Mapping Customer Feedback Programs to Your Organization

By Jonathan Barsky Partner, Market Metrix | August 17, 2014

Measure Guests' Actual Experience

Every customer interaction is unique, but many companies fail to capture feedback from key moments of the customer experience. For example, in a hotel, guest feedback should cover the basics - arrival, guestroom and overall service. But most surveys don't ask the right questions and miss the guest's personal experience. Collecting feedback on these incidents requires a dynamic survey that adapts to the property and focuses on customers' individual experiences. Without this critical perspective, hoteliers miss valuable feedback. Then they can't try to recover, take corrective action, or even manage follow-up communication with the guest.

Companies have long emphasized touch points- the critical moments when customers interact with your products and services. But the narrow focus on maximizing satisfaction at those moments can create a distorted picture, and miss the surrounding details. This may end up suggesting that customers are happier than they actually are. It also diverts attention from the bigger picture: the customer's end-to-end journey.

But the challenge is to know which set of touch points apply to each customer and understand their experience when interacting with those touch points. We need to measure both. Our job is to understand what customers actually need – what the customer wants to accomplish – then make the journey and the interactions along the way easier, more effective and more enjoyable. So collecting input on these encounters requires a flexible survey that adapts to the brand and focuses on customers' actual experience.

The customer experience is made up of more than just a series of products and services. For example, a business traveler may have a poor experience printing a document in the business center. Another customer, traveling for fun, may experience poor wait staff service while eating at the restaurant, but love their room service at breakfast. A third customer, traveling with her husband, might have an excellent stay if it weren't for the fact the key card kept getting demagnetized. Having it reactivated multiple times a day was an annoyance. Every guest journey through a hotel is different. Some are loyalty club members, and some aren't. Some are first time visitors, some returning guests. Some are traveling on business, and some are not. In each case the set of relevant questions may be a little different. Having a cookie cutter approach where every survey for every property is the same misses opportunities. Gathering feedback on a guest's individual journey requires a dynamic survey that maps to the unique offering of the property and targets the actual guest experience.

Obviously companies cannot fully control experiences, because experiences involve perception and unexpected customer behaviors. But we can ask relevant questions that concentrate more on each unique customer experience. For example, by focusing on the purpose or goal for each part of the customer journey (Eg., "Were you able to accomplish what you needed at the business center?") rather than sending out a standard survey that might solely focus on services ("Rate the quality of business center equipment."), we get a better understanding of the customers' actual experience.

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Coming up in March 2019...

Human Resources: An Era of Transition

Traditionally, the human resource department administers five key areas within a hotel operation - compliance, compensation and benefits, organizational dynamics, selection and retention, and training and development. However, HR professionals are also presently involved in culture-building activities, as well as implementing new employee on-boarding practices and engagement initiatives. As a result, HR professionals have been elevated to senior leadership status, creating value and profit within their organization. Still, they continue to face some intractable issues, including a shrinking talent pool and the need to recruit top-notch employees who are empowered to provide outstanding customer service. In order to attract top-tier talent, one option is to take advantage of recruitment opportunities offered through colleges and universities, especially if they have a hospitality major. This pool of prospective employees is likely to be better educated and more enthusiastic than walk-in hires. Also, once hired, there could be additional training and development opportunities that stem from an association with a college or university. Continuing education courses, business conferences, seminars and online instruction - all can be a valuable source of employee development opportunities. In addition to meeting recruitment demands in the present, HR professionals must also be forward-thinking, anticipating the skills that will be needed in the future to meet guest expectations. One such skill that is becoming increasingly valued is “resilience”, the ability to “go with the flow” and not become overwhelmed by the disruptive influences  of change and reinvention. In an era of transition—new technologies, expanding markets, consolidation of brands and businesses, and modifications in people's values and lifestyles - the capacity to remain flexible, nimble and resilient is a valuable skill to possess. The March Hotel Business Review will examine some of the strategies that HR professionals are employing to ensure that their hotel operations continue to thrive.