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Guest Satisfaction vs Revenue: Things to Think About

A recent post from Daniel Edward Craig on the 4 Hoteliers site (and re-posted in other places) has caused me to reflect a bit on the "business is business" side of things, as compared to the warmer, fuzzier, guest satisfaction side. The article from Daniel Craig was based on a question he had received, asking if your hotel ranks at the top on TripAdvisor, are you not charging enough? Daniel surveyed a number of lodging professionals (hoteliers and consultants), and received a variety of answers. He concludes that there is no consensus, but clearly the benefits outweigh any costs. From reading the article, it appears that by his conclusion, Daniel is saying, in essence, that being at the top on TripAdvisor is worth more than could be gained by a price increase which could cause a drop in TripAdvisor rank. A bit of context The question of raising rates, at the possible expense of TripAdvisor ranking, is essentially analogous to the concept of revenue management. That is, the approach used by airlines, many larger hotels, and sometimes other businesses, to use a fluctuating rate scale, rather than posted rates. Thus, when there is lots of available inventory, prices are relatively low. As inventory shrinks (fewer available rooms), rates increase. Other factors, such as holidays, may also play into the rate ultimately charged. Using that analogy, then, the theory behind the question would be that there is a "sweet spot" where rates are increased until the TripAdvisor position slips down, just below the top group of properties. If this theory were viable, a property would be maximizing its revenue by charging more than its competitors, while not losing enough occupancy to reduce overall revenue. The profits would be gained by (a) increased room rates, and (b) reduced costs due to slightly…

Getting the ‘Word of Mouth’ Recommendation

Closing the circle in this series on the process guests use to book lodging properties is what WIHP Hotel Marketing calls the Second Moment of Truth - the arrival of the guest at your property. We have already discussed the four-step booking decision process, how the guest becomes aware of your property (the Discovery or Stimulus step), how guests make the decision to visit your website (the Zero Moment of Truth), and the process of deciding to book with your property (the First Moment of Truth). In this article we consider the guest at your property (and beyond). [caption id="attachment_408" align="alignright" width="200" caption="Ready to share?"][/caption]Just as the process begins with the discovery of a property to be considered, by using "word of mouth" -- review sites, social media, or recommendations from "real" friends and family, the guest will become the recommender. Their reaction at your property (the Second Moment of Truth) will determine whether they recommend your property positively or negatively (or at all). How do you get word of mouth recommendations that will bring more guests? If review sites and social sharing are the sources of discovery, then we definitely want our guests to have a positive experience, and to share that experience. How do we go about doing that? 1. The Positive Experience People usually have a good experience when it meets or exceeds their expectations. Conversely, when the experience falls short of their expectations, it isn't usually a good experience. How are expectations set for prospective guests? Proceeding through the booking process we've been discussing, some expectation is created by the initial recommendations or reviews. These are refined further by the visit to your website and booking process. The Second Moment of Truth is when the guest arrives at your property and learns whether or not those…

Conversions – Getting Your Website to Do Its Job

This is the fourth article in a series examining how B&B guests proceed through the decision process for booking a stay. Based largely on research from WIHP Hotel Marketing, the first article describes the four-step process for booking, the second describes how a guest discovers your property, and the third examines how to provide information to get the guest to your website. This article discusses how to get the conversion - to capture the booking - once the guest has come to your site. What is the purpose of your website? Have you ever given that some thought? Is it to (a) show off your beautiful property, (b) get people to call you for more information, (c) get people to call to book, (d) get people to book online, or (e) other? For most lodging properties, we would venture to say that the primary purpose is to get people to book online, and, secondarily, to call to book. Is it doing those things well? The Guest Arrives at Your Website Our guest has decided where they want to go for their getaway, they have discovered your property (and, probably, up to 10 others), they have done some initial research and learned a little about your property, and have now arrived at your website. WIHP calls this the First Moment of Truth. What happens in the next few seconds will determine whether you get the booking or not. [pullquote]You have between 3-7 seconds to convince the visitor that your property has what they want.[/pullquote]For years analysts have been telling us that you have only seconds (reports we've seen range from less than a second, to about 10 seconds) to convince the visitor to continue with your site. The data for lodging websites from WIHP indicates that you have between 3 and…

How to Provide the Information Guests Want

Our first post in this series provided an overview of how guests find and book a lodging property, based on research from WIHP, a hotel marketing agency. The four step process assumes the future guest has selected a destination area and then proceeds through the steps of (1) discovery of a particular property, (2) seeking information about the property to see if it is a good prospect (the zero moment of truth), (3) the guest on your website (the first moment of truth), and (4) the guest at your property (the second moment of truth). Our second post discussed the process by which a guest "discovers" (or learns of) your property as a possible place to stay. Our topic today, then, is the "Zero Moment of Truth," or the time when the guest has decided on a location to visit, has learned of your property as a possible place to stay, but has not yet seen your website, and wants to find out more about your property. [pullquote]Around 80% of searches for more information are on a search engine. Ignore that at your peril.[/pullquote] The findings from WIHP indicate that nearly three-quarters (72.9%) of all prospective guests will look for your property on a search engine. Another 9.6% will look on a mapping website. Since most (but certainly not all) mapping sites are affiliated with search engines, this amounts to around 80% of all searches for more information going through a search engine. That is a statistic to be ignored at your peril. Another 7.3% seek information from a review site (such as TripAdvisor, Yelp, etc.). After that the numbers fall off radically for travel guides (3%) and social media sites (0.8%). Just a side note - if you're counting on your social media sites (Facebook, Google Plus, etc.) to…

Helping Future Guests Find You

In our previous post we introduced the four step process (identified by WIHP a hotel marketing firm) of a guest finding, and staying at, a lodging property, then feeding the beginning of the cycle again by telling others. In this, and the next few posts, we will break down the components and see how you can more effectively help future guests find you. As a refresher, the four steps are Discovery or stimulus (where the guest learns of a hotel and gets interested) Zero moment of truth (the guest begins to research the hotel) First moment of truth (guest finds the hotel website and begins to determine if this is what they want), and Second moment of truth (guest arrives at the property and is either happy or disappointed - which will sometimes result in that reaction being shared) We're going to focus on the first topic in this article: How does a prospective guest discover your lodging property? The semi-automatic reaction in today's world would be that, of course, a prospective guest learns about your property through a search engine (Google, Bing, Yahoo, or others). That is not what the data indicates. The results of WIHP's inquiries indicate that the guests are most likely to learn about a lodging property from friends or family, an online travel site, or TripAdvisor. Specifically, their statistics indicate that nearly one-third of people who learn about a property discover it from friends or family (32.7%), followed by roughly a quarter who discover it from Online Travel Agents (OTA's - 27.9%) and TripAdvisor (23.1%). Other sources have far smaller influence (see the infographic on WIHP's site). If you think about how you would find lodging for your getaway, this makes a good deal of sense. Most of us, I suspect, would decide first on…

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