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Running Your Business:
Evaluating the Guest Experience
By John Hendrie

H ospitality professionals love paper documents - the touch, the feel, the weight. Plus, you can save these documents - stow in your cabinets, store in your warehouses, file to your outer limits. We have moved, however slightly, to the "paperless", using electronics for our Financials, our Daily Reports, and our Payrolls. Why, in Heavens name, have we not embraced technology to provide a "feedback mechanism" for Guest Satisfaction, especially those operations which cater to the business traveler and conventions/groups? These folks are connected, and e-mail is their every day communication vehicle, while we wave down the Pony Express.

I recently returned from a trip to a major destination area, where I stayed at a prominent resort development atop a mountain range. The operation was upscale, serving the convention business, leisure and second homes owners. The resort featured comfortable guest rooms and suites, wonderful amenities, including high speed internet access, and extensive facilities. Yet, when I interviewed the General Manager, I had to weave my head around several thick piles of Comment Cards. When queried, he said he reads each one - a daunting task, shared by far too many managers. When I pointed out the facile use of the Internet, which would provide the information he seeks, sorted and timely, he had no answer. I had challenged the comfort zone! Visiting two other destination resorts that same trip, I had the same response from Management.

Comment Cards have always been suspect. Once upon a time, they were our only means, beyond questioning the guest directly, to receive our Report Card on performance. I always felt that they did not represent a good cross section of guests, but we clutched them to our chests. I particularly liked the cards with no postage or pre-paid mailing. I want to share my thoughts, but not for 37 cents.

Everyone is now in the game - Starbucks, Subway, all segments of lodging, car dealers, and even my former female companions (a dicey exercise there). Responses make us proud or depressed; we react accordingly to bring our performance into line, right?

It is time to move to the next plateau, the next frontier, and use technology for the following reasons:

-- Comment Cards simply do not provide a meaningful response about the Guest experience, because not everyone participates (usually only the disgruntled and the gruntled);

-- Internet Customer Satisfaction Surveys reach a broader, more representative and diverse audience, quickly, because the majority of your Guests are on-line. The responses are timely, and they validate your relationship with the Guest and allow you to better mange the experience;

-- With a request for an e-mail address at registration, you begin to build a significant data base, which serves as an super marketing opportunity for your business, from Guest preferences to special announcements and deals;

-- Just because the Guest may be satisfied with one visit does not mean they will rebook. But, now you have another opportunity - to build loyalty. It is easier to retain an existing Guest than recruit a new one.

So, drop your quill, toss the parchment and get on-line to better manage the experience, frame the expectations, create real value, which you can then market! Plus, you have engaged the Guest, and now have a relationship. That is what it is all about.


John Hendrie John Hendrie is CEO of Hospitality Performance, Inc., a full-service hospitality consulting company. With a strong background in Hospitality, Human Resources, Organizational Effectiveness, and Communications, John has devoted his career to establishing Standards of Excellence across varied businesses.




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