Driving Loyalty with Listening: How Best Western’s Tech Investments are Redefining Customer Engagement
Hotel guests have a lot of factors to weigh when evaluating the totality of their customer experience: hotel cleanliness, ease of making reservations, satisfaction with breakfast, and the quality of the hotel's high-speed internet. Fortunately, there are advanced tools that can capture feedback regarding these experiences and help the hotel’s management and staff team implement improvements to help keep guests coming back again and again. At Best Western Hotels & Resorts, we keep a close eye on the pulse on the guest experience by encouraging, collecting and analyzing guest feedback across multiple channels. We then empower all of our properties to both engage with our past guests and make future changes based on that input to drive their return to our brand.
Our philosophy is centered on delivering outstanding experiences that grow customer loyalty. Best Western’s “Voice of the Guest” program captures insights from targeted surveys along with social media reviews and data to help us deeply understand guest feedback, prioritize what’s most important to guests, and make investments that improve every step of their customer journey — from dreaming and planning to booking and their overall stay.
Harnessing an explosion of social feedback
Hotels that take action online rank 30 percent higher on TripAdvisor, and communicating with guests online is important to our customer service philosophy. Several years ago, the team at Best Western recognized a need to improve how we captured and responded to social media feedback, as keeping pace with the speed, the changes and resultant volume of social data was difficult. Managers needed to visit multiple review sites to check for feedback manually, which made it easy for posts and guest feedback to languish unanswered or, worse, go completely undetected and unresolved.
To streamline the process and make it easier for our hotels to see trends and take action, we implemented Medallia Social Feedback and Medallia Promote for TripAdvisor and Google. Now, managers log into a one-stop shop to view both solicited surveys and social media feedback from social sites like TripAdvisor, Google, Facebook, and Twitter in one view; they can also receive alerts in real-time – enabling them to respond quickly and easily. Our platform collects almost one million pieces of social feedback per year globally regarding our guest experiences and routes it to the applicable property to take action.
Utilizing this strategic tool, we have been able to increase our social media responses by 15 percent and decrease our response time to the guest by 400 percent in just one year. The Best Western Hotels & Resorts Digital Marketing team provides our hotels with guidelines for responding to social media and uses the Medallia system to monitor responses for appropriateness and effectiveness. At a corporate level, we can also benchmark all Best Western-branded properties’ social scores, identify top performing hotels and promote best practices throughout the organization.
Today, with 69 percent of hotel managers now responding to social reviews, Best Western has some of the highest engagement numbers in the hospitality industry. We’ve doubled the number of reviews on TripAdvisor and improved our scores by as much as 30 percent. The results are clear: In 2017, more than 1,900 Best Western hotels globally (approximately 50 percent), received TripAdvisor’s Certificate of Excellence, which recognizes hospitality businesses that deliver excellent service and have achieved consistently great traveler reviews.
Surveying guests and empowering employees
Social media works correspondingly with direct surveys to give a complete picture of guest feedback. The Medallia platform collects more than two million Best Western guest surveys annually from our global hotels, and with its ability to compare social media scores with solicited surveys within the same application, hotel managers can determine whether a negative post is the product of a single “squeaky wheel” or is an indication of a problematic trend. They can analyze social media comments, even in great quantities, with built-in text analytics to see emerging trends that most affect customer loyalty—without needing to read every individual comment.
We are able to identify the top guest priorities, such as clean rooms and helpful, friendly staff, to help managers and employees determine training initiatives and empower staff to address important issues in real time, and quickly see the results. This correlates directly to an improved guest experience and Net Promoter Score (likelihood to recommend), stronger loyalty, and increased revenue.
Bringing a legacy brand into the digital age
All this information is crucially important as Best Western — a 71-year-old brand with more than 4,200 hotels around the world in more than 100 countries and territories — redefines itself in a digital age.
At Best Western, customer engagement means “every guest, every time.” Using a robust listening and measurement platform that allows all of our eleven brands to address each guest’s individual needs — and then use that data to drive better results across the organization — is central to driving our continued success. By proactively surveying guests, encouraging them to leave online reviews and listening to their sentiments on social media, we are able to determine which drivers are the most influential to overall experience and then prioritize those metrics to produce significant loyalty results.
“Listening to this feedback has helped us provide a differentiated and unique experience across each of our hotels, and evolve our approach based on changing guest expectations,” says Ron Pohl, Senior Vice President and Chief Operations Officer for Best Western Hotels & Resorts. “Our new customer engagement platform allows guests to communicate with the hotel through their preferred channel, voice, text or Alexa.”