CHICAGO—“Social media has emerged as a powerful force, serving as both a guest feedback tool as well as a customer relationship management vehicle,” said Richard Garlick, global travel practice lead at J.D. Power.
J.D. Power, known widely for its ratings and providing recognition and awards to top performers in various industries, has another arm of the business working on the advisory side for its travel and hospitality verticals to provide thought leadership, proprietary research and consulting services around matters of brand choice, experience and loyalty.
“This is a separate part of our business, which we run with complete independence and impartiality,” said Garlick. “On this side of our business, we work with an impressive list of travel clients to provide guidance on how to make their businesses more successful.”
For J.D. Power’s 2016 North America Hotel Guest Satisfaction Index, the consulting company asked questions about social media usage and, as a result, uncovered some misconceptions about the platform as a tool for guest feedback.
“Since it is still a relatively new mode of consumer feedback, there are many presumptions or assumptions people have about social feedback that require data to support or not support these beliefs,” he said. “We conduct the most comprehensive independent study on hotel guests, so we are in a unique position to speak to these varying beliefs based on feedback from over 60,000 hotel guests.”
In a lightning round of questions, Garlick busted a few myths, or misconceptions, and affirmed some truths:
True or false: People are more inclined to write reviews of bad experiences at hotels rather than good ones.
False. Three out of four reviews are positively toned. Guest satisfaction ratings among those that posted comments are significantly higher than non-posters. Of course, the negative comments are the ones people pay the most attention to, despite the fact they represent a small proportion of the total body of comments posted online.
True for false: People are more inclined to leave social feedback than fill out a guest satisfaction survey.
Generally, false. Thirteen percent of guests post comments on social sites. This does not differ significantly from the response rates for most hotel guest satisfaction surveys, unless the survey tends to be poorly written and tedious to take.
True or false: Social media feedback is at least as representative as guest survey feedback.
Partially true. When we correlate review site ratings or social sentiment scores with guest satisfaction ratings, we find a reasonably high correlation. However, what you get in social feedback are comments about the most visceral areas of the hotel’s performance, or sentiment ratings about how the guest felt about the hotel experience overall, rather than the detailed diagnostics surveys provide to make operational improvements.
True or false: Hoteliers should be most concerned with TripAdvisor in terms of review websites.
False. While TripAdvisor is the best known of the travel review sites, the majority of guests under 50 years old post to their personal social vehicles such as Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat, etc. So, if you are a business monitoring social media, don’t forget about these very important sites.
True or false: It is good public relations to respond to social postings, but it doesn’t necessarily impact guest loyalty.
False. Currently, half of hotel guests 40 years and younger expect a response to their social media postings. This expectation will only grow with time. When there is no response to a social post, post-stay guest stay satisfaction is very low. A response with no resolution buys you some good will in the form of higher satisfaction scores, but there is no increase in any of the loyalty metrics—intent to return, intent to recommend, for example—than if there was no response at all. However, when a hotel both responds and resolves a guest issue through social media interaction, both satisfaction and loyalty measures are extremely high.
So, who is getting it right on social media in areas of customer service and responsiveness? According to the study, Marriott International’s Aloft brand had a 75% response rate to social postings, with Americas Best Value Inn coming in close behind at 69%.
“Best Western Hotels & Resorts also deserves recognition as being a pioneer in terms of using social media as a booking channel. In 2012, the brand unveiled its Facebook booking capability as part of plans to engage with its customers via social media,” he said. “They have continued to innovate through a relatively new 360-degree virtual reality (VR) experience where guests are now able to view a VR tour of nearly 2,000 Best Western Hotels & Resorts properties on YouTube.”
Hoteliers, take note: To best serve the guest and protect a brand’s reputation on social media, it is crucial to pay close attention to social media sites. Not all reviewers have complaints but when guests do reach out, it is important to respond and address their needs in a timely manner. And don’t forget to make a concerted effort to maintain communication—in any form—with guests as meeting them where they are can go a long way.
“Some hotels have set up their own social sites where guests can provide feedback in more of a managed setting. This removes some of the public airing of dirty laundry,” he said. “Also, hotels need to respond quickly to these postings. One study I read suggested responses should be done within 60 minutes of posting. By showing concern and politely resolving guest concerns online, the brands show they care about their customers. In some cases, resolving guest concerns through social media can solidify guest loyalty.”