Hotel guests happier, but more demanding, than ever – study

Almost universally, hotels in North America are making their customers happier than ever, but there are still areas for improvement, according to the recently released J.D. Power 2018 North America Guest Satisfaction Index.

Driven by increased approval of guest rooms and hotel facilities, overall satisfaction for the industry increased eight points, to 825 on a 1,000-point scale. Now in its 22 nd year, the study looks at hotels at six different price ranges, from luxury to economy, plus two extended-stay categories.

“Hotels in all price ranges have exceled at ensuring their customers have a top-notch experience,” Jennifer Corwin, Associate Practice Lead for the Global Travel and Hospitality Practice at J.D. Power, said. “Years of capital investment in offerings such as higher-end televisions and in-room tablets have left their mark. Now, as hotels look to push customer satisfaction levels higher, their focus should turn to service areas, particularly when it comes to direct booking.”

Last year’s study found that incorporating mobile apps and functionality into a hotel stay was associated with higher guest satisfaction. Integrating this technology also makes guests more willing to share their positive hotel experiences on social media.

This year’s study found that service areas continued to improve, but at a slower rate than overall satisfaction. In consideration of economic cycles, hotels should emphasize refining their service effort which represents greater opportunity for improvement and requires less investment than capital improvements, Corwin noted.

The study analyzed guest responses to more than 150 questions regarding their overall experiences and includes 70 officially ranked brands in the eight market segments. This year’s study was based on responses from approximately 55,000 hotel guests who stayed at a hotel between May 2017 and May 2018 and examines seven key factors to determine overall satisfaction: reservation; check-in/check-out; guest room; food & beverage; hotel services; hotel facilities; and cost & fees.

Study Rankings

These hotel brands ranked highest in guest satisfaction in their respective segments:
  • Luxury: The Ritz-Carlton (for fourth consecutive year)
  • Upper Upscale: Kimpton Hotels
  • Upscale: Hilton Garden Inn (for third consecutive year)
  • Upper Midscale: Drury Hotels (for 13th consecutive year)
  • Midscale: Wingate by Wyndham (for fourth consecutive year)
  • Economy: Microtel Inn & Suites by Wyndham
  • Upper Extended Stay: Staybridge Suites (for second consecutive year)
  • Extended Stay: Home2 Suites by Hilton
Ritz-Carlton Boston

Some key findings of the 2018 study included:
  • Up, up and up: Compared with 2017 results, the greatest improvement in overall satisfaction occurs in the upper midscale segment (+12 points on a 1,000-point scale). A seven-point increase is posted in the luxury, upper upscale, upscale and midscale segments, while a six-point improvement is found in the upper extended stay, extended stay and economy segments.
  • Flying high: The Ritz-Carlton scores 902, up 14 points from last year and the highest ever for a brand in the study. The Ritz-Carlton is at the top in five of the seven factors in the luxury segment. Similarly, Drury Hotels scores 895, also up 15 points from last year and the third-highest score of any brand. Drury Hotels ranks highest in the upper midscale segment across all seven factors. Both brands have high levels of consumer loyalty and advocacy, with 70 percent of guests stating they “definitely will” recommend the brand to someone else and more than half of guests saying they “definitely will” stay at that hotel chain again.
  • Technology offerings are important: Technology is becoming more pervasive in the guest experience, specifically in guest rooms. Adding capabilities has a clear association with higher guest satisfaction, but this plateaus as offerings become standard. Consider that 77 percent of guests surveyed say a large flat-panel television was available in their rooms, but only 10 percent have a tablet for in-room information. The former is worth a 12-point lift, while the latter is worth a much larger 47-point increase. Mobile app adoption generates a 58-point increase in 2018, compared with a 65-point increase in 2017.

    In addition, as noted in previous surveys, items that were once considered added amenities have now become expected.
  • Service satisfaction increases at a lesser rate: While on the rise, hotel services satisfaction continues to be outpaced by the growth in product satisfaction. Guest room and hotel facilities satisfaction, which are primarily product-focused, are increasing at a greater rate than any other factor (13 and 11 points, respectively). The factor areas with the highest level of staff touch points (check-in/check-out and food & beverage) have improved the least (five and seven points, respectively), which coincides with a smaller improvement in cost & fees (five points).
  • Think local, act local: Providing authentic local experiences has increasingly become an important focus of the hotel industry as a means of providing a unique, destination-specific feel to a hotel room. While providing an authentic local experience in food and beverage is essential, more guests experience the guest room décor and hotel facilities. Focusing on delivering a location-specific feel can cause a greater lift to overall satisfaction.
The entire study can be found here.

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