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2012 North America Hotel Guest Satisfaction Index Shows Guests Not Satisfied With Hotel Performance
"Charging guests more and providing less is not a winning combination from a guest satisfaction perspective, much less a winning business strategy. In short, hoteliers are falling further behind and need to catch up," said Stuart Greif, vice president and general manager of the global travel and hospitality practice at J.D. Power and Associates.
The survey, now in its 16th year, measures overall hotel guest satisfaction across hotel segments ranging from luxury to budget across seven key measurement areas – reservations; check-in/check-out; guest room; food and beverage; hotel services; hotel facilities; and costs and fees.
Satisfaction has declined 7 index points from 2011, down to a 757 on a 1,000-point scale, and down significantly since the 2006 study. Satisfaction with guest rooms has declined within one point of its lowest level in the past seven years.
Not good, hotel industry. Not good.
The best, however, seem to be consistent, with Ritz-Carlton taking the top spot amongst luxury hotels for three years in a row and Drury Hotels taking the top honors in the mid-scale limited service category for the seventh year in a row.
Other top brands include Omni Hotels & Resorts, Hilton Garden Inn, SpringHill Suites, Holiday Inn, Jameson Inn and Homewood Suites.
Of note, however, is the new Staff Opinion Model, which examines guest satisfaction with hotel staff by staff type across the guest experience. Overall, 56 percent of hotel guests have a high opinion of staff; 34 percent have an average opinion; and 10 percent have a low opinion of staff. Satisfaction is significantly higher among guests with a high opinion of hotel staff (average of 841 index points), compared with those with an average (673) or low (570) opinion of staff.
"Advocacy and loyalty rates are also much higher among guests with a high opinion of the hotel staff. These guests are also more likely to use various hotel services, such as eating at a hotel restaurant," said Jessica McGregor, senior manager of the global travel and hospitality practice.
Wi-Fi Fees Infuriate
So it's not just rising room rates that are affecting customer satisfaction. Other associated costs and fees, such as paid Internet access, also have a direct correlation to lower satisfaction rates. The study finds that 55 percent of hotel guests use the Internet during their hotel stay – an increase from 20 percent in 2006 – and 87 percent use Wi-Fi to connect. Among those that use the Internet, only 11 percent are charged an additional fee to connect.
"Guests enjoy Wi-Fi for free in many places outside of their hotel experience, such as in coffee shops, restaurants and other locations, setting expectations against which hotels are compared," said McGregor. "When guests learn they have to pay for Internet or when connection speeds are slow at a hotel, they are much more dissatisfied than they were in the past."
Hotels that charge extra for Internet access are perceived as taking advantage of guests, especially given the number of places that offer this service for free. On the flip side, while consumers use social media to complain about how slow Internet connections are at hotels, it is not uncommon for hotel guests to praise hotel brands that are known for fast, reliable Internet service. It is also expected that complimentary Internet is a "given" for loyalty club members.
Third-Party Bookers Less Satisfied
Guests who book through an online travel agency (OTA) tend to be more price sensitive; have lower levels of satisfaction with their stay; are less loyal to hotel brands; and tend to report more problems, compared with guests who book through the hotel website or call the hotel or hotel brand directly.
J.D. Power and Associates suggests that guests should call the hotel directly after booking through a third party, so as to avoid surprise with extra fees, confirm reservations, and confirm check-in and check-out times. They also suggest calling the front desk directly with any issues to nip potential problems in the bud.