Effect of Event Scheduling Errors on Repeat Business
IndustryView | 2014

According to a study conducted by SAS and Penn State University, potential hotel and resort guests typically choose quality over price. When this quality is compromised, especially in the form of a scheduling error (e.g. botched golf tee times or overbooked day trips), they’re less likely to return. Even worse, guests may vent their frustrations via negative online reviews.

The same study also found that online reviews, such as those posted on TripAdvisor, trump price as the decisive factor in consumers’ choice. In other words, cheaper prices won’t undo the damage done by a negative review when guests are searching for a place to stay—they’ll pay more to stay elsewhere if it means avoiding bad service.

Despite technological advancements that can help prevent these SNAFUs (e.g. reservation software), hotels and resorts continue to make costly scheduling errors. To gain further insight, we conducted a survey to find out just how damaging these SNAFUs can be to a resort’s reputation, and how hoteliers can minimize the damage when an error does occur. Here, we present our key takeaways.

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Scheduling Errors Significantly Impact Return Visits

Our research indicates that scheduling errors can have an extremely negative impact on the chances of a guest returning to the same hotel in the future. Forty-one percent of respondents said they’d be “much less likely” to return if they experienced a scheduling error, while another 27 percent said they’d be “moderately less likely” to return. In sum, a scheduling SNAFU would lead nearly 70 percent of guests in our survey to reconsider booking again.

On the other hand, nearly a fifth of customers said they’d be “minimally less likely” to return, and 13 percent said a scheduling error wouldn’t affect their decision to return at all.

Likelihood of Return Visit After Scheduling SNAFU

Likelihood of Return Visit After Scheduling SNAFU

Majority of Customers Likely to Write Bad Review After SNAFU

Unhappy customers that leave negative reviews on popular travel sites like TripAdvisor can be damaging to a resort’s reputation. Nearly a quarter of respondents (24 percent) said they’d be “extremely likely” to write a negative review online if a scheduling error affected their stay, while 36 percent said they’d be “moderately likely” to write a negative review.

Likelihood of Negative Review After SNAFU

Likelihood of Negative Review After SNAFU

Though Costly, Full Refunds Are Best Remedy

Once a scheduling error has occurred, the next step for hoteliers is to try and appease the affected guest so they return to the hotel—or at the very least, so they don’t write a review lamenting their experience.

But our research found this step can be rather costly: 49 percent of respondents said only a full refund would drive their decision to return to the hotel or resort, while 52 percent said only a full refund would prevent them from writing a negative review. Meanwhile, 32 percent said a rescheduled event with a discount would both drive a repeat visit as well as avoid a negative review.

Effect of SNAFU-Mitigating Tactics

Effect of SNAFU-Mitigating Tactics

Another option, according to Chrysse Preonas, spa director at Four Seasons Denver, is offering a complimentary return stay to guests as a way to both resolve the SNAFU and keep them coming back. “I think of it from a guest’s experience standpoint,” she says. “It’s not about the money; it’s about the experience, which we want to be positive.” Preonas adds that this solution also typically keeps customers from writing negative reviews online. 

One of the biggest mistakes hoteliers can make, she says, is undervaluing a customer by offering less substantial remedies. “You lose a guest’s empathy,” she explains. 

This may explain why dining credits and loyalty program points proved to be the least effective tactics in driving repeat visits or avoiding negative reviews, according to our survey. Dining credits and loyalty program points would incentivize just 13 percent and 6 percent of respondents, respectively, to return for another visit. Meanwhile, these offerings would incentivize 10 percent and 6 percent of respondents, respectively, to avoid posting a negative review. 

According to Preonas, negative reviews are more damaging than the loss of repeat customers, because the scope of reviews sites like TripAdvisor and Yelp means the effect of even a single bad review can be massive. “Nowadays, everyone looks at reviews and pays attention,” she explains. “They reach more people, so you have the potential to lose more customers.”

The Takeaway

Hotels and resorts regularly face the possibility of scheduling errors, which can have an extremely negative impact on their reputation and consequently, bottom line. However, general managers do have several tools at their disposal to both mitigate and prevent these situations.  

According to Barry Harris, a hospitality consultant with Pinnacle Advisory Group, hotels should have a staff member dedicated to monitoring social media and reviews sites to ensure you’re aware of what customers are saying about your business. “I would have someone responsible for doing that eight hours a day,” he says. “You have to pay attention to what is being said.”

But simply monitoring these sites isn’t enough—you also have to engage with guests. 

“You should respond to both the positive and negative reviews to show guests you’re being sincere,” Harris explains. He also recommends privately reaching out to those guests who have negatively commented and offering them a complimentary stay. In addition to drawing these guests back to your hotel for a more pleasant experience, this tactic may lead them to amend, or even remove, their bad review.

To prevent scheduling SNAFUS from occurring in the first place, Preonas says hoteliers need to make sure they have the right technology in place to handle the type of event bookings their property offers. She recommends investing in a solution that allows for real-time scheduling updates to prevent overbooking events, and to make sure all software is always up-to-date to avoid any issues that may result from using outdated technology.


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