By Alan Young

Almost daily, employees enthusiastically circle a web address at the bottom of our receipt for us to complete a customer service survey, promising a chance to win a trip for two to some far-away beach, or maybe a shopping spree. Quite frankly, the prompt is so familiar most of us have grown accustomed to tuning it out as soon as the employee begins their spiel, pleasantly smiling as we gather our bags to leave the store. As we navigate a familiar app on our phone, posting to our Instagram account or playing a game, we’re frequently interrupted by a reminder to rate the app, “How do you like using _____ ?”. After we order an item from Amazon, we can expect to receive multiple emails from the last company we purchased from, prompting additional customer feedback. The message reads something like:

 Hello Customer,

Steve here, Im the Customer Satisfaction Manager for ______. Your complete satisfaction is my number one priority…

Is our satisfaction the number one priority, though? Because, from a customer’s point of view, inundating us with generic surveys and unsolicited phone calls requesting drawn-out feedback, which is rarely actioned, seems counter-intuitive.

In the hospitality realm, specifically, the success of a hotel relies largely on the continued management of guest relations. It is every hotelier’s utmost responsibility to get to know guests on a deeper level, cater to what they want right now (and what they will want in the future), and offer a memorable, personalized experience. Considering the undeniable influence of online reviews and word of mouth, it comes as no surprise that hotels have, traditionally, looked to gather and leverage guest feedback. But, are those traditional methods truly working? Are we really demonstrating care for our guests, by tasking them with feedback exercises that they notably avoid, and which rarely provide value?

View Your Guests as a Relationship, not a Faceless Data Source

Hoteliers, the writing is on the wall.

Data is powerful. If anything, it acts as the critical battery pack to the process of personalization. Without data, hoteliers are unable to provide their guests with a curated, relevant experience. We must go direct to the source, which, in this case, is guest expectations, to continue to drive innovation and service optimization. However, we should also feel implored to provide guests with a higher standard of customer service care during the process of critical data/feedback retrieval, than an automated and meaningless NPS measure. Too many surveys with too many questions are simply exhausting to customers, and inspire frustration far more often than they inspire enhanced loyalty. It’s not helpful — it’s spam. Are hotel guests now just becoming “Data Nodes” that help hotel companies to analyze their data, despite not delivering upon their services promises? Surely, there’s a better way.

In fact, according to Bloomberg, as companies nag customers for more input, they get less insight out of it. Ad-hoc surveys offer a disappointing 9% response rate, while 80% of people abandon a survey halfway through, and 52% won’t complete a survey longer than 3 minutes.

So, if spam-style surveys and follow-up phone calls are out, this begs the question — what’s in? How do we, as an industry, genuinely achieve the following:

A) Show guests that we care
B) Seek feedback that is meaningful
C) Action that feedback by changing what we do to deliver exceptional value

We do this by building genuine relationships with our guests — a relationship that extends far beyond just knowing their first name via a PMS prompt. A relationship that is so solid, they are willing to tell us about their stay and their preferences with enthusiastic transparency; and in the case of a positive experience, they’re eager to share that too. A relationship where they understand that everyone makes mistakes, but both parties (the hotel and the guests) are striving to create a better outcome, to share in the success of an improved guest experience.

Ultimately, shifting our perspective from viewing guests solely as “data nodes” to active participants within an ongoing partnership, we’re able to improve guest satisfaction, drive down hotel costs, and (in many cases) enhance revenue two-fold. Service isn’t a one-way street, after all. Sure, we’re providing an experience, but great service requires the ongoing cultivation of relationships with guests to continuously hone in on what they genuinely want and need out of each stay. The mechanism for showing we care is rather simple: establish a relationship, listen and understand their needs, and deliver on your promises. It’s so much more than a generic email survey, a faceless phone call, or an in-room amenity— it’s a genuine, ongoing conversation.