breaking news

US government shuts down; Dems, GOP blame each other

Why you shouldn’t skip the hotel guest survey


It's a good thing Jayne Holland didn't skip the guest survey after a recent stay at the Four Seasons Hotel in Atlanta. When the property solicited her opinion through a comment card in her suite, she didn't hold back. 

"I found a wet towel and someone's hairbrush under the bed," she recalls. "I noted it on the survey."  

A Four Seasons representative replied quickly. Holland, who works for a nonprofit organization in the Bahamas, sent photos to back up her claim. The hotel offered an apology - and a free night's stay.  

Since then, she says, "I fill out almost every survey I receive."  

Sound advice. Contrary to popular opinion that completed guest surveys are dumped directly into the large circular file, our feedback can make a difference. And that's true now more than ever. In an age when any negative guest experience is one click away from becoming a viral phenomenon, guest surveys can be the last line of defense against a social-media disaster.  

"More companies are relying on guest surveys as a way to make significant improvements to the guest experience," says Susan Ganeshan, the chief marketing officer of Clarabridge, a customer-experience consultancy that specializes in the travel industry.  

These companies see the polls as a way to not only to spot customer-service problems but also to build a better customer experience. As a bonus, they may also prevent guests from taking their complaints to social media, which can severely damage a brand's reputation.  

"Guest surveys have absolutely changed the way we do business," says Ron Tarson, general manager of the Westin Peachtree Plaza in Atlanta. Not only does the property promptly respond to any question or comment on its surveys, he says, it also changes the way it operates based on the information it receives.  

For example, he says, after fielding questions from guests about its green initiatives, the hotel created a free on-site, behind-the-scenes look at the hotel's sustainability efforts. It also reorganized its management staff to respond faster after getting complaints about lengthy check-in times. And it added a new, eight-mile outdoor bike fitness program when guests said that they preferred to exercise outside of the gym.  

At the Pechanga Resort & Casino in Temecula, California, all 517 rooms are stocked with comment cards, which query guests on the quality of food, staff, service, the casino experience and their hotel stay.  

Guests submit about 100 handwritten surveys a month, and they're assigned a high priority. "Each and every one is read by at least two human beings," says Thomas Mueller, vice president of hotel operations.  

"Two casino managers handle assessing whether corrective or congratulatory action, or further investigation into a matter, should be taken as a result of the surveys' content." 

Best Western Hotels & Resorts receives about 1.5 million surveys every year, and made major changes to its brand based on them, says Ron Pohl, Best Western's senior vice president and chief operating officer. They include a new "Build Your Own Breakfast" program which offers healthier, customizable breakfast options, and a mobile-first booking site.  

Customers are catching on. When Oceana slid a comment card under Richard Wong's cabin door halfway through a recent cruise, he promptly complied.  

"I was pleasantly surprised to receive personal thanks from the hotel manager who told me that the surveys are sent to every department on the ship and reviewed in detail," says Wong, who works for the federal government in the District. "Later, we received a card inviting us to sit at the captain's table for dinner. I guess attention to detail counts."  

Patricia Lenhart recently rented a car in Las Vegas and was asked to complete a comment card.  

"I complained that I was charged for a second driver when only my husband was driving," says Lenhart, who works for a government agency in Hayward, Calif. "I also complained about the long wait in line." She received a prompt apology and a refund of the extra fee.  

What to make of all this? Guest surveys are more important than ever. Companies like them not only because they allow them to avoid the echo chamber of social media and the review sites, but also because they can use them to improve their products. And guests prefer them because they often don't have to pick up the phone after their trip to complain. Problems get fixed fast.  

So the next time you check into a hotel, board a cruise ship or rent a car, look for a comment card. If you don't see one, ask for one. You might be glad you did.


Reader Comments ...


Next Up in Travel

Discovering ‘undiscovered’ Hamburg
Discovering ‘undiscovered’ Hamburg

Germany’s second-largest city, Hamburg, is awash with history — and played especially key roles in the stories of 19th-century emigration, World War II and the Beatles. It’s also a thriving 21st-century metropolis with an inviting harbor boardwalk, avant-garde architecture and Las Vegas–style nightlife. Every visit here makes...
6 top tiny home vacation rentals that won’t cost you your mortgage
6 top tiny home vacation rentals that won’t cost you your mortgage

Need a vacation that isn't followed by a barrage of credit card bills? Tiny home vacation rentals are a wallet-friendly option, with beach, mountain and ranch locations available. Renting a small space for a weekend getaway or weeklong adventure is also a great way to test drive the tiny home concept.  »RELATED: Here's what a $1 million...
More places to go in 2018

From Bourbon Street to the South Pacific pull of Fiji, destinations abound for the tourist with a strong case of wanderlust. — An indigenous tourism boom.   Australia’s remote Top End — the Northern Territory’s northernmost hunk — is experiencing an uptick of tourism to its aboriginal communities, the world&rsquo...
Tasmania's Three Capes trail is spectacular, but it's not cheap
Tasmania's Three Capes trail is spectacular, but it's not cheap

Hilly, forested and wet Tasmania is regarded by many Australians as their most picturesque state, a kind of Vermont of the Southern Hemisphere. It is also the most economically depressed, which is one of the reasons the Tasmanian government has upended a great walking tradition - that natural beauty owned by the state should be open to all, at minimal...
American won’t let you pay with cash at Miami’s airport anymore. Here’s how it’ll work

MIAMI — If you’re traveling on American Airlines from Miami International Airport, leave the cash at home.  The leading airline is moving to a cashless model at MIA, meaning that any transactions for additional fees, such as checked bags or overweight bags, will have to be made with credit or debit cards. The change is effective on...
More Stories