How to measure guest satisfaction

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Hotel guests are influential advertisers these days, with the power to change online ratings at the tap of a button. With the results of the American Customer Satisfaction Index out last month, we look at how leading hotels try and guarantee happy guests

In the age of online ratings and social media, hotels more than ever need to consider customer satisfaction. The annual American Customer Satisfaction Index uses data from interviews with around 180,000 Americans to assess the overall satisfaction for services and consumer goods across various sectors, and in April, the latest hotels rankings were released. Leading the big players in the USA, Hilton enjoyed top spot with an overall satisfaction rating of 82 out of 100 across all its brands, scoring well across the board for ease of check-in, making a reservation, room quality and amenities. Hyatt, Best Western and InterContinental also achieved scores higher than the industry average of 76, and Marriott took the second spot with an overall score of 81.

The Marriott brand has been going through a product transformation in the last two to four years and that transformation has created a real lift - Scott McCoy, Marriott

Mike Gathright, SVP, Hilton Reservations and Customer Care, Hilton, says two-way communication with guests and taking the time to listen to feedback is crucial to its success and its ability to create a personalised experience. He says: “We want to meet our guests where they are, and make it as simple as possible for them to share feedback, so there are a number of ways we measure customer satisfaction both before, during and after their stay. “Some of these interactions include post-stay surveys to learn more about their experience at a property, a feedback mechanism within the Hilton Honors app and voice surveys at the end of phone calls.” Marriott also won the day in the individual brands ranking with its AC Hotels portfolio receiving a score of 84 out of 100. “The Marriott brand has been going through a product transformation in the last two to four years and that transformation has created a real lift,” Scott McCoy, VP of Global Operations, tells Click.

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It has seen a significant increase in the popularity of these "refreshed products" in North America, which McCoy says is a reflection of its customers’ understanding and appreciation of the work Marriott has done in this area. That work, he says, has been multifaceted. “Marriott has an ‘Art of Hosting’ program all about putting people first. We believe there’s more than just science to what’s happening, it’s more than just booking a room: there’s an art to it, there’s an art to understanding how you feel at this moment, having travelled eight or nine hours, versus being on day two of your stay,” he explains. Marriott champion “thoughtful hosting”, and in their training handbooks it all comes back to personalised interactions and connecting with guests and their needs. Adam Geneave, Vice President of Customer Experience at Wyndham Vacation Resorts Asia Pacific echoes this sentiment, explaining how it aims to achieve maximum customer satisfaction: “It’s about communicating and building a connection by really listening and then responding appropriately and promptly. It’s about showing appreciation for our guests’ desires and needs. It’s about showing respect for people, the environment and our local communities.”

Beyond the face-to-face

But McCoy says it goes beyond the face-to-face customer service and interaction, too. Marriott not only implements its Art of Hosting training globally but has also made efforts in the design within their hotels to improve customer experience. “Ultimately our staff bring to life what it is to experience the brand, but this must be supported theatrically, like any great play, with the right props," he says. "That resulted in a big lift in creating a design that’s more current and relevant with a stronger sense of place, while continuing to be consistent in our service and get closer to our customers’ needs.” This included creating fluid, open lobby spaces, launching Club Marriott – their newest food and beverage loyalty program offering access to M Club lounges – and changes to guest rooms. McCoy explains: “For example, in one of our hotels on the west coast in California, we recently applied a technology that allows you to capture your ideas on the inside of your shower door using the steamed-up glass, and then it electronically sends that to your phone. “That was all based on customer feedback where guests had said, ‘Oh yeah, I have some of my best ideas in the shower’. That doesn’t necessarily mean we would do that in many locations, but it was an opportunity to experiment with ideas that customers had expressed and shared.”

Using technology for guest satisfaction

Gathering the data to really deliver on customer service and satisfaction, though, requires some sophisticated technology. Marriott uses a number of platforms to gather insights and metrics on the overall guest experience. “We have a Guestware platform,” McCoy says. “This enables us to collect information from our guests, build relationships and create a more personal experience. It tells us about the guest’s purpose, what their stay reasons are and what their travel needs are. In addition, it allows us to anticipate what their future expectations may be around their travels.” It also uses a platform called Guest Voice, supplied by Medallia, which aggregates information from social media and the third-party websites guests use to express their opinions and experiences throughout and beyond their stay. The real-time element of social media is invaluable for Hilton to tap into guest sentiment, adds Gathright.

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In the latest American Customer Satisfaction Index, big brands like Marriott and Hilton came out on top
Overall, the customer satisfaction across the hotel industry in America is stable
Customer service is about personalisation and anticipating guest needs
Technology platforms allow hotels to monitor and measure customer satisfaction in real time