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Guest experience goes local
April 3 2013

Executives need feedback about every property to ensure the local experience delivers on customers’ expectations.

  • Executives need feedback about every property to ensure the local experience delivers on customers’ expectations.
  • Travelers are using social networks increasingly to share insights about their hotel experiences.
  • All customer experiences are local.
By Kristin Muhlner
HNN columnist

Tip O’Neill, former speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives, once said, “All politics is local.”

All customer experiences are local, too. Social intelligence is no longer just about the brand. Executives need feedback about every property to ensure the local experience delivers on customers’ expectations, which would explain the upturn of location-specific intelligence software.

Kristin Muhlner


This is especially true in the hospitality industry, where operational issues impact a guest’s likelihood to return and recommend. Travelers are using social networks increasingly to share insights about their hotel experience in the moment, giving property managers the opportunity to fix issues in real time. And with smartphone use on the rise, the number of travelers actively sharing photos and reviews is only going to increase. A reported 64% of U.S. online travelers now own a smartphone, up from 52% in 2011, according to PhoCusWright’s Traveler Technology Survey 2012.

What will travelers say about your property? Chances are it varies dramatically from location to location across the brand. Only when you listen and act locally, can you pinpoint the needed changes and make them happen.

Here is an example: Three hotels of the same brand located within a 25-mile radius of one other all received the same star rating on a popular travel review site. Comments across the three properties speak to what guests expect from the hotel brand. However, analyzing the verbatim customer reviews on each of the locations uncovers trouble spots specific to each property. (All reviews are direct quotes from the travel review site):

Property No. 1:  Issues with food quality and service

  • “The only reason I haven't given them a five is because the breakfast hasn't been the greatest. It's pretty standard. And with the remodel, the offerings are even more limited.”
  • “Don't bother ordering room service; I placed an order and called after an hour passed and was told that it's not ready. At the time of the order I was not told that it would take longer than usual. I canceled the order and did not receive an apology.”
  • “We had a terrible experience with the breakfast buffet.”

Property No. 2:  Issues with room cleanliness

  • “The staff is friendly and the lobby is bright and clean, but the rooms could use some updating. Ours felt dingy and hadn't been cleaned well—you could still see spots on the sink that clearly housekeeping hadn't cleaned before we checked in. There was a musty smell to the room and bathroom… The bed was fairy comfortable, but looked messy - the mattress appeared to be sagging and the bed wasn't made neatly.”
  • “The rooms are supposed to have been updated recently but are already very tired. The mattresses are oh so thin and uncomfortable. My biggest pet peeve showed at this hotel...big, long, thick, hair in the tub that did not belong to me...Gross! If you look closely you can see the effect age has on the rooms. Little care was taken when renovating the rooms.”
  • “This hotel was very dated and the room smelled very stale. Not like any other (hotel’s name) I have stayed in. Saw a roach on the restaurant counter.”

Property No. 3:  Issues with noise

  • “One thing we did notice was how noisy the hotel was, we could hear everything from the hallway as people went up and down.”
  • “At this hotel they have rooms facing the courtyard. Noise seems to bounce off the walls within the courtyard.”
  • “I found it difficult to get a good night’s sleep due to noise from the hallway.”

What’s interesting is that none of these issues appeared across all three hotels; they were specific to each property. Only by having this location-specific intelligence can GMs at each hotel know what operational and service issues need to be addressed to improve the quality of the guest experience.

After reading the comments above, property managers decided to tighten service standards, retrain staff and invest in soundproofing, respectively. All of these fixes are easy to execute and promise high return on investment.

Tip O’Neill’s point is that your success is only as good as your ability to influence your local constituent. It’s no different in hospitality. Your hotel’s success is determined location by location, review by review. Social feedback has the power to tell you what you didn’t know that you didn’t know. When used right, it gives you the power to take action.

Kristin Muhlner is CEO of newBrandAnalytics, a social intelligence firm that serves hospitality clients including Hyatt, Hersha Hotels and Miraval Resorts, as well as numerous other food and beverage, retail, and government organizations. A recognized standout in leading high-growth technology and services organizations, Muhlner has 20 years of expertise in building mission critical technology solutions used by Fortune 500 companies. In her previous role as CEO of Rollstream, the leading provider of enterprise community management solutions, Muhlner spearheaded the growth of company and its SaaS product, paving the way for Rollstream’s successful acquisition by GXS. She has also held executive management positions at webMethods (acquired by Software AG), where she led the development and ongoing evolution of the company’s highly acclaimed software products, as well as Deloitte and Touche Consulting, where she led ERP implementation projects for key clients across North America. She holds a B.A. in economics from Rhodes College.

The opinions expressed in this column do not necessarily reflect the opinions of or its parent company, STR and its affiliated companies. Columnists published on this site are given the freedom to express views that may be controversial, but our goal is to provoke thought and constructive discussion within our reader community. Please feel free to comment or contact an editor with any questions or concerns.

4/4/2013 12:05:00 AM
Thank you Kristin for your instructive piece. Across the world we have Classifications, Gradings, Ratings, Reviews, Comments and Branding. Are we still not getting it Right when it comes to Basics ? Is there something still missing? Food for thought for educators and professionals in hospitality.There has to be a common Guest-Host Bridge.
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