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Still in the Stone Age and not even stoned

Still in the Stone Age and not even stoned

What I am comically referring to are the antiquated ways many of us get and use guest data from mystery shops and guest surveys. I think we should kick their value up a notch. They are OK for assessing bonuses, troubleshooting and numerical achievements, but they really do not get at what our guests feel about us, which goes a long way in portending future stay behavior. Remember that how one feels about your hotel goes much farther than if you merely met all the required expectations. Get your passion on!

A few weeks ago another blogger wondered why his friends didn’t fill out a survey when they clearly enjoyed their stay at a hotel.

Here’s my take on this:

  • Clearly, guests are bombarded from every company they do business with. This week alone, I received a survey from the hotels I stayed at during the past week, the car rentals, the airlines and the store where I purchased mascara. I stay healthy just so I don’t have to see doctors and fill out forms.
  • Counterintuitively, guest surveys are not guest-centric. Sure, you get data, but as Mark Twain so aptly put it, there are three kinds of lies: lies, damned lies and statistics. Most of the people you want to hear from are too busy or think you should have figured this out before you asked them. The answers are usually skewed from guests on either side of the bell curve, and 1-5 means different things to different people. Bad information, skewed data, boring questions, peeved guests. 

I consulted for one hotel recently. They had a rooftop bar that was very noisy at night. The hotel was charming and the staff was amazing, but if the guests couldn’t sleep, the hotel was given a very low rating. Funny, I don’t think the owners wanted to know what the guests really felt. Even though this was the biggest issue facing guest loyalty to the hotel, no survey asked how they slept. (The bonus structure also was skewed. The hotel received 10s on nights the bar was closed and much lower ratings when the bar was open.)

Here are a few other ways of reinventing how to get and use guest feedback:

  • Ask yourself: What does my business stand for? Best stay in the city? Happy guests? Most knowledgeable staff? Why not measure this? Shooting for guest satisfaction is on the low end of creating raving fans. Where do you wish to excel? What’s the story you want your guests to talk about? Once you figure that out, find a way to measure that on the surveys. Measure what you are most interested in, what makes the most impact. 
  • We should know what our guests’ experience is before they depart. What structures are in place to get this information to the Chief Experience Officer (a.k.a. GM)?
  • Check the language you use. “How was your stay?” is like “How are you?” Mostly, the answer you will get is “fine.” I am sure you are going for much more than that in your hotel. How about asking, “What did you love about your stay? What would you change immediately?”
  • Perhaps call every independent traveler the night before departure, especially those paying higher rates.
  • Is anyone from the executive team on the floor during arrival and departure? 
  • If your SOPs are not inspiring, your interactions won’t be.

We ask our sales teams to sell benefits instead of features, but we query our guests on the features. As an example, there are many ways we could know how well our Wi-Fi works without need of a survey. (At the very least, shorten the surveys by rotating information needed.)

Anything short of a great experience is a mediocre one, and greatness is what I suggest we measure.

I was kidding about the stoned part.

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