Since the pandemic first began disrupting the hospitality industry in early 2020, hoteliers have been scrambling to implement policies and protocols to give travelers the confidence to book and make them feel safe on property.
But how far should hotels go to reassure travelers? And what exactly do guests expect? With no precedents to draw from, many hoteliers rely on intuition and guesswork to guide strategies. In the age of data, however, such an approach is antiquated and unnecessarily risky. Today, the best decisions are grounded in guest intelligence.
When in Doubt, Ask Your Guests
In mid-2020, São Paolo-based Blue Tree Hotels faced a similar quandary. After having shut down most of its 23 properties across Brazil during the first coronavirus wave, the company was preparing to reopen them.
“We were concerned about how guests would perceive the reopening of our hotels regarding the health and safety measures needed to combat Covid-19,” said Melissa Rasêra, Operations and Franchise Manager.
Since being founded in 1997, Blue Tree Hotels has become one of the leading hotel groups in Brazil known for its quality products, elegance and service excellence. A ReviewPro client since 2016, the company uses ReviewPro’s Online Reputation Management (ORM) and Guest Satisfaction Surveys (GSS) solutions to collect, analyze and act on guest feedback.
“So it felt natural to ask our guests about their concerns,” Rasêra said. However, she knew that adding one or two Covid-related questions to post-stay surveys wouldn’t provide the deep insights they needed, especially with very few reviews and surveys coming in. So they decided to send out a special one-time survey.
The Case for One-off Surveys
For many years, hotels around the world have been sending post-stay surveys to collect feedback from guests after their stay and use it to guide improvements. More recently, an increasing number of hotels have also been using in-stay surveys to identify and resolve issues while guests are still in-house.
Today, a third type of survey is rapidly gaining in popularity. Special one-off surveys allow hotels to dig deeper into guest sentiment on a specific topic such as plans for a renovation, changes to services or new product offerings. By including guests in the planning process, hotels help ensure that new initiatives will be well received and avoid making poor decisions and bad investments.
One-time surveys have particular relevance in the pandemic era, when traveler sentiment and behaviour is changing rapidly. Hotels can design one broad survey to reach a large swath of guests or a series of customized surveys to target segments of guests such as loyalty members, domestic travelers or recent cancellations.
Designing a Special Survey
In consultation with ReviewPro’s account manager, Rasêra and her team opted to design a customized Covid-19 survey and send it to all guests who had stayed at one or more of their properties in the previous year.
In addition to basic questions about demographics and travel behavior, the survey asked respondents to indicate “five essential measures for your peace of mind during your stay.” A drop-down list included temperature checks at the hotel entrance, social distancing, suspension of housekeeping services, and closures of the pool, hot tub and fitness facilities, among other options.
In another question, guests were asked, “What is the most important measure for you to feel comfortable when interacting with our employees?” Guests could choose from a drop-down list that included social distancing, masks, gloves and sanitizer. Other questions asked about preferences related to breakfast service, room service and the minibar.
To ensure that responses were as insightful as possible, the survey included a variety of answer formats, including multiple choice, open-ended and Likert Scale (for example, from “strongly agree” to “strongly disagree”). For some questions, respondents had the option of writing in their own answer if it wasn’t listed.
To maximize completion rates, the number of questions was kept relatively low. Select questions employed ReviewPro’s Question Logic feature, displaying follow-up questions only when a certain answer was given. This helped the company probe into important topics while ensuring that questions were relevant to each respondent.
A Wealth of Data
Rasêra and her team set specific goals for the survey, and the results went far beyond expectations. Some of the highlights include:
Responses Received: 3,399 (vs. goal of 1500)
Conversion Rate: 4.54% (vs. goal of 1.5%)
Net Promoter Score: 69.79 (vs. goal of 60)
Management Responses: 100% (vs. goal of 100%)
“We expected a conversion rate of about 1.5%,” Rasêra said. “To our surprise, we received more than three times that amount.” This provided a wealth of invaluable insights for moving forward with safety protocols and operational decisions.
The Importance of Trust
Rasêra believes that the strong response is a reflection of the level of trust guests have toward her company. “We received numerous answers saying how important this kind of survey is and that it boosted their trust in us,” she said. She was also surprised by how little the respondents knew about safety measures and how much they did not want things to change.
These days, building trust with travelers is a top priority for hotels. At Blue Tree Hotels, it’s one of the company’s core values. So it was especially encouraging to receive an overall rating of 4.6 out of 5.0 in answer to the question, “Do you trust that Blue Tree Hotels is committed to providing you with a healthier and safer experience?”
Reaping the Benefits
The survey results were compiled into a PowerPoint presentation and shared with key staff members. For each question, screenshots from ReviewPro’s GSS dashboard showed the group’s overall results and results by property and region.
According to Rasêra, the company has enjoyed numerous benefits from the survey, including:
- More confidence and commitment to move forward through the pandemic
- A more assertive approach to company safety protocols
- Improved communication online and onsite
- Flexible policies for food & beverage based on survey results
- A partnership with a third-party safety audit company, Bureau Veritas
Another positive outcome was related to a facial recognition check-in system the company has been piloting. “We launched this project before the pandemic, in September 2019, but it was not very well publicized to our guests,” Rasêra said. The survey asked guests if they had used the system and, if not, if they would be willing to use it. The results helped reinforce the relevance of the technology to “touchless travel” and also helped spread the word about it. “Now we are recognized by this innovation and we are already implementing online payments,” she said.
Drawing from the data, the company finalized its Covid-19 safety protocols and prepared for reopening. At the time of the survey, 21 out of the company’s 23 hotels were closed. By December, 22 were reopened and operational.
The special survey was so successful that Blue Tree Hotels plans to send out another one soon to find out how guest expectations may have changed. Asked if she would do anything differently next time, Rasêra said, “I would be more specific about certain topics and would change some of the answer options. But overall, I am satisfied with the survey and the feedback we received.”
She added, “Since then, we have been publicly recognized for our safety protocols by guests, companies, travel agencies, and so on. Guests who stay with us constantly say that our properties are way more prepared than our competitors.”
And that’s just one example of how guest intelligence can help ensure that guests form an integral part of successful planning and decision-making for hotels.
Find out more about ReviewPro’s Guest Satisfaction Surveys solution: