How to turn problems into guest satisfaction
How to turn problems into guest satisfaction
17 NOVEMBER 2010 8:50 AM

Hoteliers who address problems quickly and effectively can raise overall guest satisfactions scores in some cases 80 points higher than if there was no problem at all.

J.D. Power and Associates recently released its 2010 European Hotel Guest Satisfaction Index Study that is based on responses from more than 14,400 guests across Europe.  This article summarizes some of the key findings from the study related to staff service.

Stuart Greif

In a prior column based on J.D. Power and Associates 2010 North America Guest Satisfaction Index Studywe explored the satisfaction differences between guests who experience a significant problem versus those who do not. We also looked at positive impact on satisfaction by resolving the problem versus the further satisfaction decline that results as a consequence of the problem not being resolved. 

Starting with the 2010 European Hotel Guest Satisfaction Index Study, we have enhanced our travel and hospitality studies to gauge how the level of problem resolution (i.e., how satisfied guests are with the way a particular problem was resolved) can vary and impact overall guest satisfaction.

The value of resolution

We previously established that problems experienced during a hotel stay might be extremely detrimental to satisfaction. While preventing problems from happening in the first place is essential, hotels should not overlook the importance of and opportunity to resolve problems that do occur. Resolution provides hoteliers an opportunity to interact with their guests and turn a negative experience into a positive one. 

Positive resolution efforts could turn what might have otherwise been a significant decline in satisfaction into a more modest one—or an outright increase in guest expectations that results in higher scores than had the problem not occurred in the first place. 

Across the 2010 European Hotel Guest Satisfaction Index Study, overall satisfaction among guests who do not experience a problem is 760 on a 1,000 point scale. If a guest experiences a significant problem, satisfaction drops a whopping 109 points.

Click image to enlarge.

All is not lost, however. If the problem is reported and you recover, you can get back up to a satisfaction level of 674 on average, still down 86 points versus a guest without a problem. Woe unto the hotelier who fails to resolve a reported problem as satisfaction falls to 610—150 points lower than a guest who did not experience a problem. 

Resolving a problem is as much about how satisfied a guest is with the resolution as the actual resolution itself. A poor performance during the resolution process can lead to lower levels of satisfaction among guests, down to 561 than if no resolution had been attempted at all. That is nearly 200 points lower than if there had been no problem in the first place. It’s bad enough when problems arise, but to handle it poorly risks adding insult to injury.

Successful problem resolution occurs when hoteliers engage guests by:

  • listening and understanding the issues;
  • showing empathy;
  • validating the legitimacy of guests’ concerns;
  • demonstrating and following through on a commitment;
  • apologizing genuinely; and
  • seeking to rectify guests’ problems promptly and properly. 

Depending upon the nature of the problem, the guest, the hotel’s philosophy, the approach to problem resolution, and the sincerity of the hotel employee responding to the guest, it is actually possible to recover and even exceed a guest’s expectations. In 19% of the cases, you can garner slightly higher levels of satisfaction than had there never been an issue at all. In 7% of the cases, you can even exceed the guest’s expectations with the resolution and raise satisfaction 80 points higher than if there were no problem at all.

Below is a chart of the percentage of incidence by satisfaction rating with resolution:

Satisfaction Rating  1-5
Incidence*  50% 23% 19% 7%
* = 99% due to rounding; Those rating a 1 = 10%; 2-3 = 12%; 4-5 = 28%

The positive engagement with staff, personal attention and sense of appreciation that might accompany how a hotel staff member resolves a guest issue in raising satisfaction is consistent with some of our other recent findings from the study on staff interactions.

A reported problem should be viewed as an opportunity to truly delight guests during the problem resolution experience.

The good news in this year’s European study is overall problem incidence decreased to 14% from 17% in 2009. That’s a positive trend, particularly given the additional burden and challenges the economic downturn in Europe caused for hoteliers. The greater likelihood of a disappointed or indifferent reaction to problem resolution (73%) suggests the odds still are in the hotel’s favor by keeping a strategic focus on prevention over resolution. In short, prevention is still your best bet.

Stuart Greif is VP and general manager of the global travel and hospitality practice for J.D. Power and Associates. Headquartered in Westlake Village, California, J.D. Power and Associates is a global marketing information services company operating in key business sectors including market research, forecasting, performance improvement, training, Web intelligence and customer satisfaction. 

The opinions expressed in this column do not necessarily reflect the opinions of or its parent company, Smith Travel Research 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.

No advertising or other promotional use can be made of the information in this release without the express prior written consent of J.D. Power and Associates.


  • Anonymous June 16, 2013 2:04 PM

    if there is no coffee in guest room how would u solve that problems in house keeping

  • Anonymous June 16, 2013 2:07 PM

    if having problems with towels in the room how would u solve that

  • Anonymous June 16, 2013 2:08 PM

    if having problems with towels in the room how would u solve that

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