How Can Hotels Keep Guests Satisfied?

It has been a difficult decade for the hospitality business. The awful events of September 11, 2001, led to a sharp decline in leisure travel. Just when business was getting back to normal, the economy turned sour, forcing both business and leisure travelers to cut back on their plans.

In an effort to cut costs to cope with the decline in business, some hotels have reduced staff and eliminated some amenities for guests. But at what point do such cutbacks threaten guest satisfaction and lead to even further erosion in business? How can hotels boost customer loyalty by focusing on improving things that guests really care about? Those are the crucial questions that hotels must consider as they try to control costs while at the same time keeping their guests satisfied.

Knowing what to cut
In February 2009, research company TNS conducted a survey of 2,500 adults to determine how cuts in hotel services might affect their choice of hotels (http://www.quirks.com/articles/2009/20090505.aspx). Specifically, the survey asked about five types of reductions in services:

  • Reduced entertainment, such as free in-room access to premium movie channels
  • Reduced to-door services, such as in-room checkout and delivery of newspapers.
  • Reduced personal assistance, such as help with luggage.
  • Reduced free amenities, such as hand lotion or mouthwash.
  • Reduced hours for service for restaurants, hotel stores, or business centers.

The survey found that guests cared least about door-to-door services and personal assistance. In fact, most respondents said that cutting these items would have no effect at all on their choice of hotels. Since both of these services are staff-intensive, reductions in these areas could lead to significant savings without threatening hotel loyalty.

The survey also found that the biggest area of risk would be cutting free amenities. Over a third of respondents said that cutting amenities would affect their choice of hotels.

The bigger picture
This survey provides valuable information for hotels that are thinking of cutting back on services, but hotel satisfaction surveys can also serve a broader purpose. A well-designed survey can help a hotel boost guest satisfaction by identifying areas where services or amenities need to be improved. This link (http://hotel_satisfaction.nisurvey.com) will take you to a good hotel survey example.

This survey asks about a broad range of things, from ease of check-in to cleanliness of rooms. Many of these things can be improved without significant cost because they involve nothing more than a change in staff behavior. In fact, hotel market research has revealed that “employee performance” is the most important factor guests consider in differentiating one hotel from another (http://www.quirks.com/articles/2007/20071005.aspx). It also has a major impact on customer loyalty and repeat business.

Employee performance includes such things as:

  • Efficiency
  • Friendliness
  • Hospitality
  • Courtesy
  • Promptness
  • Responsiveness

The bad news is that recent hotel satisfaction surveys show a significant decline in these qualities. According to Hospitalitynet.org, “Guests did not feel as welcome, and staff friendliness scores were down. Guests also felt less pampered and less entertained during their stay.” The good news is that hotels can turn this situation around with a greater commitment to customer satisfaction and a relatively small investment in staff training.

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