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By RJ Friedlander

The majority of hotels have been using some form of guest survey for years, but recently a shift has been happening in the way that hotels collect feedback. Early adopters of guest surveys have realized the need to replace long, complicated surveys with shorter, more personalized direct surveys. Most hotels that were previously using paper surveys have now implemented online versions and it is not uncommon to find smaller properties have bypassed the paper survey altogether to implement online post-stay surveys upfront.  

Guest surveys are a valuable tool for hoteliers; they provide the guest feedback necessary to identify and solve internal issues, provide guests with a forum to raise their concerns (in a non-public venue) and for management to respond directly. By doing so, hoteliers may be able to lessen the chance that a guest will post a negative review on TripAdvisor (or other review sites) about his/her stay. 

When the hotel's management responds to guest's feedback, it can help cultivate and develop a relationship with a past guest. This is an important first step in building repeat business from this customer - and all of the other potential guests that they might tell about your property, either online or via word-of-mouth. In some cases, unhappy customers can even become advocates of your property because they are so appreciative of how management worked to resolve a problem or address a troublesome issue. 

As you can see, post-stay surveys offer significant benefits for hoteliers and over the next two weeks, I will be outlining the six basic rules for creating an effective post-stay survey. Part One outlines how to properly craft a survey to secure the highest response rate and the greatest amount of guest feedback possible. 

Online works better than offline

Although some properties still use paper comment cards, they are much less effective than online versions of the exact same survey. In fact, the survey response rate for offline surveys is only typically between 15 to 30%, whereas online survey response rates (on average) are significantly higher.  

With direct surveys, it is also possible to follow up more than once to remind the guest about the survey and ask them to complete it. If a hotel was only using paper surveys and the guest chooses not to fill out the survey during checkout, the hotel has lost the opportunity to obtain the valuable feedback that that guest could have provided.   

Of course, it is imperative that hotels improve their front desk processes in order to properly implement online surveys. Most hotels are notoriously bad at gathering guests email addresses; this limits collecting hotel's ability to collect direct guest feedback, as well as minimizing the efficacy of future marketing efforts. A property's reception team must make every effort to collect an email address when checking a guest in, to ensure that the survey can be distributed to every guest who stays at the property. Without this change in check-in procedures, a hotel would be missing out on valuable feedback from all of the guests who did not initially provide an email address when booking. 

Less is more

While many hoteliers may think that more questions on their survey will yield better results and greater insight into guests' experiences, the opposite is actually true. A survey with too many questions is daunting to consumers and so many will chose not to respond at all.  

In general, surveys should contain no more than 10 to 15 base questions (not counting follow-up questions). First, identify what specific feedback will be most important to improving your hotel's operations and create questions that will solicit that information. Instead of using only multiple-choice or rating questions, also give customers the opportunity to answer some questions in their own words (using freeform fields). While this may seem counterintuitive, customers often prefer to provide feedback in their own words so that they can mention specific points that mattered most to them. In some circumstances, freeform questions can minimize the number of questions that must be asked get the same feedback. However, it is important to keep in mind that freeform answers make it much more difficult to compare and analyze results in a standardized way, so they are not as suitable for questions that require a direct comparison to other guests' responses.  

If you find it difficult or overly time-consuming to be able to mine freeform responses for usable data, consider using a survey management solution that uses semantic analysis to identify keyword trends in responses and which provides actionable insight into possible operational or service issues.  

Use question logic to ask the right questions to the right people 

To gather reliable information from guests, ensure that your survey only asks guests about the parts of your hotel that they experienced first-hand. By keeping the survey questions relevant to each person's specific experience, guests are less likely to become frustrated and abandon the survey partway through. The best way to offer relevant questions in a post-stay survey is to use a survey management solution that uses filters to show or hide questions based on the responses provided to the answer prior.  

Question logic is particularly useful if you are interested in obtaining feedback on specific departments within your hotel because it minimizes the number of standard questions asked of each guest. For example, a guest should not be asked how they would rate the spa if they never used the facilities. Instead, hoteliers should ask all respondents if they used the spa during their visit. The survey will skip spa-related questions for those that answered 'no'; however, those who answered 'yes' will receive all of the extra questions pertaining to their spa experience. 

Question logic also enables you to ask questions relating to different guest segments - i.e. corporate travelers, MICE guests/organizers, loyalty members, etc. - to find out how you can better address each segment's individual needs.  

Another important use for survey logic is in obtaining greater detail about guests' answers, especially in the case of a bad rating. For example, if a guest rates their experience a three-star rating or less (out of five stars), a survey using question logic can request additional clarification (in the form of a freeform field where the guest can offer specific insight into what made the experience negative). If a guest provides a three- or four-star rating, they will not be asked the additional question for clarification.  

Hopefully, these first three survey management basics have been helpful in figuring out how to more effectively create and implement your property's post-stay survey, in order to generate the highest possible response rate. 

If you have any questions on any of these tips please contact us at info@reviewpro.com

Finally, make sure that you follow this space next week to read Part Two of the article, which will examine the final three tips for implementing effective post-stay surveys. See you next week!

About RJ Friedlander

RJ Friedlander is the co-founder and CEO of ReviewPro, the leading provider of guest intelligence solutions to independent hotel brands worldwide. RJ is responsible for overseeing the strategic direction of the company, as well as leading a team of more than 70 employees. He is a frequent speaker at hotel industry events, including PhoCusWright, ITB Berlin, World Travel Market London, The Hotel Investment Conference and the exclusive DLD Conference in Munich. Widely recognized as an expert in hotel technology and online reputation management has also taught classes at the Cornell University of Hotel Management, IESE, ESADE and the Instituto de Empresa (IE).

Contact: Jennifer Nagy

jenn@reviewpro.com / +1.786.420.1160

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