I used to be co-owner of a company focused on administering customer satisfaction surveys, and I become well aware of their flaws back then. The surveys were easy to game and seldom stimulated the customers to open up or feel appreciated. That's not to say they weren't a huge improvement over the lack of interest in post-transaction followup that existed before. They were just a crude tool, and I'm amazed that they are still so commonplace. I don't participate any more, no matter how happy or mad I am.
Starwood is now looking at reviews and social media comments as part of the process of getting customers involved. Measuring satisfaction is less important than improving service and learning about customers. So loyalty is being built, not satisfaction being measured.
Skift: The Evolution of the Hotel Guest Satisfaction Survey, 2015-Aug-7 by Dan Peltier
“We overhauled our entire survey in 2011 to narrow that time and space between when a guest provided feedback and when action was actually taken,” said [Starwood's Matt] Valenti. “We listened to our guests during this overhaul and one of the things we heard from them was that they really like our brand and wanted to complete our surveys, but they wanted us to show them that we used their feedback and said they’ll give us more if they saw that.”
“We moved into asking guests to compare their expectations of their stays versus how their stays actually were and that’s important because for us to be able to provide the best guest experience your expectations will change depending on your trip persona. A seven for you on the ten-point scale might not be a seven for me.”
Starwood’s Survey Overhaul
A guest leaving a review on a property’s site is emphatically different than someone completing a survey with pointed questions measuring the satisfaction of multiple aspects of a stay. While hotels give guests’ various options to express how their stay was and provide convenience this of course makes hotels’ work more difficult to determine how they weigh a negative review left on a site against a negative survey.
“We would describe [surveys and reviews] more as complimentary because we know that people choose to give feedback at certain points,” said Valenti. “Someone might choose to complete a survey and someone else will choose to complete a review. Part of this overhaul was to make sure that our surveys are also aligned with our ratings and reviews.”