Guest Satisfaction: Integrating Data to Influence Intent to Return and Recommend
By Mark Heymann Chairman & CEO, Unifocus | May 2019
Acquiring a first-time guest is a key priority of every hotel organization. It's where strategy and tactics, buoyed by budget, create awareness, interest, engagement and sales-what marketers refer to as the path to purchase.
Once hosted, the guest will-you hope-return and be inspired to recommend your property to family members, colleagues and friends, based on that positive first experience. To what extent can you, as hotelier, get inside the guest's mind and help guide the journey to returning and recommending?
The post-stay satisfaction survey is a basic tool for understanding how the experience has fared in the guest's mind. The operative word here is "basic." I know from four decades of experience that guest satisfaction data alone won't provide the insights you need to ensure the outcome you seek. It is much more complex. In fact, a guest's likelihood of returning and recommending hinges on every aspect of what your hotel delivers-the service experience, the quality of the product-as well as the guest's sense of loyalty to your hotel or brand. Short of following each guest throughout his or her stay, how can you understand, after the fact, the likelihood of a thumbs-up or thumbs-down?
Looking at guest satisfaction in a vacuum is as meaningless to a hotel operator as an 85-percent test score is to a student if he or she can't see which answers were right and which were wrong, or understand what factors contributed to those right and wrong answers. Influencing your guests' intent to return and recommend requires identifying what data you need to track, streamlining it, and looking at it from an interactive standpoint. Strategic analysis is key.
Think of it this way: The intent to return and recommend is the dependent variable in the whole service equation. Information garnered through feedback, whether guest surveys, comment cards or online review sites, can be used in operations to spur improvements or to highlight where a hotel is doing very well. But the success of those efforts depends on a range of factors, from your hotel procedures to employee skill levels, availability, timing, attitude and of course product quality. All these factors influence the "moments of truth" that comprise a guest's experience. The more of those moments that meet or exceed a guest's expectations, the more likely your guest will be to choose your hotel or brand again and, importantly, promote it to others, becoming a de facto brand ambassador.
Moments of Truth
Moments of truth begin with the guests' first contact with your hotel and continue with every touchpoint along the way: The curb appeal when they drive up to your door. How they were welcomed by your staff. Their impression of the lobby and the front desk. The cleanliness and comfort level of their accommodations. The quality of every interaction they have with your employees. All of this is filtered by the guest's expectation of what the experience should be. The level of expectation is, in each case, influenced by your hotel's position in the market; a select-service hotel will be judged by a different standard, for example, than will a luxury resort.