Generating interest for your hotel is fine and dandy; generating business and repeat business is critical. Plus, the quality of a guest’s stay is directly linked to whether or not they will return to the property—or that brand—in the future. The good news for the industry is that according to J.D. Power and Associates’ 2014 North America Hotel Guest Satisfaction Index Study, hotel guest satisfaction has reached its highest level since the study was revised in 2006.
The study, released in mid July, tracks guest satisfaction on a 1,000-point scale. The results for 2014 weighed in at 784 points, up seven points from 2013. In addition, all segments showed improvement, save for upper extended-stay and extended-stay, which remained flat.
InterContinental Hotels Group (IHG) has two top-ranked brands on the 2014 index: Holiday Inn (which has won the award four consecutive years in the midscale full-service category) and Candlewood Suites (which is winning the award for the first time in the extended-stay category). The award is taken so seriously by the Holiday Inn brand that it displays its past J.D. Power guest satisfaction distinctions on its website and in its properties.
While these awards are on display for guests to see, Heather Balsley, SVP of Americas core brands and brand operations for IHG, said the awards are not there for the guests. Rather, the awards are seen as a barometer of success and as a means to generate excitement and enthusiasm for Holiday Inn’s corporate and hotel staff.
According to Rick Garlick, global travel and hospitality practice lead for J.D. Power and Associates, the biggest discovery of the study relates to brand loyalty across generations, particularly in regard to millennials, or Generation Y. “There is a belief that millennials are free agents that are not loyal to employers, brands and services, but there has been no data to back that up,” Garlick said.
From a survey pool of 70,000 participants, satisfaction scores for millennials were found to be lower on average compared to other generation groups, implying they are more critical of the service they encounter, but brand loyalty, likelihood of return and recommendations were found to remain consistent across generations.
Another takeaway from the index is that the numbers in satisfaction continue to rise—meaning that the brands at the top of their segment have to continue to improve every year to remain there. But, if you are at the top, how do you know what to change?
“Six to eight years ago, J.D. Power had just one or two metrics available to see how brands were performing,” Balsley said. “Now there are many tools available, such as social media and internal trackers, and brands are watching all of them.”
Improvements to the check-in and check-out experience, as well as the guest perception of costs and fees, contributed to a seven-point rise in industry-wide guest satisfaction for 2014.