Hospitality Research in Practice: Technology's Role in Customer Experience Measurement

By Janet Gerhard Partner & CXO, Inquizo | November 10, 2013

Technology has and will continue to transform nearly every aspect of our personal and professional lives. Companies that are keeping up, or better yet, advancing technology are setting the stage for customers' expectations of tomorrow. As for the others …. well, be prepared for capitulation to irrelevance or death. In Good to Great author Jim Collins compares organizations enjoying success utilizing a flywheel versus those stumbling their way to oblivion. These organizations are characterized as consistent, disciplined, motivated, and results oriented. The inverse of the flywheel is called the doom loop. Given the constant march of enterprise feedback management (EFM) systems into what has been marketing research's bellwether, I was left wondering if 1) this same cycle could be applied to one of the more vital research program in hotels today -- customer experience – and 2) if technology was the fuel to jettison the vendors that once dominated this space.

There was a time when customer experience measurement was founded in marketing sciences and had reliable technology. Now, the tables are turned. Instead of having marketing sciences and data analytics at its core, customer experience measurement is completely technology-driven. The same quality measures are in place. For example, are surveys going out in a timely manner? Are we sampling a random selection of our customers to get fair representation? But now, new needs compel us to ask questions that focus on the technology. Is the survey accessible via a mobile device? Does the technology allow for changes to the survey questions quickly? Can we get the results in the hands of our hotel managers quickly and in a usable format? Are we able to respond back to the guest in a timely and authentic manner? Can we port that information to other databases? What about feeding it into our customer relationship management systems? This list of questions goes on and on. And, if your customer experience measurement program isn't keeping up with technology, your program is viewed as falling behind.

What isn't being explored often enough, however, is how are we measuring success. Or, are we even measuring it? If so, how do we even know we are measuring the right things? What resources are we using to understand and use all this to inform strategy? Big data is constant topic, but solutions are elusive.

So, how did technology become the core of customer experience?

Having spent most of the last two decades in customer experience measurement, a lot has changed. Most of it is for the better ---- but not all of it. Hospitality research and the consumers of this data are fundamentally different. For one, expectations aren't what they used to be. Customer satisfaction and loyalty tracking studies producing relatively stable findings are viewed as boring. The advent of technology means brand managers and operation leaders are looking for new insights not performance metrics.

Moreover, the role of customer experience measurement has changed. It is no longer about brand performance and the relentless pursuit of consistency or even continuous improvement for RevPAR. Instead, we are looking for new.

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Coming up in June 2019...

Sales & Marketing: Selling Experiences

There are innumerable strategies that Hotel Sales and Marketing Directors employ to find, engage and entice guests to their property, and those strategies are constantly evolving. A breakthrough technology, pioneering platform, or even a simple algorithm update can cause new trends to emerge and upend the best laid plans. Sales and marketing departments must remain agile so they can adapt to the ever changing digital landscape. As an example, the popularity of virtual reality is on the rise, as 360 interactive technologies become more mainstream. Chatbots and artificial intelligence are also poised to become the next big things, as they take guest personalization to a whole new level. But one sales and marketing trend that is currently resulting in major benefits for hotels is experiential marketing - the effort to deliver an experience to potential guests. Mainly this is accomplished through the creative use of video and images, and by utilizing what has become known as User Generated Content. By sharing actual personal content (videos and pictures) from satisfied guests who have experienced the delights of a property, prospective guests can more easily imagine themselves having the same experience. Similarly, Hotel Generated Content is equally important. Hotels are more than beds and effective video presentations can tell a compelling story - a story about what makes the hotel appealing and unique. A video walk-through of rooms is essential, as are video tours in different areas of a hotel. The goal is to highlight what makes the property exceptional, but also to show real people having real fun - an experience that prospective guests can have too. The June Hotel Business Review will report on some of these issues and strategies, and examine how some sales and marketing professionals are integrating them into their operations.