How do you manage your electronic guest feedback? What’s your response rate? How do you interpret the answers? How do you translate numerical ratings into a targeted call to action? Or, do you disregard your own customer feedback model and opt to trust solely in the third-party deities of TripAdvisor, Travelocity and their ilk? All good questions, and indeed, consumer surveys are essential tools to gain new insights about your operations and refine certain aspects of the experience.
My talk with Rich Raffel, the Director of Sales for GuestInsight, highlighted a few critical issues concerning the nature of guest feedback in the digital age. GuestInsight specializes in designing analytical customer feedback systems for independent operators and management companies, but we’ll get to the details of their software later.
The cardinal tenet is to keep your appraisal short and sweet. Ideally, you’d want your past guests to detail and quantify every iota of their experience with you. But this is a dire approach. When it comes to online surveys, people seem to have the attention span of a honeybee, buzzing from one flower petal – in this case, email or website – to the next without any sentimental attachment. The longer you make your survey, the higher the drop off rate; that is, the greater the likelihood that a past guest will close the browser window and preset your emails to junk folder.
The hitch is that fewer questions yield only broad inferences. For instance, a monthly report from GuestInsight may tell you that the average rating of your property is in the low-80s percentile, mostly weighed down by a high-60s average for food. From there, the only refinement to this cuisine category might be four scaled answers for food taste, service, décor and menu options. Suppose that of these choices, you find that it’s the ‘Menu Options’ which are most harrowing.
An inquisitive manager would immediately yearn for more details about specific aspects of the menu. However, designing such a survey that endlessly filters and furthers the line of questioning will tend to produce fewer completed responses and more overall dissatisfaction with the feedback experience. The line has to stop somewhere.
Consequently, it all rests on each businessperson’s observational and entrepreneurial spirit. If the low score for ‘Menu Options’ is the last house on a dead end street, a manager must use his or her own discretion to interpret the results. Above all, a manager must possess an attitude of action.
With this in mind, Rich fastidiously exhibited the degree to which GuestInsight adheres to this principle. It’s a niche software crafted for independents and small chains who might otherwise have an in-house customer feedback response system. The company brings over a decade’s worth of questionnaire design and online marketing research to the table. They could easily build a custom survey for each of their client properties, but this would only complicate the interpretation of results phase and render more guest-side drop-offs. Instead, GuestInsight uses a series of templates with proven track records that also happen to be more affordable.
The actual software platform is streamlined through a series of standardized metrics pages divided by such criteria as loyalty, expectations and property features. You can sort by checkout date and opt-in/opt-out to investigate temporal shifts or improvements. The package also comes with a real-time alert function, where requests for action by guests are instantly delivered to managers’ email inboxes.
Following the ‘short and sweet’ paradigm is GuestInsight’s targeted approach of weeding out frivolous information so managers need only monitor the data that can actually be used to improve operations. “A trial by fire,” said Rich; years upon years of analyzing and reanalyzing the line of questioning to determine which queries prompt the best response rate. And for reference, the price tag of $150 per month includes setup and programming fees.
Additionally, Rich stresses the advantage of GuestInsight’s third-party nature. Surveys received directly from the hotel are oftentimes perceived as promotional material and discarded without a second glance. The autonomy factor of collecting a message from GuestInsight versus the property induces a higher level of comfort and assures the past guest that his or her privacy is respected. All done, of course, to increase response rate, which is half the battle.
So, give GuestInsight a browse and consider reanalyzing your own customer feedback process. Aside from the first step of brushing over your existing questionnaire, I challenge you to stay at another hotel and examine their electronic guest feedback system. What are they doing differently? Is it simplified or more effective? Survey simplicity works, and so does having a management team able to act upon numerical data. Time for more review!
(Published in eHotelier on October 24, 2012)