The results of this year’s guest satisfaction study from J.D. Power show that guestroom cleanliness continues to rise, and pre-stay communications are key to guest happiness.
TROY, Michigan—The 2020 North America Hotel Guest Satisfaction Index Study from J.D. Power was cut short because of COVID-19, but the results still show that cleanliness and pre-stay communications are top of mind for hotel guests.
The data for this year’s study ended early, said Andrea Stokes, hospitality practice lead at J.D. Power.
“The study that was just released started last June in 2019 and then as things started happening this spring, we ended up collecting data through March, but then we stopped our data collection because at that point a lot of travel had shut down, hotels were closing, you had states that were having stay-at-home orders,” she said.
While this year’s data is “a reflection of the world we were in,” Stokes said the results still apply to guest satisfaction in the current environment and may be even more important to guests.
Guestroom cleanliness scores increased for the fifth consecutive year and hit an all-time high rating of 8.53 on a 10-point scale, study results show.
Stokes said guests are increasingly satisfied with housekeeping at hotels, and that’s being seen across all segments, not just at luxury and upper-upscale properties.
The results also showed that pre-stay communications are very important to guests and overall satisfaction scores fall approximately 66 points when pre-stay communications don’t happen.
In the current pandemic environment, Stokes said pre-stay communications are more important than ever because hotels really need to prepare the guests for arriving at the hotel.
“Pre-stay communications obviously should provide a lot of information, and it’s just more important than ever for hotels and brands to focus on those pre-stay communications,” she said. “We realize it’s not always easy for the brands because when guests do not book directly with the larger chains and they are booking indirect on (online travel agencies), the hotels don’t always get the contact information.”
Pandemic impact going forward
When asked how the current pandemic will affect guest expectations for clean rooms and pre-stay communications, Stokes said guests will expect more of this from hotels and meeting those standards will impact the overall stay experience.
“When you don’t have a clean hotel room it is kind of a first impression and then the impression of the rest of your stay is likely going to be impacted,” she said. “But now, hotels are enhancing cleanliness and sanitization protocols, so while I expect the expectation will go up from guests, I think the level of quality and cleanliness will also go up.”
Many hotels now have mask mandates and other safety protocols in place, so it will be important for hotels to communicate those new requirements to guests through pre-stay communications, Stokes said.
“Pre-stay communications not only need to inform the guest on what they are required to do, but also on what the hotel is doing,” she said. “If the restaurant is closed or the pool is closed, be upfront about it in the pre-stay communication rather than having the guest arrive at the hotel only to find that it wasn’t what they thought.”
Being transparent in pre-stay communications and through content marketing efforts will build trust between guests and brands, she said.
2021 survey additions
J.D. Power makes major updates to the study every three years, and while it’s not due for an update, Stokes said some pandemic-related questions have been added to next year’s study.
“While this study ended a little bit early in March, we did go ahead and start our 2021 study in June,” she said. “In that study we did ask questions around protocols and guest safety, what the hotels were doing for the pandemic. We didn’t add a lot of questions because our survey is quite long, but we did want to start tracking what guests were seeing on the ground, so to speak.”
Questions that ask if guests saw employees wearing masks or if there were visible social distancing markers on the lobby floor directing people where to stand were added to the 2021 study, Stokes said.
The survey also asks if there was a seal on the guestroom door ensuring that the room had been sanitized, she said.