Hotels Failing on Guest Satisfaction

Guest satisfaction is a concept that, on the surface, appears relatively simple and uncomplicated.

Guest satisfaction, after all, is achieved when the guest is satisfied. Simple, easy, done and dusted! Well, not really.  

It becomes complicated when you start to consider what makes a guest satisfied. This may have different connotations depending on which side of the fence you are on, hotelier or guest. This article will focus on what I believe, are the seven essential elements of guest satisfaction and on how, in general, hoteliers in Australia, are failing on an epic scale (#epicfail), to attain true guest satisfaction.

My seven essential elements of guest satisfaction are: brand promise, communication, customer service, services, cleanliness, the physical (rooms, facilities, amenities, gardens etc) and value for money. When hoteliers fail to attain all seven elements, I believe, they fail guest satisfaction.

Each of the seven elements of guest satisfaction, have at their core, a pass or fail reality. A scorecard if you like, of our nations hotel accommodation guest satisfaction success or failure. Each question, if answered honestly and without bias, currently has but only one undeniable truth. ✘ FAIL!

Brand promise ✘ FAIL!

Is the brand promise accurate and truthful, or is it false and broken?

Like all hotel guests, I am promised so much when staying in hotels. A small sample of the promises include: “highest quality,” “quality and excellence,” “great experience-every time,” “consistent, dependable and genuinely caring experiences,” “award winning service,” and even, “the highest level of service.”

Without exception, none of these promises have ever been kept consistently throughout my stays. All of my hotel stays, in Australia, have fallen some distance short of the brand promise. The truth is that, in general, our hotels over promise and under deliver. There is a failure to, “walk the talk”. I have yet to find a hotel in Australia that always lives up to its core brand promise.

Communications ✘ FAIL!

Is communication prompt, efficient, informative and easy or is it a source of anger and frustration for the guest?

Unfortunately, there are multiple failures to contend with here. Telephone calls that go unanswered or calls that are answered, usually by a machine, that informs you your call is important, but then keeps you on hold for a good part of your life. When you finally do get to speak with an actual person, they’re more than likely located in an overseas call centre and difficult to understand, due to their rapid and heavily accented speech.

Then there’s the requested email reservation confirmation that never arrives in your inbox or, if you’re lucky enough to receive it, contains so many errors or omissions, you have to contact the hotel a second or multiple times, to get it sorted?

One of the most annoying communications failures for me, is when you’re in your room and you call reception or guest services or whatever the hotel calls their service centre, and the phone rings fifty times or more, without being answered! That’s service?

Customer service ✘ FAIL!

Is it excellent? Is it personal? Is it error free or is it a comedy of errors?

Excellent, personal and error free? I’m afraid not. I wish it was but wishing doesn’t make it so. It can be achieved but I’m convinced that our hotels are only paying lip service to customer service.

There are many experiences that have lead me to this conclusion. Routine examples include: Staying in hotels and rarely being addressed by name. Hotel associates (industry jargon for staff) on check in failing to welcome me to, or back to, the hotel, or thank me for choosing to stay. Hotel staff failing to use greetings such as: “good morning,” or “good afternoon,” or even a basic, “hello,” or “hi.” Instead, they prefer, “next,” or “yes,” or the ubiquitous, “can I help you?” – Of course you can help me! Another, is the absence of manners when staff fail to use polite language such as; “thank you,” or “you’re welcome,” or “my pleasure,” or “may I?” Instead, they use terms such as: “yeah,” or “yep,” or “no problem,” or “no worries.” Is this the language of hospitality? Not in my book!

What about friendly service with a smile? Not likely. Most of the time you are made to feel that you are an imposition, a problem to be dealt with, and with an attitude of, how dare you bother me. You walk away from the encounter, with the feeling that they had definitely gotten out of the wrong side of the bed that day, and oh, they must have just forgotten to smile as well. As for a memorable parting statement such as: “have a great day,” or “enjoy your stay,” forget it. This is just too much to expect.

Services ✘ FAIL!

Are services such as: porterage, room service, concierge and valet provided, and are they available and reliable or are they missing in action?

The key to this question’s answer is whether the services that are supposed to be available, are available and reliable. My experience is that this is not always the case. For example, there are the hotels who claim to have a concierge, when they don’t. You know the drill, you look for the concierge desk or a sign that says concierge but there isn’t one. You ask at reception for the concierge and are told that the front desk handles all concierge enquiries. Is that so? I thought that a concierge was a highly trained, qualified and experienced specialist. I didn’t realise that anyone serving at the front desk could do the job. I guess they just need to be breathing and have Internet access!

Another example is when you arrive at a hotel and check in. When no one asks if you need help with your luggage, you ask for a porter, only to be told that none are available as they are all out parking cars or attending to other guests. You’re told that you can leave your luggage at the desk and someone will bring it to your room. You reluctantly agree but with that nagging feeling of, will it be safe? You then spend the next hour in your room waiting for your luggage. Only after several calls to reception does the luggage finally arrive only, it’s not your luggage!

Not to mention room service orders that aren’t correct or delivered late, or being given the keys to the wrong car that was brought up from valet parking (lucky I’m not a car thief). Okay, I did mention it. My point is that hotel services (not to be confused with hotel customer service, as they are two different things), gets a fail from me too.

Cleanliness ✘ FAIL!

Is the hotel clean and I mean meticulous or does it fail any of my cleanliness tests?

During my stay, I thoroughly check a hotel’s public places for any noticeable dirt and dust, rubbish or litter. On arriving in the room I inspect everything from the bed and bedding to the cups and glasses.

The tests that I refer to above, are used to determine how well housekeeping clean a room. They are small but noticeable and are set out in the room and bathroom. For example; some spilt coffee or sugar at the tea and coffee making area or some toothpaste on the bathroom vanity. You get the idea, nothing out of the ordinary. After the room is serviced, a check of the tests determines if they’ve passed (the mess has been completely cleaned up) or failed (it is still there or partly there). The tests cover: carpets, floors, walls and windows, of both the room and bathroom, bench and table surfaces, tea and coffee making areas, furniture, vanity and basin, mirrors, bath, shower and toilet.

Generally, a hotel fails in some area and more often than not, it is in the room, during my initial inspection or by housekeeping, when servicing the room and bathroom. It could be a hair in the bath or a mystery white powder on the vanity (I hope that’s talcum powder), or it could be mould on the tile grout or stains on the towels or bedsheets, and that’s just some of the more pleasant ones.

I hate to say it but our hotels, in my experience, often fail my fifth element of guest satisfaction, cleanliness.

The physical ✘ FAIL but improving.

Do they meet with approval and are they available? Are they visually appealing, undamaged and well maintained, or are they crying out for some TLC, or well passed their use by date and in desperate need of refurbishment?

Significant effort and investment has gone into hotel renovations and refurbishments over the last few years with design, modernisation and new technology. These hotels are to be praised for bringing their establishments into the 21st century. For some hotels, the process is yet to begin.

One area that hotels are still failing guests on is not telling them upfront, that renovations or refurbishments are taking place at the hotel. One of the easiest ways to dissatisfy a guest is for them to discover, after they have arrived, that the pool, or the gym, or the restaurant is closed, due to renovation or refurbishment. Why wasn’t I told?

Another frustrating problem for guests is when things don’t work properly, such as the air conditioning, television, lights and blinds, because they’re in need of repair. Lack of maintenance is an issue that does affect guest satisfaction.

Value for money ✘ FAIL!

Is the room price and any additional fees and charges, reasonable and commensurate with the overall product provided, or are they exorbitant and unreasonable to the point of inflicting physical pain, to either the hip pocket or designer handbag?

Price and more specifically, price gouging, has a very significant affect on guest satisfaction. Guests know when what they are being charged aligns with their expectation of value (what they judge it’s worth) and when they are overcharged (above what they judge it’s worth). A hotel charging seven dollars for a small bottle of water, in room, would be judged by most guests as excessive price gouging, as would a hotel charging a dollar for a local telephone call, or sixty dollars for breakfast or parking.

Charging anything for Internet access (cable or wifi) is regarded, by most guests today, as overcharging. Guests are choosing their hotels based on whether free Internet is available. They believe that it should be free, like the air we breathe. I believe, that it makes no business sense for hotels to continue to charge an additional separate fee for Internet access. Hotels must adapt with the times!

When it comes to room price, I believe, that our hoteliers quite often get it right and charge a price that is within the guests value for money range. However, where they do come unstuck and fail guest satisfaction, is when they gouge on all of the additional fees and charges and insist on adding them to the bill. Talk about lobby robbery!

So, in conclusion, my assessment of Australia’s hotel accommodation is that it fails all seven of my essential elements of guest satisfaction. The industry needs to take a long, cold, hard and objective look at itself, and accept that it must do more, much more, if it is to aspire to attain true guest satisfaction and give its customers what they desire and deserve.

Guest expectations are rising and the industry’s standards must rise accordingly. The world is its competitor and guests are watching and assessing. Australia’s hotel accommodation product should be, needs to be, excellent. Many of our hoteliers and hotel brands think they already are. They’re wrong. Unfortunately, they still have a long way to go.

The Appraiser – undercover secret agent for Praise hotel evaluations is obsessed with improving the standard of hotel accommodation in Australia. A veteran of over 1000 hotel stays and 13,000 tweets, his or her identity has been concealed to protect the innocent. No hotelier has been hurt or injured in the writing of this article.{jacomment on}

Related Articles

0 0 votes
Article Rating
Notify of
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
Back to top button
WP Tumblr Auto Publish Powered By :
Would love your thoughts, please comment.x