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If You Can’t Satisfy Your Guests, At Least Don’t Disappoint Them

There is nothing new about hoteliers using data to improve their performance, but finding and interpreting information takes time and effort. Hotelintel.co would therefore suggest taking a look at “the literature” as the academic world likes to say. There exists a wealth of published research containing helpful insights which can guide hoteliers to greater success. One such study is the recent work of Kim, Kim, and Yeo (2016), which makes use of online reviews to investigate the hotel features which lead to customer satisfaction – and also to dissatisfaction.

As a form of electronic word-of-mouth, online reviews are very important to customers planning hotel stays, but they can also help hoteliers to understand the customer experience. The key finding in this particular study from the researchers at the Hong Kong Polytechnic University was that the factors which lead to satisfaction are not necessarily the same ones which also lead to dissatisfaction. For example, for hotels at the quality end of the spectrum, location is the number one satisfier. However, poor location is almost never mentioned as a negative. That is, if you have a good location, customers will love you, but if you have a poor location it might not actually count against you. The satisfiers and dissatisfiers do not lie on a continuum.

The researchers examined TripAdvisor reviews of properties in New York, after first establishing the two categories of “full-service” four- and five-star hotels, and “limited service” one- and two-star hotels. This separation was clearly important because customers have their own frame of reference and expectations will differ in different hotel settings. TripAdvisor reviews provide a numerical grade from 1 (terrible) to 5 (excellent), along with comments. The researchers chose to focus only on the extreme ratings of 1 and 5 in order to discover which factors were responsible for these outcomes. 

For the 50 selected full-service hotels, 68% of the review scores were grade 5, while 1.6% were grade 1. For the 50 limited-service hotels, 16% of the review scores were grade 5, while 14% produced grade 1. The overall number of reviews was around three times higher for the full-service properties, suggesting that guests at these hotels are more likely to share their experiences. The results also indicate that full-service hotel guests are more likely to be satisfied than limited-service hotel customers. While expectations may be lower at limited-service hotels, it would appear that managers would be well advised to follow social media comments more closely to identify areas for improvement.  

Interestingly, although the reviews the researchers studied were at the extremes of customer experience, around a third of these, both positive and negative, made comments which included both favorable and unfavorable points. That is, customers who rated a property as terrible were still able to find features they liked; customers who thought a hotel was wonderful would still find things to complain about. Therefore, there are factors which affect the grade, and factors which seem not to.

For each hotel category, the researchers determined the top-10 satisfiers and dissatisfiers. For full-service hotels, the number one satisfier was location and the number one dissatisfier was the attitude of the staff. Only two features appeared as both satisfiers and dissatisfiers: the attitude of the staff, and the service. Guests usually derived satisfaction from room size, the bed, and other tangible aspects, whereas dissatisfaction stemmed from less tangible aspects such as service, noise, and management attitudes. In full-service hotels, service factors are therefore critical; high-end personalized services are vital to achieving satisfaction, yet any shortcoming in this area can ruin the customer experience instead.

In limited-service hotels, satisfiers and dissatisfiers overlapped to a greater extent. Location was the main satisfier, while lack of cleanliness was the top dissatisfier. Six factors appeared in the top-10 for both satisfiers and dissatisfiers: the attitude of the staff, room cleanliness, room size, the bed, the bathroom, and the price. Service was not particularly important as either a satisfier or a dissatisfier in limited-service hotels, probably as a result of lower customer expectations. However, value for money and the condition of the rooms are key factors which should be the focus of managers in these properties.

Overall, the researchers concluded that courteous staff in any type of property will make a significant difference to customer satisfaction. Furthermore, it is important that hoteliers understand that success is not solely about improving satisfaction but also about avoiding dissatisfaction, and with the exception of attitudes and service, the factors involved in achieving these two aims are often quite different.

 

The study to which this article refers was written by two researchers from the School of Hotel and Tourism Management, The Hong Kong Polytechnic University, and their colleague: 

Kim, Bona, Kim, Seongseop and Heo, Cindy Y. (2016). Analysis of Satisfiers and Dissatisfiers in Online Hotel Reviews on Social Media. International Journal of Contemporary Hospitality Management, 28(9), 1915-1936.

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