Using Feedback to Exceed Guests' Great Expectations

By Shayne Paddock Vice President of Product Development & Innovation, TravelClick | April 06, 2014

Guest preferences and expectations constantly change. Hoteliers can't assume that because a guest made a request during one stay that the same request will be made - or even desired - each time he or she returns to your property. Travelers' personas change. Sometimes a guest is traveling on business; other times it's for leisure. The guest may be alone or accompanied by a spouse or the entire family. Whether these road trippers are looking for a quick place to sleep or a longer stay where more amenities are desired, knowing what they want, when they want it, and how often is key to guest loyalty and satisfaction.

Asking guests about each desire or preference all at once can be overwhelming. To be more effective over the long run and get the answers you need, try asking for small amounts of information more often throughout the guest lifecycle. Preferences sometimes change between booking the reservation and arriving on property, especially for stays where the booking window is large. Checking in with guests periodically enables hoteliers to always have the most accurate information on hand.

In addition to asking for preferences at various points in the guest lifecycle, the customer should be able to communicate his or her requests using their preferred communication channel; it may be over the telephone, on a laptop, or a smartphone. Don't assume, however, that just because a guest reached out to you with a smartphone that it will always be his preferred communication channel.

When to Ask and What to Ask For

The shorter the gap between the experience and asking for a guest review, the higher the success rate for obtaining feedback. For example, if the property has a golf course, managers will get a higher rate of return when asking for feedback shortly after a round is played versus asking a guest to recall the experience weeks or months after the stay is completed. In-stay queries reduce the amount of information you are asking for at check-out. By requesting feedback while the guest is still on property, it gives managers an opportunity to remedy any negative situation in person. This is especially important when asking about the reservation experience; if you wait until after the stay to ask about the check-in process, chances are a guests' recollection may be skewed, especially if the hotel waits months after check out before a query is initiated.

Asking the guest after every interaction isn't good either. Hoteliers need to be strategic in knowing when it's appropriate to ask for immediate feedback and when they should wait. Immediate requests via survey should be sent during:

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Guest Service: A Culture of YES

In a recent global consumers report, 97% of the participants said that customer service is a major factor in their loyalty to a brand, and 76% said they view customer service as the true test of how much a company values them. And since there is no industry more reliant on customer satisfaction than the hotel industry, managers must be unrelenting in their determination to hire, train and empower the very best people, and to create a culture of exceptional customer service within their organization. Of course, this begins with hiring the right people. There are people who are naturally service-oriented; people who are warm, empathetic, enthusiastic, pleasant, thoughtful and optimistic; people who take pride in their ability to solve problems for the hotel guests they are serving. Then, those same employees must be empowered to solve problems using their own judgment, without having to track down a manager to do it. This is how seamless problem solving and conflict resolution are achieved in guest service. This willingness to empower employees is part of creating a Culture of Yes within an organization.  The goal is to create an environment in which everyone is striving to say “Yes”, rather than figuring out ways to say, “No”. It is essential that this attitude be instilled in all frontline, customer-facing, employees. Finally, in order to ensure that the hotel can generate a consistent level of performance across a wide variety of situations, management must also put in place well-defined systems and standards, and then educate their employees about them. Every employee must be aware of and responsible for every standard that applies in their department. The April issue of the Hotel Business Review will document what some leading hotels are doing to cultivate and manage guest satisfaction in their operations.