarizes review data and ensures maximized exposure on Google and OTAs, also enables travelers to get relevant reviews based on the type of feedback they're looking for - so they can quickly and easily see room data or information on amenities, instead of sifting through hundreds of reviews. You can use post-stay surveys to specifically solicit the type of feedback you want, based on the type of hotel you want to be perceived as (luxury, budget or other) and who you want to attract. Think of creating a survey "mapping" exercise with your staff - list the different ways you describe your property and the type of feedback that would reinforce that description. Then, identify the gaps (i.e. we want to be a business-friendly hotel but we have no reviews on our meeting rooms) and add questions pertaining to those gaps in your post-stay surveys.

2. Who are You Trying to Attract?

In the same study, the hotel attributes that respondents were looking for also varied based on the type of traveler they were. Based on that research, WiFi was more important for business travelers, food was more important for those traveling with friends, room quality was more important for couples and comfort and amenities were most important for family travelers.

Connection to Your Hotel Goals - You could categorize your reviews based on things important to business or family travelers and help prospective guests find the information they're looking for, faster, in order to be confident in booking directly. Plus, you can incorporate reviews into the content you're sharing on OTAs - specific business-friendly review data on Concur, while more fun and leisure content on Booking.com - maximizing exposure of the right content on the right channels allows you to compete with OTAs and spend less on distributing costs.

3. Where are Travelers Searching for Feedback?

There are three stages of the customer travel journey are: Search and booking, on-site experience and post-stay feedback. During each stage, they're looking for different information and therefore, different reviews will have more of an impact:

  • Search and Booking - You can think of this as the "awareness" stage - they're primarily searching for information about the different options and comparing amenities, locations, prices and guest feedback. During this stage, many travelers use OTAs to begin their search and from there will go to a hotel's website direct to learn more (see larger pictures, learn more about the property and ask questions). Once they've compared properties, then they're ready to book - either directly or on the OTA

  • On-site Experience - Here, they're not just looking for a great experience - they're looking for an experience that matches their expectations. The equation: happiness = reality/expectations rings true in hospitality

  • Post-stay Feedback - Once the stay is complete, the journey has just begun - now is the chance for travelers to become advocates of your property stay again and/or recommend your property to a friend.

Connection to Your Hotel Goals - During the search and booking phase, travelers are comparing - so to reduce the likelihood they'll book on OTAs and lower your distribution costs, you want to stand out from the competitor. How? We know travelers don't just compare on price; otherwise, everyone would stay in the cheapest option and the Four Seasons would be out of business. I argue they compare based on the story - what story you're conveying to travelers. Thanks to the billboard effect, you can maximize your presence on OTAs, get travelers to your website and then use guest insights strategically on your website, in a way that tells a story, so travelers can easily differentiate between you and the competition.

4. When Can You Increase Revenue with Guest Feedback?

They've booked and ready to stay - now is the opportunity to use guest feedback to increase hotel revenue. The key is timing - during the on-site experience is when this opportunity is greatest and too few hotels use guest feedback to increase revenue.

Connection to Your Hotel Goals - One of the ways I suggest doing so is by analyzing the types of ancillary purchases that previous guests have made - categorized by type of traveler (business, leisure etc.), channel they booked on (direct, indirect), length of stay, to name a few. Then, using the review data, you can promote similar services to other travelers that fall in that category - Bob who booked direct, came on business for a week, and purchased an upgraded spa package, wrote that he liked the WiFi near the pool, so he could relax and work. This could be used to convince Jane, who's also coming on business for a week, to make a similar ancillary purchase. Using a tool that allows you to direct message guests via Facebook or text messages, you can personalize the service further - and use reviews to again identify what might be important to similar guests.

5. Why Does Guest Feedback Directly Improve Guest Satisfaction?

Most hoteliers think that first you have guest satisfaction, so then you get positive guest reviews and feedback. Again, I challenge hoteliers to think of this in the reverse: what if it was the positive guest reviews and feedback that, in turn, improved guest experience?

There's a few reasons why guest feedback can improve guest satisfaction - starting with expectations. Guest feedback reinforces the expectations that travelers already have of your hotel and what their stay might be like. Knowing that Bob and Jane came on similar trips like mine and enjoyed it, reinforces my belief that I'm making the right hotel choice. Now, I'm already coming to the hotel with a few expectations that the hotel can meet. A recent study found that summarized review content is easier to consume than full reviews, gives travelers the most useful overview compared to full text reviews and that ultimately, travelers prefer a combination of the two to feel most confident in making a book decision. This confidence is how guest feedback improves guest satisfaction - they come to the hotel confident they made the right choice.

Connection to Your Hotel Goals - In the introduction to this article, I wrote that most CEOs I speak to have four core hotel goals - one of which is improving guest satisfaction. The truth is this goal supersedes all of them because without guest satisfaction, you won't have new or repeat guests, and there will be no reason to attempt to achieve the other goals. Managing your online reputation is one of the best ways to ensure that the guest satisfaction you provide is proudly shared with the world - most importantly, future guests, of course.

The Takeaway

From this article, I want you to understand a new way of looking at the value of guest feedback - and how it absolutely touches every hotel goal you have. More than that, it can be used to revitalize all those areas - to increase direct bookings, lower distribution costs, increase hotel revenue and improve guest satisfaction. Reviews and guest feedback are more than just words and testimonials; they're insights into what makes your property unique, what experience you're providing that travelers love, and they're giving you the tools to achieve the four more important hotel goals.

Benjamin Jost is co-founder and chief executive officer of TrustYou. Benjamin is an expert on social semantic search and is leading the big data revolution in hospitality. Prior to TrustYou, he spearheaded the Southern European M&A team for one of the world’s leading renewable energy providers and oversaw hundreds of investment cases covering a profusion of renewable technologies. He started his career in venture capital at Siemens Venture Capital and Xange Capital. Mr. Jost holds a MsC in engineering from the University of Technology in Munich and conducted research at the ENST Paris and the University of Washington Business School, Seattle. Mr. Jost can be contacted at 011 49 176 83074860 or benjamin.jost@trustyou.com Extended Bio...

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