J.D. Power guest satisfaction study highlights mobile devices as key driver

Mobile phone use encourages greater guest satisfaction.

Mobile applications are ubiquitous throughout modern life, and a new study from J.D. Power shows that incorporating these apps into the guest experience is associated with higher levels of guest satisfaction.

J.D. Power’s "2017 North America Hotel Guest Satisfaction Index Study" shows integrating mobile technology into the hotel and travel experience makes guests more inclined to share positive hotel experiences on social media, but comes with a few caveats. For one, greater use of mobile devices for booking is correlated with higher chances of guests booking through online travel agencies, which are also associated with lower satisfaction scores. While hotel companies around the world are pushing for more direct bookings, this remains an uphill battle when compared to current OTA market share.

However, J.D. Power’s report found that pushing for guests to become rewards members remains an effective way to stir travelers to direct bookings. In addition, OTAs’ status as a third-party vendor to hotels presents disadvantages for consumers when problems with a stay arise.

“As mobile usage becomes increasingly ubiquitous for guests, the challenge for hotels becomes twofold: First, they must persuade guests to book directly with them, and second, they must encourage easy utilization of this technology,” Rick Garlick, practice lead, travel and hospitality at J.D. Power, said in a release. “By forging direct relationships, hotels can become guardians of the guest experience, but at the center of these relationships is an establishment’s mobile strategy.”

J.D. Power’s study, which is now in its 21st year, measures overall guest satisfaction across eight hotel segments: luxury, upper upscale, upscale, upper midscale, midscale, economy, upper extended stay and extended stay. In addition, seven factors are also examined in each segment to determine overall satisfaction: reservation, check-in/check-out, guestrooms, food-and-beverage, hotel services, hotel facilities and cost and fees. With these factors taken into account, satisfaction is then calculated on a 1,000-point scale.

Here are seven key findings in the 2017 study:

  • Direct booking: When guests book through an independent travel website or mobile app (e.g., Expedia, Travelocity) instead of directly with the hotel, they are more likely to experience a problem and to be less satisfied with their stay.
  • Membership matters: Hotel rewards members are far more likely to book directly with a hotel or on a loyalty member site than those who are not members (75 percent vs. 47 percent, respectively), and their satisfaction is higher. The number of those who book through OTAs is increasing (19 percent in 2017 vs. 16 percent in 2013), despite the concerns some guests have ranging from earning hotel rewards to strict cancellation policies.
  • Mobile mania: In 2014, 14 percent of online reservations were made using mobile means (smartphone or tablet), and now that percentage is 25 percent. Those utilizing mobile reservations are more likely to be younger or business travelers.
  • Not so mobile mania: Among guests who have a hotel’s app on their mobile device, 38 percent don’t use it during their stay. Only a tiny percentage of check-ins (4 percent) and check-outs (1 percent) occur through mobile apps, but when it is used, it is associated with higher guest satisfaction.
  • Get 'em to try the app: Guests who download and use a hotel's mobile app are more satisfied and have greater loyalty to that brand. While only 19 percent of all guests have downloaded a hotel app, 70 percent of rewards members have done so.
  • Social media surprise: Despite the perception that people posting to social media only do so to complain, guests describing their experience via these channels appear to be more satisfied overall. At the same time, those who do experience a problem are extremely likely to post to social media (86 percent).
  • Reading is fundamental: Slightly more than half (52 percent) of guests have read a review of a hotel, industry news or an online forum in the past month, and 46 percent of those guests wrote a review in the past six months. Review readers and writers are also more likely to have higher guest satisfaction.
JW Marriott Marco Island, Fla.

Hotel Segment Rankings

“While The Ritz-Carlton and JW Marriott rank highest in the luxury segment, both of these Marriott-affiliated brands appeal to different types of customers,” Garlick said. “It’s important to remember that this study measures guest satisfaction among a hotel brand’s own customers and doesn’t directly compare hotel brands to one another. Often, the type of guest becomes an important element in determining satisfaction rankings.”

The following hotel brands rank highest in guest satisfaction in their respective segments:

The "2017 North America Hotel Guest Satisfaction Index Study" is based on responses gathered between June 2016 and May 2017 from more than 63,000 guests in Canada and the United States who stayed at a hotel in North America between May 2016 and May 2017.