On Friday, April 18, 2014, Coyle had the privilege of being an invited panelist at the University of Houston Conrad N. Hilton College’s annual Graduate Student Association Research Colloquium (GSARC).
Along with industry leaders, I provided feedback to two groups of graduate students who presented their findings and recommendations of using online reviews and guest satisfaction surveys (GSS) to inform on-property operational changes at two Houston area hotels.
Students of Dr. Carl Boger’s class culled online reviews and survey responses to identify and weight critical opportunities for improvement. The presentations offered several insights into effectively categorizing review attributes, assigning levels of satisfaction to them and assessing the impact of key touch points from the guest’s perspective.
Making the leap from guest-reported feedback to on-property change is a relatively new tactic for operators. The presentations showed how important it is to keep in mind that online reviews often represent only a small sample of total hotel guests and those that post online many times fall on one end of the satisfaction spectrum or the other. Issues like survey bias and under-represented sample are also a real concern when considering the data, as is understanding that some of the data is fictitious.
What became evident is that as hoteliers continue to using social medial and online reviews to inform how they allocate training and capital resources, it is advised that they validate these findings with quality assurance or mystery shopping programs. This step is crucial in first diagnosing the significance and meaning of unstructured social media and reviews, and then putting a credible action plan into place. Then, hotels can target training and spend resources in the most effective and efficient way, instead of simply reacting anytime someone posts a negative (or positive) comment.
Houston travel tip: I was blown away by the College’s Hospitality Hall of Honor. This collection of industry memorabilia and history is a hospitality hall of fame. I urge all industry people to visit it next time you are in Houston. The exhibit is open to the public.