Guest satisfaction is of the utmost importance to hotels, and guests are happier than ever, according to the J.D. Power 2018 North America Hotel Guest Satisfaction Index study. Jennifer Corwin led the research and information collection for this year’s study, which for the past two decades has evolved into a third-party analysis of guest satisfaction in the industry. “Many hotels are gathering their own feedback, but they don’t have a picture of what other hotels and brands are seeing,” Corwin explains. “That’s the lens that our study looks through. We’re just reporting back the voice of the customer.”
Guest satisfaction has seen improvements in every area this year, reflecting the industry’s performance over the past few years. Although some areas didn’t improve as well as last year, they were still highly rated, with the largest improvements being in product areas. “It truly follows what we saw last year where everything improved but at a greater rate. It seems like this year, fewer improvements were in service-focused areas. Looking forward, we suggest a bit more focus in that area,” Corwin says.
1. Invest in Service While Maintaining Product Quality
The upper midscale segment improved guest satisfaction 12 points on a 1,000-point scale, and while other segments did increase, none grew by that magnitude. Additionally, guests reported greater satisfaction with guestrooms and hotel facilities, while satisfaction with services followed at a slower rate. But investing in service could be beneficial, Corwin says. “There’s never a bad time to invest in service, especially in hospitality. What makes this industry great is service. That’s not to say that an investment in the product isn’t going to lead to increased satisfaction. It depends on the situation,” Corwin explains.
However, products may be outpacing service scores because those service scores are already extremely high. Corwin adds, “In order to continue improving service, hotels would have to make great strides. We’re seeing the improvements slow in that area because it’s already extremely high performing.” Additionally, hotels should focus more on improving facilities, comfort, cleanliness, and décor.
2. Recognize What Technology Has Become Standard
While technology is increasing satisfaction, it’s becoming standard. The more common the technology, the more guests are going to expect it. Corwin explains, “Complimentary WiFi is pretty standard, and therefore, it falls into what we would consider an expectation rather than something that will enhance the guest experience. That’s not to say you can get rid of it because if it goes away, you’ll see a drop in satisfaction. More personalized and entertainment options stand out for increasing satisfaction.”
3. Offer Local Experiences
Local and authentic experiences are also becoming an important element of guest satisfaction, and food and beverage is an essential part of that. However, alternative lodging accommodations intrinsically offer more local experiences. Because of this, the 2019 study will ask more diagnostic questions about where guests are staying and why they may choose alternative options over hotels.
4. Consider the Entire Customer Journey
The 2019 study will also ask more questions about the hotel’s overall interaction with a guest rather than just the stay. “We’ll be asking more about the travel journey as a whole,” Corwin says. “Right now, the survey covers from reservation to check out, but we want to understand the hotel’s communication prior to the stay, including personalized options and reservation updates. We’re trying to capture more of that customer journey because the hotel experience doesn’t just start when a guest walks through the door anymore. It’s a much more comprehensive experience.”