Is your hotel benefiting from strong word-of-mouth? If not, it’s missing out on a major driver of business! Recommendations from friends and family are one of the top sources of information for most consumers and are a major piece of the decision when choosing a hotel.
These recommendations are also trusted more than other forms of information, which leads consumers to weigh them more heavily than anonymous sources, such as online reviews. Word-of-mouth recommendations not only shape which hotels travelers choose but they also shape how travelers respond to online reviews during the purchase journey. A study published in the Information Technology and Tourism journal found that:
A good friend’s word of mouth outweighs the online majority: negative online reviews can outweigh a good friend’s recommendation and positive online reviews can outweigh a recommendation against booking the hotel.
So what does this mean for your hotel? Positive word-of-mouth recommendations are more powerful than online reviews. Potential guests are willing to overlook negative reviews if they had a personal recommendation from a friend or family member. The converse is true: if a friend or family member had a negative experience, potential guests will overlook positive reviews. These personal recommendations are seen as more trustworthy and authoritative.
Whichever way you look at it, word-of-mouth recommendations matter. They build loyalty with past guests and give your hotel an additional tool of persuasion beyond its online reviews. Hotels that excel at providing a memorable and recommendation-worthy stay will have a huge competitive advantage!
To create more promoters for your hotel, you have to understand what drives positive, neutral, and negative word-of-mouth. One of the most frequently used methods for this is the Net Promoter Score, or NPS, which tracks how likely guests are to recommend your hotel to others. It’s a simple but powerful measurement about how well your hotel is doing at delivering on its brand promise.
NPS values are based on the answers to “How likely are you to recommend [hotel name] to a friend or colleague,” based on a 10-point scale.
Respondents are then asked a follow-up question depending on the initial score. The text responses are rich sources of information. They can be used to learn more about the guest’s experience – more specifically why things went poorly and what could be done to improve their stay:
- PROMOTER: “Thanks for your feedback, we’re glad to hear you’re happy! If you were recommending [hotel name] to a friend, what one reason would you give them?”
- PASSIVE/NEUTRAL: “If one aspect of your experience with [hotel name] could’ve been better, what would it be?”
- DETRACTOR: “What was missing or disappointing in your experience with [hotel name]?”
For more on the foundational concept for building your base of promoters, start with our backgrounder on Net Promoter Scores for hoteliers. Once you’re comfortable with NPS, read on to learn how to reduce detractors and increase promoters. You’ll have a base of promoters in no time!
Promoters, neturals and detractors
In addition to sharing the positive experiences with others, promoters of your brand are more likely to leave positive reviews online, bolstering your reputation with other potential guests.
After an extensive research study of 73 hotels, we found that the Net Promoter Score has a positive correlation to a hotel’s TripAdvisor rating, which means that higher NPS averages result in higher online review ratings. Of course, that makes sense: a positive experience often results in a good review or word-of-mouth recommendation.
But beyond that, what exactly drives guests to be promoters or detractors? Which parts of the guest experience influence NPS the most?
To find out, our analytics team analyzed a huge number of NPS responses from guests – 5,839 to be exact. We looked for the most common terms shared among detractors, passives, and promoters, in both the frequency of single and two-word combinations. These overlaps offer direct insight into which factors of the guest experience had the most impact on NPS.
Armed with these insights, you can see exactly why hotel guests recommend, stay passive, or recommend against staying at a property. The better you can be at creating more promoters by reducing detractors and boosting passives, the stronger word-of-mouth and loyalty your hotel will earn!
We’ve pulled out the key lessons from our research so you can learn what makes a promoter – and how you can get more of them for your hotel.
What makes a promoter?
Our analysis uncovered some of the reasons why guests might recommend a hotel and therefore become a promoter. By identifying what defines a promoter-worthy experience, you can do whatever it takes to deliver more of those experiences to new guests. Eventually, this snowballs into steady NPS improvements over time.
Guests who are promoters enjoy the following:
- Location: the top reason for recommending a hotel is the location. While this is not something that you can change, it’s something that you can focus on and update your marketing materials to keep that top of mind.
- Staff: Unsurprisingly, great staff was also an important factor when recommending a hotel. This is something that you can directly control and acts as a great reminder to properly train and incentivize your staff. “Friendly” and “helpful” are the top qualities of a great staff, so focus on those two elements first.
- Service: Another important element was the catch-all term “service.” From our interpretation, great staff refers to individual interactions that guests have throughout their stay, while service speaks to the overall atmosphere of service experienced by the guests.
- Room: Promoters also appreciated the cleanliness and comfort of the room, as well as its spaciousness.
Another thing: The “view” and “beautiful” were also mentioned fairly often. So try to give guests upgrades to better rooms (more space or with views) whenever you can. That way they have the best experience possible – and become promoters!
What makes a passive/neutral?
A neutral guest is a fantastic opportunity. It’s someone who had a relatively pleasant experience but was not particularly moved enough to recommend it. There may have been something missing or they may simply have just not had a connection with the property or the experience.
Neutrals make perfect follow-up targets; to learn more, reach out to see what might turn them into promoters. Sometimes that very outreach may turn an average hotel experience into a noteworthy one!
- By far, the room was the most often mentioned factor for neutrals. As you can see in the graphic below, this was quite a sizable finding! As far as what required improvement, cleanliness, bathroom and overall room quality needed to be addressed for a neutral to become a promoter.
- Front desk. The front desk also stood out as a barrier for neutrals becoming promoters, specifically staff interactions, professionalism, and timeliness. This shows how important a seamless check-in and check-out process can be creating promoters for your hotel’s brand!
- Interestingly, the availability of dining options (such as breakfast) and the quality of food prevented guests from becoming promoters. Worth noting is that these weren’t major issues; with sufficient improvement, guests would likely become a promoter.
What makes a detractor?
Detractors are the toughest challenges for any hotel. That’s because it takes a lot of work to move them from a detractor to neutral – and much much more work to get them all the way to promoter status. But it’s worth it! A single detractor could be diminishing your online reputation; as we saw earlier, negative personal recommendations outweigh positive online reviews.
When you align your team around resolving the issues mentioned most often by detractors, your hotel’s online reviews will improve and you’ll be better positioned for solid word-of-mouth.
Here’s what makes a detractor:
- Just like with neutrals, the room was a top issue for detractors. Cleanliness (such as finding garbage in the room) or comforts (like the room temperature) are relatively straightforward fixes. Specifically, the comfort of the bed was a sticking point, as was the cleanliness and comfort of the bedding were a top priority.
- Front desk. Similarly to the neutrals, the front desk was disappointing. Check-in, checkout and overnight staffing were mentioned as issues.
- Detractors are also more inclined to mention the hotel as a unit, from the building to the overall experience. While this can be a bit more difficult to pin down, it is a perfect opportunity to reach out for further information.
How to create more promoters
Our research finds that promoters recommend a hotel(s) to someone they care about primarily because of the location and staff. More specifically, a ‘great location’ and ‘friendly staff’ or ‘great’ staff’. A noteworthy third reason is the room, particularly ‘spacious rooms’ and ‘clean rooms’.
We also discovered several ‘hygiene factors’ – those essential elements of the guest experience that first need to be met at a basic level before guests become promoters. Room quality was highlighted throughout the results as a key hygiene factor. Specifically, room cleanliness, such as room cleaned and free of garbage, and room comfort, with clean and comfortable bed and bedding. Front desk interactions, professionalism, and timeliness also mattered greatly.
Lastly, and perhaps one of the most interesting findings, was the impact of the hotel dining experience. Among neutrals, the availability of dining options, and the delivery of those options can prevent guests from becoming promoters. While poor dining options are unlikely to create detractors, a better dining experience could be enough to drive promotion.
As you can see, there were overlaps between neutrals and detractors. Start by solving the overlaps because then you will have a stronger position with both of these cohorts. Based on our research, you should review your cleanliness standards, ensure proper staffing at peak check-in and checkout times (as well as overnight), and consider relevant room upgrades.
Some other tips to building your base of promoters:
- Use automated tools to trigger guest surveys and review requests. Since potential guests will be looking at the recency of reviews, as well as the sentiment of the reviews themselves, you want to have recent reviews that reflect the current experience.
- Reach out to guests as often as possible to thank them for their feedback and provide specific action items for addressable issues. A personal touch goes a long way to solidify a promoter, push a neutral towards a promoter, or reduce the sting of a detractor.
- Continuously monitor your own NPS scores (or even just recent reviews and guest surveys). Watch out for any trends that are either positive or negative indicators. When things are going well, celebrate it with staff so that they feel ownership about the process. When things are slipping, retrain staff and figure out ways to incentivize proper behavior and process adherence.
- Leverage your hotel’s CRM to cross-reference your promoters with other demographic information. Is there anything that suggests a certain type of guest is more likely to be a promoter? If so, what can you do to attract more guests like that, as well as understand why this group over-indexes as promoters?
As you nurture your base of promoters by listening to your guests and acting on their feedback, your hotel will experience a virtuous cycle of stronger reviews and better word-of-mouth over time!
WHAT DO PROMOTERS LOOK FOR?
Through an analysis of what guests have explicitly stated while completing their surveys, we were able to identify why guests might recommend a hotel and therefore become a promoter. We found the following:
- Great location was confirmed as the top reason why guests would recommend a hotel
- Great staff was also identified as an important factor when recommending a hotel
- Furthermore, both friendly and helpful stood out as ways that guests would determine if staff were ‘great’ or not
- Room cleanliness and comfort, or spaciousness stood out amongst promoters as an important factor in a promoters eyes
While the location is difficult for a hotel manager to affect, staff and rooms are certainly areas a Hotel Manager can look to improve and really drive an impact in reviews/scores.
WHY DO GUESTS STAY AS NEUTRALS?
A neutral guest can be seen as a guest that mostly had a pleasant experience, however, would not be seen as an active promoter of the property or the brand. By identifying the areas that neutrals saw as issues, we can hopefully help improve the number of promoters and therefore online reviews/ratings and word-of-mouth recommendations. Our analysis of neutrals found the following:
- The guests’ room stood out as the most common factor requiring improvement from the perspective of a neutral guest. Cleanliness and room quality stood out as fundamental elements that had to be addressed in order for a guest to become a promoter
- Front desk also stood out overwhelmingly as a barrier for neutrals becoming promoters, specifically interactions, professionalism, and timeliness. This shows how important a seamless check-in and check-out process can be when helping to promote a brand or experience
- Interestingly, the availability of dining options and the delivery of these options could prevent guests from becoming promoters. Of note, dining amongst neutral guests did not seem to have a big impact, more so that if issues were addressed, the guest would likely alter their views and become a promoter
WHY DO GUESTS BECOME DETRACTORS?
Of course, we want to avoid this at all costs, if possible, but being aware of the issues at a property and then addressing them is all part of managing the guest experience. From this analysis we found some key issues that guests seemed to focus on in their comments if they were identified as detractors:
- Again, the guest room was found to be the most common factor requiring improvement from both neutrals and detractors. Fundamental elements that contribute to the guest experience, such as cleanliness (e.g. garbage) or comforts (e.g. room temperature) should be addressed foremost in these cases. Specifically, the guest bed was identified as a sticking point for detractors and that a clean and comfortable bed and bedding were a priority
- Also identified as an area for improvement was the front desk. Similarly to the neutrals, check-in, and check-out here could be identified as needing improvement
These findings help us identify that the following key aspects of every hotel can be instrumental in determining how a guest will review, score the property and if they will become the highly sought-after promoter:
- Room and bed quality
- Hotel operations such as front desk interactions, timeliness, and professionalism
- Dining facilities