Guest satisfaction plateaus as perks become standard expectations: study

COSTA MESA, Calif. — As hotel guests increasingly come to expect amenities that used to be special perks, the industry may be reaching a customer satisfaction plateau, according to the J.D. Power 2016 North America Hotel Guest Satisfaction Index Study,

COSTA MESA, Calif. — As hotel guests increasingly come to expect amenities, such as free WiFi, complimentary breakfasts and premium bed linens, that used to be special perks, the industry may be reaching a customer satisfaction plateau, according to the J.D. Power 2016 North America Hotel Guest Satisfaction Index Study, released July 13. 

The study, now in its 20th year, measures overall guest satisfaction across eight hotel segments: luxury; upper upscale; upscale; upper midscale; midscale; economy/budget; upper extended-stay; and extended-stay. Seven key measures are examined in each segment to determine overall satisfaction: reservation; check-in/check-out; guestroom; food and beverage; hotel services; hotel facilities; and cost and fees. Satisfaction is calculated on a 1,000-point scale. 

Although overall satisfaction has improved for a fourth consecutive year, increasing by two points from 2015 to average 806, this represents a much smaller increase than in recent years. In past years, strong improvements in cost and fees played a key role in improving satisfaction overall. While satisfaction with cost and fees improved by 25 points between 2014 and 2015, this year it has improved by only one point.

“Customers have responded well to the enhanced offerings provided by some hotel brands to create value, but as those perks become standard, customers are quick to ask, ‘What have you done for me lately?’” said Rick Garlick, global travel and hospitality practice lead at J.D. Power, in a release. “When guests no longer see added value in the quality of amenities they receive, the only option to truly differentiate a brand is to develop a strong service culture that makes guests feel special and appreciated.”

Interestingly, while satisfaction in most segments has remained flat, the luxury segment has improved by 12 points overall. Much of this improvement is attributed to a 20-point improvement in cost and fees. 

“Despite luxury hotels typically being the most expensive, this segment has been able to show guests that they’re providing additional value, which is clearly resonating,” said Garlick. 

The study also finds that while satisfaction is higher among members of hotel rewards programs than among non-members, younger guests are less likely to be members than older guests. Only 39 per cent of Gen Y guests belong to a rewards program, compared with 56 per cent of Gen X and 66 per cent of Boomer guests. In every generational group, customer satisfaction is significantly higher among guests who are rewards program members.