4 ways to boost your hotel's direct feedback results

When asking guests for feedback, are you asking the right questions?

Customer feedback is constantly streaming in on review sites and social media. While this public feedback is incredibly valuable, it’s also vital to invest in direct solicited feedback such as surveys. If social media is a public forum, direct feedback is a personal dialogue between your company and your customers. Solicited feedback starts the conversation and allows you to get the responses you really want. Companies that want to increase verified feedback response rates and improve customer experience can boost survey results with a few simple tips.

Tip 1: Ask the right questions

The best way to improve the quality of your direct feedback is to take a close look at what you’re asking your customers—namely, to ensure that the questions being asked are both useful and actionable. Hospitality questionnaires can be long, arduous lists of 10-point ratings on every potential aspect of an experience a guest may have had. While this can result in a general barometer reading of how happy your guests are, don’t get caught asking the same old questions for the sake of broad coverage. Instead, a focus on asking questions that measure process or behavior can be more useful. For example, a question like, “How do you rate our room service?” could be rephrased to “How fast was the room service?” to provide more valuable feedback that offers a clear option for direct action.

Tip 2: Make feedback part of your brand experience

Building your reputation with your customers doesn’t end when they leave your property or website. Soliciting direct feedback across multiple channels presents an opportunity to improve on the service you provide your customers. Consider this interaction an extension of your brand: as part of the customer experience, these surveys should be both visually appealing and easy to use. Be sure to test all aspects of the user experience before contacting customers, including verifying how much time a customer can expect to commit to providing feedback and the survey experience on mobile where we are currently observing approximately 50 percent of survey takers. A customer who immediately recognizes your brand knows they will only spend five minutes answering questions, and a beautiful, seamless experience is more likely to provide quality feedback. Some of the larger global hospitality brands in the Medallia community receive more than 1 million survey responses per year.

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Deciding on when to approach guests for surveys, the length of the survey and what is asked can be overwhelming

Tip 3: Let the customer do the talking

As the wealth of social media comments and popularity of review sites demonstrate, you don’t always need a quantified rating scale to get good feedback. In fact, giving customers an opportunity to provide open-ended comments can produce very useful results you may not have garnered from a more structured survey. Advances in text analysis and natural language processing significantly make it easier to derive actionable insights from verbatim text, so companies can allow customers to tell their own story—and discover answers to questions they didn’t even know to ask. With the right technology solution in place allowing customers the chance to comment freely can make them feel valued in their ability to share their thoughts, can highlight problem areas that may not already be included in your verified feedback channels and help organizations put those insights to work for a better customer experience.

Tip 4: Match the ask to the experience

When asking customers for feedback, it’s important to be not only be considerate of the respondent’s time, but mindful that the length of the survey needs to match up with the customer’s experience being measured. This is not to say that all verified feedback forms should necessarily be shortened—there is no one, magic length. However, the customer’s investment for providing feedback should be comparable to the investment of their hospitality experience. A restaurant guest enjoying a 90-minute dinner would merit a relatively brief questionnaire, whereas a guest for a week-long cruise or an all-inclusive resort could be asked for much more comprehensive feedback. Generally, we find that guests who have a longer experience are more willing to provide more feedback than those who had a shorter, more transactional experience. Test various lengths for different verified feedback programs to find the “sweet spot” for getting the most responses.

Bear in mind that customers who have invested a lot of time in their hospitality experience with you will have a lot to say—for example, Royal Caribbean International cruise line solicits feedback from its guests with a relatively long survey that has a high response rate despite its length. Because the experience of a Royal Caribbean vacation is an investment in both time and money, the guests are highly engaged and particularly eager to provide feedback. It’s an important aspect of the overall vacation experience.

Providing an exceptional customer experience is a top priority for any company in the hospitality business. Accurate customer response data is key to identifying areas for improvement as well as programs that show the most success, and combining passive feedback channels like review sites and social media with direct solicited feedback like surveys provides a wealth of data to link back to how your organization operates. Ask actionable questions, design a positive feedback loop, allow open-ended answers and customize for the customer experience—and you’re sure to see greater results from your direct feedback efforts.

Geoffrey Ryskamp is the principal director of the global hospitality practice at Medallia.