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Hotel Guest Satisfaction: Do you understand who loves what and why?

2012-02-14

The question of how much demographics play a role in the way people evaluate personal experiences is one that customer satisfaction researchers have asked for years. Are men tougher to please than women? Who is easier to satisfy? Younger people or mature people with more life experience? Are those with a higher income more demanding customers? Or are those to whom money is a more precious commodity more rigorous in their evaluations?

George Santayana, the philosopher and poet, once said, "When men and women agree, it is only in their conclusions; their reasons are always different."

The question of how much demographics play a role in the way people evaluate personal experiences is one that customer satisfaction researchers have asked for years. Are men tougher to please than women? Who is easier to satisfy? Younger people or mature people with more life experience? Are those with a higher income more demanding customers? Or are those to whom money is a more precious commodity more rigorous in their evaluations?

Hotels direct their offerings to a wide variety of customers. Some target younger guests; others pursue business travelers; still others go after families on leisure vacations. Hotels are designed to reflect value propositions based on the traveler's budget, as well as preferences for amenities. While hotel categories can be expanded further, there are four broad types of offerings: budget, midscale, upscale, and luxury.

To better understand the various categories of hotel guests, Maritz Research investigated guest satisfaction scores as part of a larger cross-sector benchmarking effort, CEBenchmarks™. Many of the findings were unexpected. The data underscore that sometimes guest demographics have a significant impact, while in other cases, the impact is minimal. While budget hotels receive the lowest ratings by all demographic groups, men appear to be much more tolerant of the shortcomings sometimes associated with budget properties than are women. Basically, most men want a clean, comfortable place to sleep, regardless of the amenities. The majority of women want more from hotel properties.

The opposite is true of luxury properties. Men do not seem to perceive added value from luxury hotels beyond what they experience at upscale properties. Women, however, do appreciate the extras a bit more. Clearly, the luxury segment needs to direct more marketing efforts, especially about extra amenities, toward women.

There is a relationship between age and satisfaction ratings, with younger guests – those 25-34 years old – giving the most critical ratings. This segment is especially difficult to please across all property levels. Those targeting lifestyle brands to this age group will have to work hard to secure their loyalty. In contrast, guests age 55 and older tend to be more pleased by hotels than their younger counterparts.

It should not be a surprise that the wealthiest guests are the most critical hotel visitors, particularly when evaluating budget properties. What perhaps is more surprising is income seems to have less impact than one might expect on evaluations of midscale and upscale properties. The implication is that midscale and upscale properties have a wider range of prospective guests who might find their properties appealing.

Across various demographic categories, Maritz Research's data shows a fairly wide rating gap between midscale and budget properties, with midscale properties being rated much higher. There is a narrower gap between midscale and upscale properties, and even less of a gap among upscale and luxury properties. This demonstrates the midscale hotel's opportunity to draw customers that usually stay in upscale hotels, as well as the upscale hotel's opportunity to draw from the luxury segment. Implicit in this, is the luxury segment's continued challenge to have a differentiated offering for which guests are willing to pay a premium rate.

The key takeaway, of course, is that hotels need to understand their value proposition and market their properties to the most appropriate guest segments. Their best customers may or may not be the most affluent, or the youngest, but there is still a good chance to foster guest loyalty among large segments of the traveler population simply by knowing core guests and what they value.

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