While the latest J.D. Power North America Hotel Guest Satisfaction Index (NAGSI) Study (2020) was cut a little short due to COVID-19, the results (released in July) clearly support a focus on hotel cleanliness and proactive guest communications to drive guest satisfaction during the pandemic and beyond.
The annual study measures guest satisfaction with the entire hotel experience (from booking to check-out), and this year analyzes the responses of almost 38,000 recent hotel guests. Now in its 24th year, the study includes approximately 100 hotel brands in six market segments (economy through luxury), and offers important insights to hoteliers about guest expectations and industry trends that can be applied to their own properties to help drive guest satisfaction and loyalty, especially during these challenging times.
In this year’s study, guestroom cleanliness scores reached a record high rating of 8.53 (on a 10-point scale). A key driver of satisfaction, guestroom cleanliness significantly impacts overall satisfaction scores, with the overall satisfaction score averaging 942 (out of 1000) among guests who rate room cleanliness 10/10, compared to an average overall satisfaction score of 829 among guests who rated guestroom cleanliness 8 or 9 out of 10.
The study shows that pre-arrival communication is another important driver of overall guest satisfaction—even prior to the pandemic—with overall satisfaction scores dropping an average of 66 points when no pre-arrival communications are received. Now, with so much caution and confusion surrounding travel, pre-stay communications are more important than ever. Based on separate J.D. Power data collected since the start of the pandemic, communicating safety precautions and sanitization protocols with guests is one of the most important actions hotels can take to reassure travelers right now.
Here’s our take on the practical implications of the study’s results…
Housekeeping has always been a central focus of lodging operations, but COVID-19 has put even more pressure on the housekeeping department. Cleaning procedures are even stricter and more time consuming than before the pandemic, and accountability is much higher. Now, more than ever, it is absolutely critical that housekeeping standards meet high guest expectations.
Visible cleaning and precautionary measures
From wearing face masks to disinfecting surfaces to physical distancing signage, safety measures must be visible to the public eye to reassure guests that the hotel is a clean and safe environment. While housekeeping efforts were largely conducted behind the scenes before, now they will be under the spotlight.
Guests will want to see frequent cleaning of high-touch surfaces such as front desk counters, elevator buttons, door handles, public bathrooms, handrails, gym equipment and vending machines. Other visible measures include providing hand sanitizer dispensers at key guest entrances and contact areas (for example, the reception desk, lobby, elevator landings, restaurant entrances, meeting spaces, and exercise rooms), and providing signage in high-traffic areas reminding guests of safe hygiene practices, like how to wear and handle a mask correctly and maintaining physical distance with others. Protective screens at reception desks are a clear attempt to keep guests and staff safe, and furniture and seating arrangements in gathering spaces such as the lobby and restaurants should adhere to physical distancing requirements. “Clean seals” on guestroom doors and/or certain high-touch items in guestrooms can help reassure guests that their room has been thoroughly cleaned and sterilized.
Effective housekeeping department
With recovery riding on cleanliness, the housekeeping department needs to be in ship shape. There may be less rooms to clean due to lower occupancy rates, but the demands on housekeeping teams are high.
Work with your housekeeping team to determine the most effective way to manage and track new practices, from 24-hour room closeouts between stays to new cleaning products and processes. Make sure your housekeeping staff are confident and motivated by encouraging open communication, and providing sufficient training and the right tools to do the job. A property management system that includes an integrated mobile housekeeping report allows housekeeping staff to manage and track tasks on the go as they work. For further guidance, read our recent Guide to Effective Housekeeping.
From new sanitization protocols to social distancing expectations to service changes, much has changed in hotels in the wake of COVID-19. Managing guest expectations during this time is critical to maintaining guest satisfaction, and the most effective way to do this is to communicate your property’s precautionary measures and service changes to guests before they arrive.
Pre-arrival messaging (whether by email or text message) should inform and reassure upcoming guests by providing clear information about hotel protocols designed to keep guests and staff safe. Outline important adjustments like additional cleaning measures, service closures or changes (for example, contactless check-in options, housekeeping service options, buffet closures, etc.), and what is expected of guests, such as social distancing and when to wear a mask.
If there is a lot of information to cover, use links to direct guests to the relevant COVID-19 content on your property’s website for further details.
Don’t forget to show your property’s human side, which is especially important in these sterile times, by letting guests know you are looking forward to their arrival and how you will make their stay experience a great one.
When integrated with the PMS, customizable pre-arrival message templates can be automatically personalized and triggered based on reservation data for effortless, proactive communications that make guests feel valued.
Providing up-to-date information on your website via a COVID-19 statement and/or FAQs is important for managing guest expectations from the get-go and helps to inspire the confidence to make a booking. As well, your website booking engine can help communicate service closures and changes via customizable messages that display on all room availability searches, letting customers know of currently limited services—like buffet and pool closures—before they book.
Use your property’s social media channels to keep prospective customers up to date about the COVID climate at your property too. Social media is an especially good platform for showing your business’s human side and inspiring positive thoughts about travel.
Spin posts about service changes in a positive light, showing your commitment to the health and safety of your guests and staff. As always, it’s important to monitor your social media accounts closely, responding quickly to questions and comments from the public. Open communication channels show customers you are there them and can help boost consumer confidence leading up to the booking phase.
Cleanliness and communication have always been important drivers of hotel guest satisfaction, and the latest J.D. Power research shows they are becoming even more critical. As long as COVID-19 is out there, cleanliness and communication will likely go hand in hand as the two most important factors in maintaining guest satisfaction for the foreseeable future.