Rethinking Traditional Guest Satisfaction

Historically, hotels have relied on extensive post-stay surveys and mystery shoppers to ascertain service levels, customer satisfaction, and areas for improvement. Today, online reviews are providing hoteliers with rich data about guest satisfaction to help them please customers. In addition, online reviews provide a social currency that drives new bookings and trust in hotels.

We can learn a lot from the growth of online reviews to determine better ways to administer and use survey data. First, and perhaps most obvious, online reviews are useful to both hoteliers and consumers because of their free-form structure that allows guests to talk only about the services and amenities that impacted their stays. With traditional surveys, primarily closed-ended questions such as “please rate your satisfaction with your room from 1 to 10” will not yield rich data about what a customer liked or disliked about, for example, his room, or who at the hotel made his hotel special. Rather, traditional surveys are formulated by hotels to focus on areas that they feel need to be measured, rather than what is most important and top of mind to customers.

The highly structured nature of traditional surveys used to be critical for accurately measuring and reporting on guest satisfaction but today new sentiment analysis technology makes it possible to easily analyze and report on unstructured data in just as reliable a way, with a much richer data-set. Through reports that show which topics, from ontology specific to hospitality, are trending positively or negatively, management doesn’t have to know what to ask in advance to find hot-button issues or get detailed feedback about any service or amenity on property.With reliable reporting comes the ability to fully operationalize the data, even basing compensation plans on the results. Equally important, it allows you to bring voice of the customer data into your discussions around capital improvements, training programs and operational changes.

The second reason why many hoteliers are rethinking traditional guest satisfaction survey methods is because they recognize the value that public guest feedback has on new bookings. The TripBarometer Survey states that 93% of travellers worldwide say online reviews have an impact on their booking decisions. This trend, in addition to SEO benefits and the fact that TripAdvisor’s Popularity Index takes review frequency in mind, makes it clear that hoteliers should focus on driving guests to share feedback publicly, through social channels, to reap the best rewards.

For hoteliers that worry what will happen when survey feedback can be shared publicly, it’s time to accept the reality that your guests are already writing and reading online reviews, tweets and posts about your hotel at an increasing rate. Embrace the transparency as it drives consumer trust, allows you to connect with guests and access data not only about your hotel, but your competition. This competitive data can be easily mined to understand where you are winning and losing in guests’ eyes.

In April, 2012, the largest hospitality company in the world, Wyndham Hotels & Resorts replaced their traditional guest survey system with a solution that collects review style feedback directly from guests. The decision was based on extensive research and testing, and this bold move has successfully unleashed the power of feedback to drive marketing exposure and bookings, in addition to providing even richer intelligence. As a result, the hotels are benefiting from powerful insights about their guests that they can easily analyze with sentiment analysis technology, along with more public reviews, which is helping drive awareness of the hotels, in addition to popularity index scores.

For hotels and brands that believe in customer-centric approaches and aren’t afraid to rethink conventional solutions, Revinate, eCornell and Cornell University invite you to learn more about inGuest Surveys, Revinate’s 360° approach to guest feedback. Join us on June 11th at 11am EST for a free Webinar with Cornell University’s Bill Carroll, PhD. Space is limited. Sign up here.

SoLoMo: A Balancing Act Built on Trust

Social, local, mobile: SoLoMo is today’s marketing rallying call for businesses. The ability to target receptive consumers in place — near or in your property, in real-time — with relevant offerings or services has huge potential. That potential, however, isn’t absolute. Note the word “receptive” in my description of SoLoMo’s potential. This is a key factor in striking the balance between enhancing the guest experience and increasing your share of their wallet, versus being a consumer stalker.

Many hotels and brands have already jumped on the SoLoMo train. Most are optimizing their websites for mobile, as well as adding “location aware capabilities” to these sites, like Loews Hotels has done. These capabilities, like those of a number of new native and web-based applications, enable the hotel to know the location of potential and current customers, and which local deals and services they prefer. Such applications give hotels an edge in offering guests relevant ‘push’ marketing offers, and a better chance at increasing their wallet share.

Checkins, whether using Foursquare, Facebook, or the hotel’s own mobile site, are a prime time for targeted offers. These could be an invitation to enjoy a free drink in the hotel bar after checking in, a customized guest greeting on arrival, or a special discount for spa services ‘pushed’ to a guest who checks in at the hotel gym.

On one hand, this kind of highly localized, personalized marketing could enhance the service you’re providing guests. But, if you don’t pay enough attention to receptivity, there’s a good chance guests could also view it as a creepy invasion of privacy.

The hospitality and travel industries continue to explore the balance between privacy and customized service in new media marketing. Take this example, which I use in my course, Marketing the Hospitality Brand through New Media: Social, Mobile, and Search: KLM Royal Dutch Airline’s Meet & Seat program.

Would you use this capability? If you answered ‘no,’ you’re not alone. A 2011 survey by Amadeus showed that a slight majority of respondents across ten countries would be happy to give up more personal information in order to get better, more efficient travel services. But in the U.S., that number dropped to less than 34 percent. In a recent PhoCusWright study, nearly 90 percent of respondents said they were comfortable receiving general information or promotional offers, but more than half were uncomfortable sharing their location with social media networks.

A key factor that determines customers’ receptivity to your targeted offers is choice: Customers who want customized service, and are willing to provide personal information to get it, need to choose — or opt-in — to this system.

This permission-based approach is not new, but it’s powerful. Asking permission is not only smart business practice, it’s the nice thing to do. Customers want to trust and like your brand. Make it easier for them by allowing them to opt-in when they step onto your property, visit your website, or ‘Like’ your Facebook page. If you want to be more proactive, reach out to your email lists specifically to offer them this choice.

By giving your guests a choice about how they engage with your property, and segmenting your targeted offers, you’ll be better able to reap the rewards of SoLoMo marketing and strike the balance between privacy and customized service. Over time, if you consistently demonstrate your commitment to choice and relevance, more guests may become receptive to getting personal with your property or brand.


Hotel Revenue and Online Feedback

In January 2010, a Hotel & Motel Management/Market Metrix study showed that online reviews had become the biggest factor in potential customers’ hotel choices.

Chris Anderson, Ph.D., associate professor at Cornell’s School of Hotel Administration, called this moment a “tipping point” when he spoke to Travel Weekly last year about his landmark study on the impact of social media on lodging performance.

Today, this impact is increasing exponentially as more travelers book online and flock to social media. Still, most hotels can only address online guest feedback after the fact.

Some innovative hotels and brands see a better solution, one that combines online reviews, social media feedback, and modern surveying techniques to build customer awareness, deliver better service, and drive revenue.

To learn more, join eCornell and Revinate for a free webinar on Tuesday, June 11, 2013, where Cornell University’s Bill Carroll, Ph.D., and Michelle Wohl, Revinate’s Vice President of Marketing, will discuss:

  • Guest Sentiment Scoring (GSS) versus Sentiment Analysis

  • Embracing Transparency to Drive Sales

  • Using Feedback to Improve Operations in Real-Time

  • Changing Trends in Compensation

Register for the webinar today. We look forward to the conversation!


Search Engine Marketing Basics for Hospitality

Whether you search online for sushi or a penthouse suite in Las Vegas, you’ll see them: a line-up of small ads populating the shaded areas above or to the right of your search results. They don’t look like much, but if done well, these minimalist ads can entice consumers to your website and hopefully, to make a purchase. For the hospitality marketer, this tool—called search engine marketing (SEM)—should be an essential part of your digital marketing toolkit.Read More

Brand Sites: Critical Mistakes

From accepting bookings to projecting your unique brand promise, your brand site is crucial to the success of your property. Yet our faculty and affiliated experts in the field find properties making critical mistakes on their sites every day that are preventing them from maximizing revenue and reach.

We’ve done an audit of some of the most common brand site crimes being committed today. Many of them come to life in this tool built by Cornell School of Hospitality Administration Associate Professor Rob Kwortnik and Senior Lecturer Bill Carroll. It provides four static landing-page designs for a fictional property, all with unique flaws. You can explore and identify those flaws yourself before comparing your findings against the faculty’s.Read More

Manage Hotel Customer Service with Facebook Recommendations

According to L2, more than 46% of hotels with Facebook accounts receive posts that deal with customer service.  Past and future guests are taking their customer service woes to the web and are posting about problems that they experience at your hotel. Therefore, it is imperative that you stay on top of posts to your Facebook page with comprehensive real-time monitoring.

While most customer service posts will appear directly on your timeline, more and more posts are appearing in the ‘Recommendations’ section, which is visible to both people that like your Page and those that don’t.

The “Recommendations” section allows page visitors – regardless of whether they have “Liked” the page or not – to post a short review or provide feedback about your hotel. The “recommendations” title of the section is a bit of a misnomer, however, as users are free to leave any kind of feedback, whether it is positive or negative. This section lives prominently near the top of your property’s Page and is enabled only for Facebook Pages that have physical addresses. (In other words, users cannot write recommendations on pages for brands unless the page owners provide an exact address in the pages’ About sections.) But, we encourage you to complete your address as Facebook’s recent rollout of Graph Search favors pages that have fully-completed About sections.

While Facebook Page owners may worry about prominent negative feedback, we urge you to trust in the power of your fans. For most hotels, your loyal guests will be more than willing to share a tip or a compliment on their own volition. But, if there is a concerning piece of feedback that shows up in this section, address it directly as you would any negative review and you can neutralize any bad feedback by showing that you pay close attention to guest feedback.  Also, you will often see that loyal guests will come to your defense to refute the criticism. That’s when the user-generated content system is really working! But, if you believe the feedback was unruly or irrelevant, you do have the option of reporting it to Facebook as spam by clicking the ‘report’ button.

If you want to increase the number of recommendations on your Facebook page, all you have to do is ask. Post a status message encouraging your friends and fans to tell the world with a tip or recommendation. Pin this message to the top of the page for a week and see how much engagement it drives.

By paying close attention to feedback on your page as well as proactively monitoring and encouraging new recommendations, your hotel will be taking full advantage of Facebook’s customer service features.


Customer Engagement Touchpoints

This week’s theme on the Hospitality Blog is customer engagement. Here is a section taken directly from my eCornell course Hospitality Demand Management with New Media Marketing. Using the customer consumption stages, we can identify eight touchpoints where the supplier can interact with the customer along each of those stages. Be sure to download the complete guide on Engagement Touchpoints after reading this introduction. 

Unlike many goods and services, hospitality is co-created between the producer and the consumer. Hospitality is jointly produced and experienced when suppliers like hotels, attractions, and restaurants individually or working together co-produce experiences with their guests. This means that innovation can occur at virtually every point when the customer engages with the brand. The key is identifying where value can be delivered by enhancing the guest experience.

The Customer Engagement Cycle

What if we consider customers with regard to these consumption stages? That is, how can we map new media innovation onto the customers’ hospitality consumption process? What should be the main focus of this innovation? The answer is relatively simple. It’s about engagement. That is, how can we create more and better opportunities to involve customers in the process of producing value through their hospitality experiences?

If you take the hospitality consumption process, the dreaming, planning, executing, and reflecting, and think of it more as a cycle as opposed to a linear process with a beginning and end, so that the reflecting stage may actually be considered the beginning part of a new dreaming stage, we get the Customer Engagement Cycle.

Engagement Touchpoints

Now let’s think of how we can map touchpoints where the supplier and the customer interact at the level of the brand. I’m going to discuss eight of these touchpoints. For more detail as far as what these touchpoints are and for examples of recent innovations that new media companies have used, there is a downloadable PDF file associated with this topic.

Dreaming: Targeting

Let’s start off first at the dreaming stage. There’s where suppliers can think about how to target customers either by placing, for example, advertisements on Web sites or by using new media to attract customers and to create a kind of virtual experience, such as with lifestyle videos.

Dreaming: Conversing

Also at the dreaming stage, there’s the chance to converse with customers and have a live discussion. This might be on review sites or even by having a link on a Web site where potential customers can have a conversation with representatives of the brand.

Planning: Socializing

Moving from the dreaming onto the planning stage, there is the socializing touchpoint. This is where customers can look at a Web site, and by examining pictures or videos of other guests they can get a sense through live or vicarious education of what that experience is going to be like and become socialized into it.

Executing: Producing

Moving further along the planning stage, there’s the producing or the execution touchpoint. And this is where new media innovations can be used for customers to help produce, and specifically co-produce new service processes. So, for example, using their mobile phones as a way to expedite the check-in process.

Executing: Co-Creation

As we move further along into the executing stage, we have opportunities for touchpoints through experiences where customers can help to co-create the experience for themselves with the supplier. Apps such as a digital concierge where guests can contribute information about their favorite attractions and dining in the area can provide an excellent opportunity for guests to co-create their experiences.

Executing: Responding

As the consumption process continues, there’s the responding touchpoint. And this is where the supplier, the brand marketer, or even the operations personnel can interact with customers such as through tweeting or even through some kind of satisfaction discussion, so that the customers can use their own voice and talk about their experience.

Reflecting: Promoting

As we move from execution into the reflecting stage, here’s where we try to enlist our customers as advocates for the brand. So we encourage them to promote the brand by communicating with others on their social network.

Reflecting: Relating

And finally, the very end of the stage as we go from reflecting back into dreaming again is where we look at relating as a touchpoint. And that is connecting with customers through specific brand communities, such as creating Facebook fan pages where customers–hundreds, thousands, or even millions of customers–can become a part of that brand family and continue their relationship with the company.

Segmentation and Psychographic Profiles in the New Media “Continuum”

Segmentation and segmentation strategy in the hospitality industry vary widely. Even as you identify psychographic profiles and segments for your target customers, keep in mind that there are often sub-segments within larger segments. It’s pretty complex, but Professor Bill Carroll recommends viewing segmentation as taking place within a “continuum”.

Here, Professor Bill Carroll from Cornell’s School of Hotel Administration discusses market segmentation in depth. This video is part of eCornell’s free online course Marketing the Hospitality Brand through New Media: Social, Mobile & Search. This course is your virtual toolkit for driving revenue through new media. It’s 100% free. 100% online.

The Cheapest and Best Approach to Overbooking

This week’s theme on the Hospitality Blog is overbooking. Here’s an exercise taken directly from my eCornell course Overbooking Practices in Hotel Revenue Management. The overbooking-ratio method is a very, very popular and successful method that many hotels use for their overbooking policy. When you’ve completed this exercise, be sure to download this free step-by-step guide to overbooking

Now, sometimes people talk about overbooking as being evil. Why would anyone ever overbook, because that’s not fair to the customer? Let’s think about this. If you never overbook—you say that I’m a good and pure person, and I would never, ever do anything like that—what happens if you have a 5% no-show rate?

You have those rooms sitting there empty—it actually might end up costing you more than if you overbook just a little bit. And so when we try to look at overbooking, we try to come up with the least expensive overbooking policy, realizing that whatever we do with this, we’re still going to be making a guess. It’s kind of like gambling—we’re going to come up with a forecast of how many no-shows, and come up with our best bet on what the overbooking policy should be. So, when we look at coming up with an overbooking policy, there are more than several factors to consider.

Read More

Revenue Management Strategy: Demand-Control Charts

No matter what size hotel you work in, all successful revenue management strategies are based on the ability to forecast demand accurately and, therefore, predict the optimal rate based on that demand. This is where a demand-control chart can come in handy to help determine when to change your rate based on demand, separating the “hot” zones (high reservations-on-hand) from the “cold” zones (low reservations-on-hand). Knowing how and when to use a demand-control chart can enable you to plan your room rates for top revenue every time.

Demand-Control Charts

The major use of a demand-control chart is to help determine when to change your rate based on demand. When your forecast, or estimated demand, is above a certain level, you will close (or raise) room rates. When the forecast is below a certain level, you will open up (or lower) room rates. Similar to most approaches to setting rates, this one has advantages and disadvantages.


  • easy to use and implement (a simple spreadsheet will do)
  • can be applied to other parts of the business (ballrooms, restaurants, etc.)


  • does not consider length of stay
  • lumps all demand together even though different market segments might have different demand

Steps in Creating a Demand-Control Chart

To develop a demand-control chart, we develop the forecast, determine trigger points, and then determine the minimum rates to quote.

1. Develop the Forecast

The best way to develop your forecast is based on past experience. Take a look at your reservations from the last several years. What was your demand? What was your actual occupancy? Using historical data, you can make a pretty good prediction, or forecast, for what the demand will be for the future.

For example, you may calculate the forecast for each day for the next few months based on the same days for the past five years. The demand-control chart to the left shows the forecast for a 250-room hotel for part of the month of June, in both numbers and percentages.

2. Determine the Trigger Points

Trigger points signal the opening or closing of a rate class—the hot and cold periods. If the forecast predicts that demand will be above a trigger point (a hot period), close (raise) the appropriate rate classes; if predicted demand is below a trigger point (a cold period), open (lower) the appropriate rate classes. Your firm may have multiple trigger points. For our example hotel, our trigger points are:

  • Cold Period: 70% occupancy or below
  • Hot Period: 100% occupancy or above

3. Determine the Minimum Rate

Determine the minimum rate to quote based on the forecast and trigger points. In this chart we have two trigger points: 70% and 100% (which makes 71%-99% occupancy our Warm Period). For each hot, warm, and cold period, you will want to determine your minimum rate.

  • If our forecast is under 70%, it’s cold and we set the minimum rate at €250.
  • If the forecast is hot, the minimum rate is €425.
  • If the forecast is between 70% and 100%, it is a warm period, and our minimum rate is €325.

Develop Your Own Demand-Control Chart

Try your own hand at developing a demand chart for your hotel to get a better understanding of how you can easily and simply predict demand and determine the best pricing strategy for you. Click the thumbnail to the right to download the Demand-Control Chart used in Dr. Chris Anderson’s eCornell course Price and Inventory Control. It has already been filled in with example data to get you started, but you can easily plug in your hotel’s forecast, determine your own trigger points, and set your minimum rates depending on your hot and cold periods.

Note: The demand-control chart is a spreadsheet in .xls format and opens best in Microsoft Excel or OpenOffice Calc.