According to a recent J.D. Power study, the answer is “yes.”
As hotel guests increasingly come to expect amenities that used to be special perks, such as free Wi-Fi, complimentary breakfasts and premium bed linens, the industry may be reaching a customer satisfaction plateau, according to the J.D. Power 2016 North America Hotel Guest Satisfaction Index Study.
“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. “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.”
In other words, once you hit that customer satisfaction wall, the only way to break it down is through increased pampering of your clientele; physical amenities alone are no longer enough. That pampering, though, depends upon your employees being willing to go the extra mile with customers. Regularly. But the problem that I’m hearing from general managers and hotel operators is that it’s difficult to further raise the bar on customer service because there is no way to accurately measure the performance of guest-facing employees. And as H. James Harrington from IBM brilliantly stated: “If you can’t measure something . . . you can’t improve it.”
Hotels may have wonderful employees with a strong desire to please guests, but with no way to measure how successful each employee is at meeting this goal, it’s difficult to reward the best and help the rest. According to Forbes (Employee Engagement: The Wonder Drug For Customer Satisfaction), employees who care about their employment emotionally commit to their organization and its goals, resulting in increased customer service, as well as in higher productivity and profits. No doubt there is much that hotels can do to foster greater commitment and loyalty among employees, but without tools to systematically identify star performers who deserve recognition (and poor performers who are in desperate need of training), employee satisfaction, engagement, and morale will continue to stagnate. And hotels will remain stuck on that “customer satisfaction plateau.”
In fact, the real danger is that, as with any plateau, the only way off it is down. Measuring the performance of guest-facing employees isn’t just an option any more—it’s the only way hotels will be able to rise off that satisfaction plateau to a higher level of customer service.