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Hotel guest satisfaction declines, says study

- Judy Maxwell (Assistant Editor)
Hotel guests in North America are not as happy with their service as they used to be, says J.D. Power and Associates.


As demand has increased for hotel rooms across North America, guest satisfaction has declined, according to the J.D. Power and Associates 2012 North America Hotel Guest Satisfaction Index Study released Wednesday, July 25.

The annual study shows that consumers are, overall, satisfied with the price of the room, but the guest experience begins to dwindle after that. ‘Satisfaction with check-in/check-out; food and beverage; hotel services; and hotel facilities are at new lows since the 2006 study and satisfaction with guest room has declined within one point of its lowest level in the past seven years,’ says the study.

Now in its 16th year, the study measures overall hotel guest satisfaction across seven hotel segments: luxury; upper upscale; upscale; mid-scale full service; mid-scale limited service; economy/budget; and extended stay. Seven key measures are examined within each segment to determine overall satisfaction: reservations; check-in/check-out; guest room; food and beverage; hotel services; hotel facilities; and costs and fees. ‘As the industry continues to recover and rates increase, hoteliers need to get back to the fundamentals and improve the overall guest experience,’ said Stuart Greif, vice president and general manager of the global travel and hospitality practice at J.D. Power and Associates. ‘Charging guests more and providing less is not a winning combination from a guest satisfaction perspective, much less a winning business strategy.  In short, hoteliers are falling further behind and need to catch up.’ The Staff Opinion Model, a new portion of the 2012 study, examines guest satisfaction with hotel staff by staff type across the guest experience. Overall, 56 percent of hotel guests have a high opinion of staff; 34 percent have an average opinion; and 10 percent have a low opinion of staff. Satisfaction is significantly higher among guests with a high opinion of hotel staff (average of 841 index points), compared with those with an average (673) or low (570) opinion of staff.  ‘Advocacy and loyalty rates are also much higher among guests with a high opinion of the hotel staff. These guests are also more likely to use various hotel services, such as eating at a hotel restaurant,’ said Jessica McGregor, senior manager of the global travel and hospitality practice at J.D. Power and Associates. ‘A friendly, service-oriented staff helps drive top- and bottom-line financial performance, not just satisfaction, by also generating greater repeat business and positive word of mouth.’ 

More than one-half of guests use the Internet during their hotel stay, and charges for access can drag down satisfaction.  The study finds that 55 percent of hotel guests use the Internet during their hotel stay – an increase from 20 percent in 2006 – and 87 percent use Wi-Fi to connect. Among those that use the Internet, only 11 percent are charged an additional fee to connect. Yet those that were charged a fee have an average costs and fees satisfaction score of 688, 76 index points lower than those that were not charged a fee or the fee was part of the room rate.

Complimentary Internet access is more likely included at mid-scale limited service, mid-scale full service, upscale, and economy/budget hotels.   ‘Guests enjoy Wi-Fi for free in many places outside of their hotel experience, such as in coffee shops, restaurants and other locations, setting expectations against which hotels are compared,’ said McGregor. ‘When guests learn they have to pay for Internet or when connection speeds are slow at a hotel, they are much more dissatisfied than they were in the past.’

The study also examines how guests book their hotel stay. Guests who book through an online travel agency tend to be more price sensitive; have lower levels of satisfaction with their stay; are less loyal to hotel brands; and tend to report more problems, compared with guests who book through the hotel Web site or call the hotel or hotel brand directly. Satisfaction among guests who book through the hotel brand Web site or call directly averages 774 and 768, respectively, compared with guests who book through an independent Web site or OTA, 729.

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