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Are You Really Hearing Your Guests? How Guest Feedback Can Support Revenue Growth.
By Fabian Bartnick - Exclusive, Only at 4Hoteliers.com
Thursday, 12th June 2014
 
Exclusive Feature: There has never been a more important time than now for hoteliers around the world to listen to their guests and with increasing levels of competition and online booking platforms offering a greater array of choices, hoteliers must fight harder than ever before to convince others to stay at their hotel.

Guest feedback comes in many forms (e.g., online forums, social media, word-of-mouth, in-hotel surveys), but it should all be taken into consideration as hoteliers plan for their hotel’s future.

As the use of social media continues to rise, social channels and online crowd sourced review platforms can impact many aspects of a person’s life—from clothing to mannerisms to weekend plans. Therefore, it’s no surprise that these mediums also influence a guest’s decision on where to book a hotel room.

This trend makes it that much more important for hoteliers to understand what drives the thinking behind these online reviews and opinions. Though the typical guest surveys can help improve a property’s offerings and services, hoteliers also need to monitor social media—including online reviews and ratings—for unsolicited feedback.

Through this interactive and somewhat non-traditional way of monitoring, hoteliers can gain a better understanding of a hotel’s public perception, leading to information that will contribute to future pricing strategies.

What is Said Online Can Impact the Bottom Line

Social media posts and posts on third-party crowd sourced review sites, such as TripAdvisor, provide hoteliers with intuitive information that can’t be obtained from anywhere else. \

The ability to find out what customers are saying about multiple aspects of a hotel property—whether it relates to the service, brand or even the perceived value for money of the hotel—is invaluable for hoteliers.

This critical, unsolicited feedback is capable of reaching large audiences, and can either encourage potential guests to stay with a hotel or dissuade them from ever booking.

Continually monitoring and effectively responding to guests’ feedback online makes hotels more approachable and accessible. It also becomes easier for a hotel to address any negative incidents and analyse potential areas of operational improvement, such as increasing staff during busy check-out periods to ensure guests have positive first and last interactions.

In addition to this, hoteliers can use social media and trip advisory sites to analyse their competition. By comparing the sentiments shared on competitors’ pages to their own, hoteliers can gain valuable insights for how well their property competes on different levels. For example, does a hotel’s competitor have more comfortable beds or nicer bathrooms? Which of the hotel’s points of differentiation could be further promoted?

Most importantly, though, social media helps hoteliers understand the perceived value of a hotel from a revenue generating perspective. The perceived value of a hotel is a critical factor in marketing and pricing a hotel, as a customer’s value perception directly impacts a property’s ability to capture demand. When social media feedback is shared with the right team members, it allows hoteliers to quickly understand their market position.

At a granular operational level, this feedback shows hoteliers what is working and where the biggest problems lie – whether it is a complaint about slow check-in, an expensive food and beverage service, or even the décor.

Traditional Approaches Also Still Work

Although there has been a dramatic rise in the usage of social media by potential hotel guests, traditional guest surveys are still very relevant. Guest surveys can pose specific questions to guests to get direct feedback, whereas online feedback may only touch on the aspects of a guest’s stay that was particularly enjoyed or severely disliked.

For example, a hotel may want to assess whether specific experiences, such as speed of service or overall customer service, are improving or declining. Depending on the layout of the survey, hotels can also gain feedback on how current service experiences are being interpreted by the guests, making it easier to shape ideas for new service experiences.

It is important to not only ask the right questions, but to also ask them at the right time. For appropriate and accurate feedback, hotels should solicit feedback from guests at the point of the experience. Hotels can get better feedback if it is received during the guest’s service experience or immediately after, such as at the end of a meal in the hotel restaurant. To do this, feedback forms could be placed on the room service tray or provided during a spa treatment, instead of waiting for a few days after the guest checks-out to send a survey.

Using Guest Feedback for Revenue Growth Opportunities

As previously outlined, consumers use online reviews to help inform their decision-making process, and it is interesting to note exactly how much power these third party reviews have.

A study from SAS and The Pennsylvania State University* showed that consumers use reviews and ratings, not price, to set their perceptions of quality, and that reviews are more important than ratings in setting consumers perceptions of both quality and value.

Importantly for revenue managers, while consumers prefer to pay the lowest price possible when booking a room, low price will not overcome negative reviews online. For revenue managers, this does mean that hotels with higher ratings can gain pricing power, but this should not be considered a mandate to raise price.

Revenue managers should look to use pricing power responsibly. The research indicates that pricing power is only achieved at mid to high movements in ratings and rankings – not at the low end.

When a hotel effectively engages its customers through direct staff interactions, has traditional mechanisms for structured feedback and monitors unsolicited feedback via social media channels, it can begin to use this feedback to shape future marketing initiatives and promotions to attract new clientele.

Hoteliers can also use the feedback to improve a hotel’s facility and services and even shape staff training. It sounds simple, but a hotel property that is offering guests what they want is more likely to see return customers and attract new business than one that does not listen to or act on what their guests are telling them.

Revenue managers know that many factors go into the consideration of how a hotel should be priced within a market and relative to the competitive set. Guest feedback on social media channels is one more factor to consider in building a pricing strategy, but it is up to the revenue manager and hotel management to evaluate all relevant factors before determining a pricing strategy.

In today’s hospitality industry, hoteliers need to understand the importance of guest feedback and how this can impact a hotel’s ability to attract—and keep—guests. If a hotel uses all the tools available to continually adapt their service offerings to what their guests want, revenue growth will be driven upwards as a result.

Reference:
*Noone, B and McGuire, K. (2013) “Effects of Price and User-generated Content on Consumers’ Prepurchase Evaluations of Variably Priced Services,” Journal of Hospitality & Tourism Research, 1096348012461551, first published on February 27, 2013


Fabian Bartnick is the Senior Hospitality Consultant at IDeaS – A SAS Company. As the Senior Hospitality Consultant, Asia Pacific, Fabian is responsible for delivering consulting projects for the hotel industry across all of South East Asia such as Australia, Singapore, Malaysia and India. His work also includes regional development of hospitality consulting, mentoring, strategic product development and specialist revenue consulting.

Mr. Bartnick started his hotel career at Accor in Washington DC as a Management graduate in Front Office Operations after studying Hotel and Tourism Management in Switzerland and Australia. Fabian then furthered his hotel experience in various operational roles in the UK.

Mr. Bartnick joined IDeaS in 2010 covering Europe, Middle East and Africa and has since led several high-profile projects with key individual hotels, regional chains and hotel groups in more than 12 countries across Europe, Middle East, Africa and South-East Asia. Mr. Bartnick can be contacted at +65-6398-8963 or fabian.bartnick@ideas.com
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