Q&A with YHA New Zealand: The importance of delivering better guest experiences for hostels

We recently partnered with Hostelling International to help hostels worldwide deliver better guest experiences. One of their members, YHA New Zealand, has been a client of ReviewPro since September 2015. The largest backpacker chain in New Zealand has been in operation since 1932 and now boasts 14 modern YHA-managed hostels and 29 Franchise and associate partners. YHA offers high quality hostel accommodation targeting youth travellers from around the globe. Annual guest nights reach 700,000 with an equal share of backpackers from Germany, China, USA, Australia UK and Europe.

We spoke with Brian Westwood, Manager Sales and Marketing from YHA to understand the importance of managing Guest Intelligence to improve overall satisfaction for hostels and how it can positively impact results.

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1. What were the challenges facing your organisation? How were you managing your online reputation before ReviewPro?

The proliferation of reviews affects all tourism businesses and YHA is no different. YHA was not managing its public reputation via review sites other than occasional handling of particularly bad reviews. We know value perception and maximising yield are inextricably linked so we needed something that would help us manage our reputation much more effectively.

The problem with reviews is that they are everywhere and we run a lean management structure so don’t have the resources to monitor and manage every site, every day. Timeliness is also critical with these reviews. Every day a review remains unanswered is a day where prospective customers think we don’t care.


2. Guests of luxury hotels obviously have very high expectations and so it is easy to imagine why online reputation is important for luxury hotels. Why do you think improving guest satisfaction and online reputation is important for hostels too?

Having a great reputation is not the exclusive domain of luxury products. Every product no matter where it sits on the value chain must be able to maintain and manage its reputation in order to maximise its yield within the boundaries of its own segment. Hostels are no different and customers demand good quality at the hostel level as much as they do at the luxury end. It’s all relative.

Value Transparency is a new term that is gaining ground which is the evolution of reviews from being an add on to some sites to being absolutely everywhere. Accommodation in particular is a high profile target for reviews. In the past price was the main influence on demand generation. Now because it is so easy to determine the likely experience and quality of a style of accommodation, value perception is a key driver of demand. The more this can be improved the more acceptable higher prices are and ReviewPro is the ideal tool to assist with this.

3. Please explain briefly what the process was to select ReviewPro ?

ReviewPro approached YHA as they were expanding their Australasian presence. We assessed the software, discussed it with HI USA and the proposition was sound and affordable. It was pretty easy really.

4. What were the goals/objectives of this new partnership?

The primary objective for us was improving our Manager’s engagement with review sites, a better understanding of what our customers were saying about us and what they were saying about our competitors. Also how we can improve our response rates with review sites as well with the minimal amount of impact on management time.

5. How is ReviewPro used within your organisation?

ReviewPro has been used to identify key friction points that our customers are experiencing and this has had a direct impact on investment decisions and timelines. This has helped improve product delivery and ultimately better reviews. It has also been used to demonstrate the dramatic positive results from more comprehensive hostel refurbishments. This is an important reinforcement of confidence for staff, management and Board members alike.

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What has been most interesting is the positive impact this has had on staff service levels. Timely, focused and specific complaints can be dealt with immediately with relevant staff which helps them gain a better perspective on how their behaviour impacts customer experience. This is much more effective than abstract managerial concepts about good service techniques.
Staff also like to see their reviews improve and in some locations it is the staff who monitor results more closely than managers and celebrate improved results.

Competitive benchmarking is an absolute critical part of what we do with ReviewPro. Ultimately it helps motivate staff, tells us how we stack up against competitors and helps us position our pricing relative to our value perception in the market.

6. What results / improvements have you seen since implementing ReviewPro?

We have seen higher placement on TripAdvisor, more focused staff understanding on the importance of customer service, clarity of understanding among senior staff around development priorities and being a more customer centric organisation as a whole. we weren’t bad to start with but this has added a level of sophistication and focus we did not have before.

7. What are your aims with the product for the next 12 months?

For me it’s getting to know the system better. There is so much to it I think we are only scratching the surface of its potential.

I also want to do deeper competitive analysis so I can identify more areas of competitive advantage or weakness we may have, not just within our own market but also looking at customer expectations in properties in our source markets. Knowing what their expectations are at home or during their global travels, helps us stay current on an international scale.

To view our full case study on YHA Zealand, click here.

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