Hilton to Devalue Honors Points in 2010

Hilton HonorsHilton is taking a lot of heat after announcing they will change the number of points required to book a free night stay, essentially devaluing their Hilton Honors points by about 20 percent.  Check out the full USA Today article and the nasty comments, here

Our take:  We agree with the travel industry analyst who said ‘it is the absolutely the wrong decision to make at a time when hotel demand is down from corporate business, conferences and leisure.”  It will save cash, but the timing is very poor.

In a follow up post, found here, three other brands seemed to distance themselves from Hilton’s strategy. 

Our favorite comment was from IHG’s Jim Abrahamson who said that rewards members are twice as profitable and elite-level members are 12 times as profitable.  He goes on to say “if one platinum-level member leaves us, we’d have to go out and find 12 new customers just to replace that one.”

New Study Says Hotels Only Respond to 4 Percent of Negative Reviews!

trip-advisor-logoWe have been saying for years that one of the most important things to do is to maintain your hotel’s internet reputation.  If you missed some of our articles, click here.

Market Metrix and TripAdvisor did a recent study and found that “85 percent of hotels have no guidelines for monitoring, responding to or acting on guest reviews.”  85 percent!  They also state that “only 4 percent of negative reviews are responded to!”  The entire article can be read here.

The article suggests many of the same techniques that we do for mainting your hotel’s internet reputation.  You wouldn’t ignore a bad comment card, right?  Then why would you ignore a bad internet review of your hotel?  Get a plan in place today!

Tripadvisor.com’s Reviews Called Into Question

If you have been following our blog for a while, you probably remember an article that we posted a little over a year ago on how to maintain your hotel’s internet reputation.  In the article, we stressed how important it is to check out your hotel’s reviews on various websites like tripadvisor.com.  We also praised tripadvisor for allowing hotels to recover guests by contacting them after they post a poor review and we suggested that you work to improve your tripadvisor rating.

trip-advisor-logo-tnIt appears that many hotels have taken our advice to far and are now manipulating their tripadvisor ratings by posting fake reviews.  Check out this terrific article by Jason Cochran titled ‘Is TripAdvisor.com One Big Joke?’  His article mentions that tripadvisor has had to place disclaimers on at least 92 hotel pages because they believe the hotels ‘may have attempted to manipulate our popularity index by interfering with the unbiased nature of our reviews’. 

The authors provides some great tips for people to interpret user-review sites.  One tip he has is ‘If a hotel’s managment consistently responds to negative reviews, take it as a promising sign that testifies to their attention to service’. 

Continue maintaining your hotel’s internet reputation!  But do it legitimately please!

WSJ Catches Hotels Piling on Fees

wall-street-journal-logoIn a new article posted on the Wall Street Journal’s website, the author catches hotels piling on extra fees to make up for a loss in room revenue.  Some of the fees that they have found are mandatory valet parking fees, increased resort fees, housekeeping and bellman mandatory gratuities, and other fees such as a mandatory fee for in room safes. 

Should you be adding fees like these to make up for a loss in room revenues?  Absolutely not. 

First off, mandatory fees are often illegal.  The article describes how Wyndham Worldwide and Marriott were sued and settled with the Florida’s Attorney General over adding mandatory surcharges.  The Florida AG aslo has six ongoing investigations.  Undisclosed energy surcharges (we all remember those) and in-room safe fees are among the issues being investigated. 

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Hilton Passes Marriott in Customer Satisfaction, Hyatt Plunges

asciLogoIn the newest results (First Quarter 2009, released May 19, 2009), The American Customer Satisfaction Index is reporting that Hilton Hotels has passed Marriott Hotels in customer satisfaction.  The ACSI ranks different types of businesses each quarter in customer satisfaction.  This quarter they ranked hotels, airlines, cable television, fast food, and utility companies.  The hotel scores come out once per year.  You can read the full report at their website.

Hilton scored a 79 (a 1 percent increase) while Marriott scored a 77 (a 1 percent decrease).  Hyatt’s scores have plunged 5 percent since last year and now two budget brands (Choice Hotels and Best Western) actually scored higher.  Wyndham scored the worst of any hotel.  Here are the 2009 rankings from best to worst:

  1. Hilton
  2. Marriott
  3. Choice Hotels
  4. Best Western
  5. InterContinental
  6. Hyatt
  7. Starwood
  8. Wyndham

Overall, despite the rough times that hotels have faced in the last year, the average score in the industry remains unchanged.  However, that is mainly due to guest’s satisfaction with the budget hotels.  Both Choice Hotels and Best Western had a 7 percent increase since last year.

Our take:  Guest are certainly demanding more and it shows.  While it is great to see that overall satisfaction is unchanged, it is tough to see that the budget brands are passing the luxury hotels.  Once luxury brands lose guests to budget brands, it is very difficult to get them back.  What do you think?  Is your hotel losing guests to another brand?  Post your comments below!

Ask TrueGuest: Bartender Selling Techniques

Dear TrueGuest,

I am a food and beverage manager at a hotel with two bars.  Can you tell me some ways that we can increase our revenues?  We are obviously a little bit slower lately, but is there anything that we can do to help?

mixed-drink1The selling area of a bartender’s service is always overlooked. These selling standards are extremely important to generating higher revenues. Bartenders can come across as uncaring and unfriendly if they just approach and ask guests, “What can I get for you?” They also will not sell much more than the minimum guest order. Most hotel bars are not like the bars or nightclubs that stand alone.People usually expect more from a hotel bar.The service of a bartender should be similar to that provided by servers to a table of guests that are eating.There are many selling standards that should be in place for each time a guest arrives at the bar.This includes practices such as offering your drink menu to guests whether they know what they want or not, providing a food menu, suggesting any specialty drinks, offering more beverages, and offering bar snacks.Each of these practices has its own effect and benefit on your bartender’s guest service as well as revenues.Here is a breakdown.

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USA Today Article About Guests Noticing Hotel Cutbacks

USA Today posted a pretty good article titled ‘As Hotels Struggle For Business, Some Guests Find An Upside’. Click on the link to read the entire article on their website.

The article talks about how guests are finding much better deals on hotel rooms now then ever before, especially at luxury hotels.  But the most important part of the article is the section titled ‘Guests Notice Cutbacks’.  From the article:Hotels cannot hide all the cutbacks. Some frequent travelers say they’re starting to notice little things.  From the article:

usatodaySome amenities — such as a bottle of water in the room or a newspaper delivered to the door — are gone. The quality of complimentary food and beverages has diminished in some club rooms or lobbies, or at hotel managers’ guest receptions, they say.

Because many hotels have cut their staffs, frequent travelers say they’re waiting longer to check in and out, have rooms made up and have cars retrieved by valets.

“There are fewer people to provide basic services, answer questions and make suggestions for restaurants and activities,” says Howard Knoff, an education consultant in Little Rock.

 

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Simple Guest Service Reminders

For the new year, resolve to improve guest service throughout your property.  We all know it will be tough year to hit budgets and to attract more business.  A great, and cheap way to keep the business you already have is to make sure your guest service exceeds standards.  A very simple way to do so is by making sure that your team  is trained to say the right things to guests.

customer_serviceAt a recent stay at a very fancy and expensive hotel, we ran into many issues.  The issues ranged from very small to a very large one but regardless, it did not seem that the guest service team was properly trained to handle the problems that we encountered.  Though they were able to fix the problems quickly and satisfactory, the guest service team was not empathetic or even apologetic at all.  This made our mystery shopper feel very unimportant even though we had just paid over $400 for the night.

To see the effect of slight changes in your team’s words on your guest service, please read this article on the Hotel & Motel Management website.

The author, Doug Kennedy, provides great examples of what many of your associates currently say to guests and what they should say instead.  It is a great way to improve your guest service without much cost!  For example, Kennedy points out the dreaded way to greeting a lone-diner at a restaurant with, “Just One?”, making the diner feel even lonelier.    He provides an excellent way to greet those guests by using, “Welcome to the restaurant  are you ready to be seated?”  The author also gives a few other great examples but leaves you to figure out how this concept can be applied to the many other areas of guest contact in your hotels.  It is a great way to keep your current guests happy and have them continue to choose your hotel in the future without spending any money!