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The Secret to Success

How Can Hotels Create Positive Experiences That Resonate?


We all know good news travels far and wide. A memorable experience creates a ripple effect, fueling the imagination and fascination of potential customers everywhere. This leads us to question: in the hotel industry, where word-of-mouth plays a decisive role, how adept are hotels in creating positive, memorable experiences?

45% of travellers have had a positive, memorable experience at a hotel over the last 12 months.

Conversely, just 2% of travellers have had a negative experience. Hotels are clearly getting it right in terms of experiences they are providing to their customers.

Yet, with the many positive experiences come many neutral experiences. And a neutral hotel experience does not grow customer loyalty or brand share. Currently 53% of guests have had only a neutral/ok experience, leaving many hotel brands at risk of customers going elsewhere on their next trip. Even among those who are highly loyal to a hotel group, our data shows a significant minority of 45% have also only had a neutral experience, posing the question: what keeps them coming back?

In an earlier article “What’s Really Driving Hotel Loyalty?,” we found that those who frequently use the same hotel group do so on account of location (31%), value for money (29%), and familiarity (28%). Interestingly, attentive service, the more emotionally connecting aspect that drives long-term/embedded loyalty, was one of the smallest driving factors with 21%.

Bad news spreads exponentially. Of those that had a particularly negative memorable experience at a hotel, 1-in-5 told their family and friends to never visit that hotel, while 15% posted a negative online review.

In terms of a negative hotel experience, while 2% may not sound like a lot, it represents 400,000 unimpressed people across Hong Kong, Singapore and Australia failing to come back for another visit. And that ripple is felt much further afield than just these dissatisfied guests, with 20% of them advising their family and friends never to visit said hotel and 15% posting a negative review online. And this type of ripple is not exclusive to Asia Pacific. An ENGINE study in the US, “Positive Customer Experiences Create Positive Travel Memories,” showed similar reactions from dissatisfied US hotel customers:

Ingredients For Positive Experiences

The secret to success? Creating positive, memorable experiences. These will have a far-reaching ripple effect that leaves a positive, impactful imprint in the minds of hotel guests. But how do you do it? Our survey revealed 4 key ingredients: Authenticity, Integrity, Trust, and Humanity.

1. Authenticity: good and personalized service from helpful friendly and authentic staff is the key differentiator. It’s often the seemingly small gestures which keep loyal customers coming back for more.
A massive 40% of those who had a positive, memorable experience cited the hotel staff’s excellent service and willingness to go above and beyond to make their stay feel personalized, as what made it so unforgettable:

In addition to going above and beyond to make a stay feel personalized, great customer service needs to be authentic. Failure to do so can leave a negative impression imprinted in the minds of the customer. In fact, one customer summed it up by describing hotel staff as, ‘robots at reception’. Singaporean traveller

2. Integrity: marketing should be an accurate portrayal of the hotel, so that there are no negative surprises for guests upon arrival.

3. Trust: consistently deliver on the basics to avoid memorability for the wrong reason.
ENGINE’s survey revealed that there were basics that had not been delivered by some hotels. The feedback centered on rooms not being cleaned properly, air-conditioning and lights not working properly, as well as other maintenance issues that could and should have been identified by the hotel and easily fixed.

4. Humanity: right a wrong—quickly.
Mistakes and disruptions to travel plans happen (caused by guests and hotels alike). It’s how quickly and how hotel staff are trained/choose to resolve them that leaves an emotional imprint for guest after the event.

This means, if hotel staff choose/have to stick rigidly to rules or don’t want to go out of their way to resolve an issue, it will invariably result in a negative impression on the guest. In turn, the guest is then likely to share their frustration or disappointment with their friends and via online forums:

“Some lights in the room didn’t work, including those in the bathroom. Couldn’t be fixed. Asked to change rooms, hotel refused. Only with much hassle from us tired travellers did we get a room change.” Singaporean traveller

Conversely, by quickly rectifying a mistake or an issue, hotels can turn a potentially negative experience into a highly positive and memorable one.

Positive Experience By Market

By market, it would appear that Hong Kong travellers are hardest to impress, with only 39% recalling a positive, memorable experience. In contrast, 53% of Singaporeans were particularly happy with their hotel experience.

In terms of what makes a positive, memorable experience across nations, good and friendly staff is key for all. This is the number one priority. To specifically drive memorability among Hong Kong guests, hotels could also look to have a greater focus on complimentary gifts, while for Singaporean and Australian guests, hotels can ensure a warm and vibrant ambience to drive their emotional connection with the hotel.

Backlash By Market

When things go wrong, Singaporeans are the most likely to speak with Hotel Management to try and resolve the issue. Australians are more likely to share their negative experience with their family and friends, but are the least likely to post their frustrations on social media. One in four Hong Kong travellers will demand their money back, but are the least inclined to escalate their issue from Hotel Staff to Hotel Management:

At ENGINE, our Digital Hives online community panels provide a unique platform for customers to tell their stories and experiences. The interactive and exploratory nature of online discussions allow us to gather deep insights into how the different key ingredients are brought together to create a ripple effect.

Contact us today to learn how we can help your business harness the power of positive experience.