Guest service ratings drop in Europe, J.D. Power survey finds

Economy only segment to improve

EUROPE Overall satisfaction among Europe hotel guests has remained stable after achieving a five-year high in 2009, backed by increased contentment with lower room rates, but customer service ratings have dropped for most segments, according to the J.D. Power and Associates’ 2010 European Hotel Guest Satisfaction Index Study.

Guest satisfaction with hotels in the economy segment actually improved, however.

The Steigenberger Hotels and Resorts, Mövenpick Hotels & Resorts, Scandic and Premier Inn brands received the highest overall marks in their respective segments.

Overall satisfaction across Europe’s hotel industry remains flat, averaging 745 on a 1,000-point scale, compared with 746 in 2009. In three of the four segments—upper upscale, upscale and mid-scale full-service—satisfaction has declined in all measures except cost and fees. Throughout the economic downturn, many hoteliers reduced operational costs amid declining demand and lower rates. After overall satisfaction peaked to a five-year high in 2009, reductions in areas such as hotel staffing and services and deferred investments in facilities have manifested in lower satisfaction scores in these areas in 2010. The economy segment, however, has demonstrated improvement in the areas of guestroom, facilities and services and costs.

“When the industry begins to recover and occupancy and room rates increase, the positive halo effect from lower costs and fees will wear off and reveal deficiencies in services and facilities even more starkly,” says Stuart Greif, vice president and general manager of the global travel and hospitality practice at J.D. Power. “It will be critically important for hoteliers to make catch-up investments to improve the guest experience as the market improves. Understandably, hoteliers will want to hold off on increasing costs until absolutely necessary. Those hoteliers that best manage the balance stand to benefit, while those that do not respond quickly enough risk losing more than the satisfaction of their guests—they risk losing guests to competitors.”

Hotel rankings by rating segment

Steigenberger ranks highest in the upper-upscale segment for a third consecutive year, performing particularly well in six of the seven measures, coming up short in the reservations category. Maritim Hotels and Sheraton Hotels & Resorts, respectively, follow in the segment rankings.

Among upscale hotel brands, Mövenpick Hotels & Resorts ranks highest in guest satisfaction for a second consecutive year and performs particularly well in all but cost and guestrooms. Following in the segment rankings are Crowne Plaza Hotels & Resorts and Iberostar Hotels & Resorts, respectively.

Improving from seventh rank position in 2009, Scandic ranks highest in guest satisfaction in the midscale full-service segment. Scandic performs particularly well in two measures: check-in/check-out and hotel services. Best Western and Park Inn follow in the segment rankings, in a tie.

In the economy segment, Premier Inn ranks highest for a third consecutive year and performs particularly well in all but guest service. B&B Hôtels and Comfort Inn, respectively, follow in the segment rankings.

Internet access is expected as ?staple?

The study finds that the availability of Internet service at hotel properties has become increasingly important to guest loyalty and advocacy rates. Hotel guest Internet use has more than doubled during the past five years, from 17% in 2005 to 36% in 2010. When guests experience a problem with the Internet connection at their hotel, their likelihood to return to the property and to recommend the brand to others decline by approximately one-half, on average.

“Hotel guests expect Internet connections to be a staple of their hotel room—just as they would expect toiletries, a television and hot water,” says Mark Schwartz, director of the global hospitality and travel practice at J.D. Power. “Hoteliers that are unable to reliably deliver this service risk losing business.” Among hotel guests who pay extra for Internet connectivity, satisfaction with cost and fees averages nearly 40 points lower than among customers for whom Internet service was included with their room rate.

When hotel guests have positive interactions with hotel staff, each interaction increases overall satisfaction by 27 points, on average. In addition, each positive staff interaction increases customer advocacy and loyalty rates by an average of seven percentage points. Guests of luxury hotel properties have the highest rates of hotel staff interaction, averaging three interactions per stay. In contrast, guests of economy hotels experience 1.4 interactions per stay, on average.

The 2010 European Hotel Guest Satisfaction Index Study is based on responses from more than 14,000 guests who stayed at a hotel in Europe between July and September 2010. The study was fielded between August and September 2010.