Improving the travel brand experience with guest surveys

For companies operating in service-oriented industries, surveys can provide the means to better understand traveller needs, help improve service levels and gain insight into how to refine the guest experience. The usefulness of the data collected is usually determined by two factors: how seriously the survey’s results are taken within the organization, and how committed the company is to addressing points of failure uncovered by these results.

While there are countless tools to administer and analyze survey feedback, broadly speaking, most surveys tend to fall into one of three categories: those that measure Customer Loyalty, evaluate Customer Satisfaction or those used to create Customer Engagement:

Net Promoter Score (NPS)
Billed as ‘a system that increases loyalty and expands revenue’ by it’s founder Fred Reichheld of the Bain & Co management consultancy, the Net Promoter Score aims to measure the likelihood of customers to recommend a company, product or service to a friend or colleague. It achieves this by asking survey respondents a simple question: ‘How likely are you to recommend us to your friends, family or business associates?’ Using a scale of 0 to 10, scores are evaluated by taking the percentage of Promoters (those scoring 9 or 10) and comparing those to the percentage of Detractors (those scoring between 0-6) to determine an overall NPS.

For the travel industry, NPS can vary wildly according to the specialism, size of company or services offered. For example, according to 2015 results published by Satmetrix, airline industry newbie Jet Blue reported a NPS score in the upper 50’s, compared with more established players like Delta coming in with a dismal NPS of 8. In the battle of the OTA’s, Tripadvisor outpaced the competition with an NPS of 44, in comparison to Hotels.com, who could only muster a lackluster score of 14.

Customer Satisfaction Index (CSI)
I tend to class NPS as more of a vanity metric championed by Marketing departments and executive management teams. On the other hand, when taken seriously, CSI can provide real intelligence into how well a company or business unit is performing against operational targets.

There are no hard or fast rules to determine the type or length of CSI surveys, while the average ‘corridor of satisfaction’ on the CSI spectrum tends to score between 7-8 on a 10-point measurement scale.  However unlike NPS, a CSI survey can offer a more qualitative perspective on guest satisfaction, as it often delves deeper into specifics of the guest experience.

For example, including survey questions relating to perceived value for money may uncover guest sentiment towards your existing pricing policy. This is especially critical when operating in highly competitive industries like hospitality, as it has a significant impact on a customer’s loyalty. Scores summarizing the depth of knowledge or the efficiency of a front desk clerk or travel consultant could be an indication of training gaps needing to be addressed. Whereas a regular restaurant guest expressing lower scores for the consistency aspect of their experience, could be flagging operational shortcomings relating to service or food & beverage quality.

Customer Engagement Surveys
With the constant pace and immediacy of social networks, there are no shortages of channels to engage with customers for instant feedback. What becomes important is how to organize the feedback into actionable insights so they’re meaningful once distributed between departments.

Increasingly, smart travel brands are getting savvier about dividing the customer journey to target more efficiently. The aim is to use these distinctive stages to not only serve-up relevant content bites in an effort to keep customers engaged, but also to collect advisory feedback to help shape promotions, product features or purchase incentives. Examples of these include communications targeting:

The Planning & Booking stage: profiling target audiences and running spot-polls to understand what prospects covet, to build the right products and promotions for directing buyers down a purchase path.

The Pre-departure stage: involving the guest to build anticipation ahead of an experience, enquiring about any travel preferences and ancillary services they may be interested to purchase as an add-on once onsite.

The In-experience stage: making the most out of loyalty programs or apps to help staff personalize their interactions, serving relevant and timely offers that can enhance the experience as it unfolds.

The Post-experience stage: engaging via post-event surveys, doing meaningful follow-up and generally acknowledging their custom through interacting with any social media content.

The Repeat purchase stage: analyzing how they’ve interacted with the materials throughout the above touch points/stages, understand motivations and target with loyalty offers reflecting these preferences.

Guest surveys should be built into the overall fabric of your marketing communication strategies. Deciding which approach to take comes down to commitment and whether you have access to the right kind of internal resources. Those travel brands equipped to ingest, collate, analyze and interpret the data collected, will be best positioned to use these insights to enhance the travel experience, understand how operational deficiencies can be overcome and ultimately, increase guest satisfaction.

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