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Can Hotels Keep Up with Growing Guest Expectations?

Debiprasad Sarangi
Debiprasad Sarangi

hotel guest experience

Amenities that were once upon a time considered to be special perks are now expected to be a standard offering, which goes to show how hotel guests and their expectations have evolved. So, if free Wi-Fi, premium bed linens and complimentary breakfasts were once selling points for hotels looking to stand out, now guests expect them to be standard inclusions.

In fact, a J.D. Power 2016 North America Hotel Guest Satisfaction Index Study found that industry has reached a plateau in terms of guest satisfaction. In other words, it’s becoming increasingly difficult to satisfy guests as figures have only gone up slightly since previous years.

This is the 20th year in which the study has been conducted and it is designed to determine how satisfied guests are in 8 segments, namely luxury, upper upscale, upscale, upper midscale, midscale, economy/budget, upper extended stay and extended stay. Seven areas are studied to establish general guest satisfaction, namely check-in and check-out, guest rooms, food and beverages, hotel services, facilities and costs.

Despite the fact that satisfaction in general has gone up for the fourth year in a row, exhibiting an increase of 2 points from the previous year to 806, this increase is not as significant as previous years. The significant increases in previous years were largely due to major improvements in costs, which impacted overall satisfaction and raised the bar. Thus, costs saw an improvement in guest satisfaction of 25 points between 2014 and 2015, whereas this year saw a climb of only 1 point.

What’s interesting is that despite the fact that most segments have exhibited little to no change in satisfaction figures, the luxury segment has seen a significant rise of 12 points. It should be noted, though, that again this increase is due to a significant rise in guest satisfaction related to costs. This doesn’t mean that prices have declined, it merely shows that luxury hotels are more adept at showing guests the extra value they are providing.

Where Does the Guest Satisfaction Disconnect Come From?

While guests are responding favorably to some of the improved offerings provided by hotels, a major issue is that they are becoming standard specifically because so many hotels are trying to increase the value they offer. So, guests now expect things that before were perks to be standard inclusions and, as a result, they want to know what else hotels are doing from them.

And there is only so much a hotel can offer in terms of amenities, especially when guests aren’t seeing the added value anymore. In this case, the only course of action open to hotels is to create a guest-centric service culture. One where guests feel really special and appreciated.

It comes back to the concept of experience marketing. Guests don’t just want a room to sleep in while on vacation, they want a full experience and that starts with making them feel as if they are the center of your universe. Make a guest feel special and appreciated, and they’ll never forget you.

In fact, if the experience you provide guests is delightful, you’ll find that it’s easier to get away with making mistakes or even providing fewer perks than the competition.

A major problem does arise for hotels that haven’t standardized their offerings, though, and still believe that what they’re offering are perks. If you haven’t upgraded your hotel with PMS software that can help you avoid making silly mistakes like double booking and the like, you will find it more and more difficult to attract guests as your reputation will suffer.

Furthermore, a good PMS system will free up your staff so they can focus on creating the delightful experience necessary to achieve high levels of satisfaction and draw more guests. It’s much easier to connect with guests and show them the added value your hotel provides when your staff can focus on making guests happy rather than putting out fires.