JD Power identifies key satisfaction driver
15 JULY 2015 8:51 AM
One factor trumps all when it comes to driving guest satisfaction, according to J.D. Power’s global travel and hospitality practice lead.
CHICAGO—Increased transparency in hotel product offerings is leading to higher levels of guest satisfaction.
That’s the key takeaway from this year’s “2015 North America hotel guest satisfaction index study” from J.D. Power, which reported a 20-point gain to an industry record score of 804 on a 1,000-point scale. It’s the first time the index has crossed the 800-point threshold.
Top brand scorers for each segment include:
- luxury: The Ritz-Carlton
- upper upscale: Omni Hotels & Resorts
- upscale: Hyatt Place
- upper midscale: Drury Hotels (previously ranked highest in the midscale segment for nine consecutive years)
- midscale: Wingate by Wyndham
- economy/budget: Microtel Inn & Suites by Wyndham (third consecutive year)
- upper extended stay: Homewood Suites by Hilton (third consecutive year)
- extended stay: Candlewood Suites (second consecutive year)
“You’ve got a higher accountability in terms of cleanliness and quality standards in terms of TripAdvisor,” Rick Garlick, global travel and hospitality practice lead at J.D. Power, told Hotel News Now.
Hotel product has improved tremendously as a result.
“Now a hot breakfast is pretty much standard in a midscale hotel,” Garlick said. “Used to be you’d get a stale roll and a bowl of cereal.”
Other now-standard amenities include flat-panel TVs, comfortable beds and fast (and increasingly free) Wi-Fi.
“If you’re not on top of your game, now the whole world’s going to know about it. That kind of accountability has caused hoteliers to step up their game,” he said.
That level of transparency also allows travelers to shop more smartly. Instead of shopping on price, location and brand, they can match their more specific needs with specific product offerings, Garlick said.
He compared it to online dating. Whereas in the past singles blindly fished in a small pool for would-be matches, now they can match profiles on a global scale to find their one, true soul mate.
“Now it’s the same with hotels. … When you buy a hotel room and are paying $80, you know what you’re getting for that $80. No more blind buying,” he said.
Reported problems plummet
The number of guests who reported experiencing a problem fell 20%, the lowest incidence since 2006, according to the study.
“Problems are largely perceptual,” Garlick said.
When guests stay in hotels or with brands they really like, they’re more willing to accommodate slight bumps along the customer journey, he said.
The same is seen in the airline industry. Southwest Airlines and JetBlue Airways Corporation are two perennial high scorers in J.D. Powers’ airline satisfaction study, despite both being among the industry’s worst in on-time performance, Garlick said.
Because the overall experience with both brands generally is favorable, passengers don’t mind waiting an extra 30 minutes on the tarmac.
“When we like brands, we tend to be far more forgiving,” he said.
Price buyers score low
The study found that those travelers who shop hotels first and foremost on price are the least satisfied among all customer segments. That’s why hoteliers should never cater to them, Garlick said.
“If you’re trying to build loyally through cutting rates and deep discounting, it’s not going to attract a clientele that you really want to attract,” he said. “Whatever you can give, they’ll always feel like you can offer it for a dollar cheaper.
“Don’t build a loyalty strategy around discounting,” he advised.