Let’s imagine this scenario. You’re an avid business traveler and find yourself setting flight for a conference in Houston. You’ve been to the city before, but never stayed at the hotel you’ve booked for this trip. Following the confirmation of your stay, you receive a pre-arrival survey. Upon check-in, you are delighted to arrive at a room stocked with your snack of choice, a photo of your dog on the nightstand, and a mobile voucher for 20% off a spa treatment on-property along with a curated list of local Italian eateries— your favorite cuisine. While the nature of the trip is business, you know the hotel has already gone above and beyond to ensure you enjoy your stay… and find time for some pleasure, too. In fact, you might be thrilled with just one or two of these small personalized gestures – all of which the hotel easily gleaned from a pre-arrival survey.

In the era of personalization, pre-stay interactions such as the one described above should be an industry norm, if not the residing standard. If guest service is king, shouldn’t hoteliers seek out any opportunity to gather and act upon guest data?

The Untapped Potential of the Pre-Stay Survey

It’s not a surprise that each guest is unique. Fortunately, modern technology not only grants hoteliers access to a wealth of guest data that can be curated into actionable suggestions, but it also creates more touchpoints with each guest. After all, a survey may take place pre-stay, but the data offers opportunities to delight the guest before, during, and even after their experience with you.

A pre-stay survey is a highly valuable, but often underestimated tool in the hotelier’s arsenal. Equipped with direct feedback from guests before they arrive on property, hoteliers are well-positioned to deliver a positive guest experience. As an added benefit, surveys can also be used to promote on-property amenities and destination activities.

This becomes increasingly significant as hotels around the globe are redefining what it means to be guest-centric, with luxury amenities and creative service initiatives at every turn. In the case of business travel, we’re witnessing the rise of especially inventive and value-driven offerings including 24-hour FedEx business centers on-property, round-the-clock room service for corporate travelers burning the midnight oil, gourmet grab-and-go dining options, mobile concierge services, transportation services, and more. With the implementation of pre-arrival surveys, explicitly aimed at the task of personalization, hoteliers can identify which of those amenities and services mean most to each guest.

The Pre-Arrival Communication Breakdown

Lodging providers and travel brands are finally taking a page from the airline industry’s marketing playbook. Airbnb sends reminder emails a week before check-in and encourages direct communication with the host. OTAs like Booking.com have a series of automated communications designed to engage with guests to customize their travels.

However, a typical communications journey for hotels consists of a booking confirmation and post-stay survey, and in some cases, an email or link to check-in online prior to arrival. Ultimately, failing to stay engaged with guests from the moment they confirm their booking to the minute they step foot on property isn’t much different from asking a person out on a date a month in advance, and then ceasing all communication until they arrive at the restaurant.

While it might not be entirely unheard of, in both cases, the relationship would likely benefit from continued, meaningful interaction. Following the initial booking, hotels have an opportunity to establish and cultivate their relationship with that guest on a variety of channels, including email, text, in-app, and on social. Yet, studies show 42% of companies don’t survey their customers or collect feedback. Deloitte’s guest experience analysis reiterated this evolving requirement, stating that, “while hotels are meeting basic lodging needs, today’s consumers want—and expect—much more from each stay. Hoteliers need to turbocharge the guest experience and tune into their needs to drive loyalty and increase repeat business.”

According to a recent report, while hoteliers recognize the importance of maximizing technology to improve the guest experience, many admit they are still struggling to do so. The survey found that 41% of respondents do not offer a choice of check-in methods. Even further, 70% never or only sometimes convert upsells or upgrades at check-in, and 68% think they need to improve their use of technology to enhance the guest experience. The report concluded by the suggestion that hotels start promoting upgrades and upsell opportunities at the point of booking. It’s time for hoteliers to adopt a more data-driven and proactive approach to ensure no personalization opportunity is missed.

The Evolution of the Guest Survey

The guest survey is hardly a new concept; however, it’s evolving. In the past, hotels were somewhat notorious for inundating guests with feedback and satisfaction surveys and emails. As social media platforms conceptualized, they became a more obvious (and convenient) intermediary between hotels and their guests. Rather than answering pages of questions or satisfaction rating systems, guests were able to share their experience with a hotel property directly, via their platform. Review sites also gained popularity, as TripAdvisor and Yelp became universally trusted hubs for guest-generated feedback and commentary.

The challenge with the traditional approach to surveys is not only the length and frequency but also the generic template and the lack of insights they provide. While guest feedback post-stay is essential, each guest often receives the same, restrictive set of questions or numeric ratings, and the results are often filed away without immediate action.

Many surveys have also been limited to post stay feedback, rather than pre-arrival or during. Hotels have historically missed the boat on gathering guest data at a point where it can truly be actionable. Theoretically, hotels that capture information about a guest pre stay should also be able to tailor the experience to generate a positive post-visit review.

Across industries, those brands which are known for superior customer service, are those who prioritize guest feedback and requests in real-time. Let’s take Uber, for example. Their website states: “Real-time feedback about drivers means Uber can correct for issues big and small – while ensuring that only the best drivers stay on the road. We take this feedback seriously – depending on the circumstances, rider feedback may lead to deactivating a partner from the system or serve as validation that the driver is providing great service.”

In the case of Uber, user feedback ultimately determines who drives and makes money on the platform, and who doesn’t. The user has enhanced autonomy over their experience and trusts that the app will prioritize their needs and expectations by leveraging their input. Feedback collected post ride is brief (a compliment and/or a star rating), whereas many guests today can customize their entire ride experience, from temperature to if they wish to chat, in a simple-to-use pre-ride personalization module.

Shouldn’t hotels do the same? The simple answer is yes, they should. Whether it’s a quick “checking in to see how your stay is going” text from the concierge or manager on duty, a personalized in-room amenity upon arrival or a customized list of suggestions for nearby dining, hotels can—and should—take advantage of readily-available data to make each and every stay special.

Ultimately, the success of a guest feedback process can be attributed to the technology/platform to automate and correlate the data as well as the process a hotel has in place to leverage the information. In the case of pre-arrival surveys, and the scenario described above, guest satisfaction can be attributed not due to the simple provision of the survey, but the action which the hotel took. Just as guest data requires context to be actionable, feedback requires action to be effective.

Do hoteliers have all the necessary tools in place to continue to move the needle in terms of guest satisfaction and experience? Could an overhaul of the standard pre-arrival survey process be the missing piece of the ultimate guest experience puzzle? Ultimately, hotels that are not taking advantage of technologies that automate pre-stay surveys and deliver actionable insights are missing out on the best opportunity to get to know their guests and how to exceed their expectations.

About the Author

The capability to understand today’s hotel guest is a priority for Concilio Labs. Terri Miller and her team developed a way to leverage hotel and public data to help hoteliers provide exceptional relevant experiences to its guests. As CEO of Concilio Labs, Terri is responsible for driving the strategic and tactical growth of the company, while ensuring innovation is at the forefront when delivering solutions hoteliers truly need. Her wealth of experience in business, management, and technology guides all facets of the company’s success. Prior to Concilio Labs, Terri was the Vice President of MICROS eCommerce leading the creative, delivery, and technical departments. With a passion for delivering results, Terri continues to grow Concilio Labs with a focus on becoming the leader in developing and delivering smart hotel products and services. 

About Concilio Labs

Concilio Labs is on a mission to solve key issues in hospitality today—those of guest personalization and hotel loyalty—by developing innovative technology solutions that push boundaries. Concilio’s Insight Engine, a guest intelligence platform, empowers hoteliers with actionable insights to create personalized guest experiences that go far beyond traditional and existing capabilities in other similar tools. Other core service offerings target guest experience, including a tailored mobile app and integrated booking engine solutions for hoteliers looking to take their guest engagement to the next level. The management team has decades of proven experience working with technology leaders, including MICROS, giving them credibility and a deep understanding of the hospitality industry and its growing needs. Concilio Labs is a rapidly growing brand with offices in the Washington, DC area and Ukraine. To learn more, visit conciliolabs.com.

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