The Most Effective Tactics for Collecting Guest Feedback
Customer feedback is vital in any industry, but when the business is hospitality, personal comments and complaints from individual guests can reveal problems managers may not have noticed. Conversely, guest feedback can also be a barometer for what a hotel does well—so managers are wise to tap into this resource as often as possible.
We wanted to find the situation that would result in the most feedback for hotels, so we conducted an online survey of 1,936 randomly selected U.S. consumers about their likeliness to deliver feedback in terms of timing, method and incentives. Here are the important takeaways.
We began by asking when guests would be most likely to complete a feedback form. The results are split evenly between during check-out and within a few days after check-out, at 35 percent each.
I reached out to Lance Paul Fisher, chief marketing officer for Avius Insight, which offers real-time electronic survey and feedback solutions for several industries, including hospitality. From his experience, he says, the more time that elapses after a guest checks out of a hotel, the less likely they are to deliver feedback. The quality and validity of the information also decreases over time, he says, because guests often forget important details that could help managers address problems.
“That’s the way it has been for the last several decades in terms of market research, because it’s so far after the fact,” Fisher says. “The hotel isn’t getting the information in close proximity, where there is still a high level of relevance.”
Nearly 60 percent of female guests say they would complete a satisfaction survey within a few days of checking out of a hotel, compared to 41 percent of males.
A recent study shows that women are more prone to complain about bad service than men overall, and Fisher notes that he sees similar results in his experience.
“[Women] are more willing to spend the time to share the information,” he says.
The majority of guests (41 percent) would prefer an online version of the satisfaction survey sent via email. Another 32 percent would prefer a paper survey left in the hotel room. Fewer guests (22 percent) would rather complete the form on a tablet computer during the check-out process, and only 5 percent say they would like to complete a form on the hotel’s mobile app.
Fisher says he believes the results show a ranking by familiarity, with online surveys and paper surveys being the methods most consumers have become accustomed to over the last few decades.
“If you think about it, how many hotels right now have a tablet available at check-out for feedback purposes?” he says. “[There are] not a lot.”
Regardless of what survey method travelers say they would prefer, guests are more likely to actually complete the surveys if presented with them while they are still on-property. Fisher says that on-site methods, such as the aforementioned paper surveys or a tablet presented at check-out, have higher engagement rates than online surveys taken after the guest has left. Having a feedback mechanism in an area of the hotel where many people gather or idle is your best bet to receive valuable feedback, he says.
Matching the results of some of our past surveys, travelers and guests value food and drinks above nearly all other incentives or perks at hotels, with 46 percent saying they would be most motivated to complete a feedback form with the promise of credit for food and drinks in the hotel’s restaurant or bar.
All three of the alternative choices—loyalty points (22 points), entry into a drawing for a prize (17 percent) and a donation to charity (15 percent)—ranked somewhat evenly behind.
The incentive could be also a gift certificate to local attraction, or a local gift card for a shopping package, Fisher says—though, in general, he doesn’t recommend incentivizing feedback for two reasons. While credit in the restaurant or bar is attractive for guests, he says, it’s not a perk that is worth the value of a single completed survey. Also, by offering a perk for delivering feedback, you could introduce bias and sway results too far into the positive—plus, guests tend to be less informative when they’re completing a form to get a prize, he explains.
“The best plan would be offering an entry into a drawing, which is cost-effective and still has an element of excitement,” Fisher says. “That’s been the best way hotels can get the most engagement with the least amount of bias.”
We also asked consumers how likely they would be to deliver feedback to a hotel when they were highly satisfied, and when they were highly unsatisfied. The results came out nearly identical, with 39-40 percent of each group saying they would be “extremely likely” to give feedback about their experience, and 28-29 percent of each group saying they would be “moderately likely.”
“From our experience, those that are highly satisfied or highly unsatisfied have essentially the same propensity for the desire to share feedback,” Fisher says. But take feedback from these guests with a grain of salt—they are more likely to overreact, and besides, Fisher says the most valuable feedback is from those in-between highly satisfied and unsatisfied.
The survey results set up a scenario that will provide the most valuable feedback from guests: Request feedback from guests during their stay or as soon after checkout as possible using a tablet computer or paper surveys. Offering incentives may introduce bias, but if you must, offer entry into a drawing to avoid giving away too much value. Finally, Fisher says, hotels will have the best response rates if a feedback access point (a paper form or tablet computer) is easily available in an on-site location that gets the most foot traffic.
And when collecting feedback, hotel managers can expect that survey responses will likely skew to the very positive or very negative—but this can help hotels identify strengths to maintain and weak areas to improve to increase the satisfaction of future guests.
To find the data in this report, we conducted a three-day online survey. We collected about 385 responses to each of five questions from randomly selected travelers within the United States, giving us a total of 1,936 respondents. We worded the questions to ensure that each respondent fully understood their meaning and the topic at hand.
To further discuss this report, or obtain access to any of the charts above, feel free to contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.