Most managers will agree the best time to collect and act on guest feedback is mid-stay, but this timeframe has its challenges. According to a recent survey only 25% of guests will report any problem that impacts their experience during the stay, which means 75% of guests with problems either won’t or might report them under certain conditions. When asked for reasons about this non-reporting bias, the majority (62%) of responses comprised the following:
- “not an easy or quick way to do so”
- “don’t like confrontation”
- “not sure who to report it to”
One might think text and chat would fulfill these conditions mid-stay, but several nuances lead to friction. These channels are designed and optimized around handling requests and questions; they’re not necessarily focused on inviting guests to share and report experiences, service failures and compliments, especially with executive level management. More friction arises when text and chat may require login, passwords, downloads, permission and thumb typing.
Post-visit surveys and social media entries carry high friction in the form of latency (days or weeks), time spent, effort, memory and lack of spontaneity. Survey fatigue is commonplace with most guests; and for managers, scaled responses lack the “Why?” behind scores.
A regional general manager for a globally-branded vacation ownership organization talks about limitations of current feedback tools: “Post-visit survey tools don’t work well for guests who’d like to alert management about dissatisfaction with service or maintenance or conversely, team members that did an outstanding job. We needed an enhanced ability to learn about issues and respond with resolutions in ‘real time’ prior to guest check out.”
Give Guests A Voice!
For guests to share experiences mid-stay, communication channels should:
- be quick, easy, familiar and convenient for everyone
- be timely, when thoughts, details are fresh
- allow expression of thoughts in guests’ own words (free-form)
- avoid personal confrontation
- make clear shared thoughts go directly to a high-level manager (i.e., GM)
- be compelling (occasionally even fun!)
Today’s technology (speaker-independent speech to text) has revived voicemail as a legitimate channel for guest-management communication. Research shows (given a choice) more than 50% of guests prefer voicemail to texting when sharing experiences. Friction reduced. Transparency enhanced.
The Three Questions Aren’t Complicated
Given the ability to accept and manage free-form, mid-stay feedback via text and voicemail channels, hoteliers should ask every guest three simple, but powerful open-ended questions:
- What are we doing right?
- Which associates are exceptional?
- What can we improve?
Properly invited, guests can share details of casual observations, compliments and complaints across every business process and guest/associate interaction.
A Framework Promoting Immediate Action
But simply asking questions and offering text and voicemail is only the start. An effective mid-stay framework must also address guest awareness, process, workflow and responses to the guest.
Consider “What If..?” :
- GMs personally invited* every guest, during the stay, to share their experience?
- the guest could use room or mobile phones, even AlexaTM devices?
- transcribed, coded comments were broadly emailed to GM and service team in minutes, for immediate action?
- emailed comments contained room number and/or caller ID?
- managers could review associate responses for training/coaching/recognition?
- an online, interactive data archive (GDPR compliant) revealed trends and details of specific issues?
- results could be exported to texting, survey or other analytical tools/reporting apps?
*Digitally and non-digitally
This technology does exist and it has proved to be successful. A top ten convention property in Atlanta, achieved 500-1000 basis point improvements in over a dozen key service metrics, and went from anticipated flag removal to AH&LA’s “Outstanding Guest Relations, Large Property” award in just 18 months.
Glen Vlasic, industry veteran and ARDA (American Resort Development Assn.) GM of the Year award winner, was another early adopter of this process and technology in Orlando. He states, “The increased transparency this approach offers to the operation has translated into record-setting satisfaction scores, TripAdvisor rankings and enhanced financials.”
By reducing feedback friction with a choice of free-form voicemail or text, and by inviting mid-stay feedback to senior management (before social media), hoteliers can systematically leverage knowledge of mid-stay guest experiences to improve performance. When guests answer three simple questions, managers celebrate more on-site service recoveries, fewer problems, enhanced personal connections, and immediate coaching, training and recognition of employees, leading to a service culture that turns guests into raving, returning fans.”
 2019, Zingle
- About the Author
Prior to starting VOC Systems, Brad held engineering, marketing and product management positions with Texas Instruments, WR Grace, Parker Hannifin and the Institute for Customer Relationship Management. Brad holds several patents in areas ranging from thermal management of integrated circuits to consumer feedback systems. He has an MBA from Emory University’s Goizueta Business School and a BS in Engineering from Lehigh University. He can be reached at: [email protected]