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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Eco-Friendly Practices: Corporate Social Responsibility

The hotel industry has undertaken a long-term effort to build more responsible and socially conscious businesses. What began with small efforts to reduce waste - such as paperless checkouts and refillable soap dispensers - has evolved into an international movement toward implementing sustainable development practices. In addition to establishing themselves as good corporate citizens, adopting eco-friendly practices is sound business for hotels. According to a recent report from Deloitte, 95% of business travelers believe the hotel industry should be undertaking “green” initiatives, and Millennials are twice as likely to support brands with strong management of environmental and social issues. Given these conclusions, hotels are continuing to innovate in the areas of environmental sustainability. For example, one leading hotel chain has designed special elevators that collect kinetic energy from the moving lift and in the process, they have reduced their energy consumption by 50%  over conventional elevators. Also, they installed an advanced air conditioning system which employs a magnetic mechanical system that makes them more energy efficient. Other hotels are installing Intelligent Building Systems which monitor and control temperatures in rooms, common areas and swimming pools, as well as ventilation and cold water systems. Some hotels are installing Electric Vehicle charging stations, planting rooftop gardens, implementing stringent recycling programs, and insisting on the use of biodegradable materials. Another trend is the creation of Green Teams within a hotel's operation that are tasked to implement earth-friendly practices and manage budgets for green projects. Some hotels have even gone so far as to curtail or eliminate room service, believing that keeping the kitchen open 24/7 isn't terribly sustainable. The May issue of the Hotel Business Review will document what some hotels are doing to integrate sustainable practices into their operations and how they are benefiting from them.