Business Traveller

Could this tool save hotels from bad reviews?

Daisy Carrington, for CNNPublished 28th June 2016
(CNN) — "How're we doing?"
In the travel space, that's a question that's often not posed or answered until after a transaction is complete.
A cursory glance at review sites such as Expedia, which are full of write-ups by aggrieved customers, reveals that by that point, the damage to a brand is already done.
Several travel brands have started rolling out real-time feedback tools to address customers' qualms before they turn into something more serious.
Expedia led the pack in 2014 when it unveiled such a product in the hotel sector.
Customers who book via Expedia are asked -- via email and the Expedia app -- three questions after check-in: How was the check-in experience, how's the room, and are you happy with the location?
They can respond with a smiley or frowny face, and elaborate any concerns in greater detail.
The information is then sent back immediately to the hotel property.
"It's been a feature that's been really well received," says Clint Hayashi, Expedia's EMEA head of communications.
"Hotels love it because they can mitigate any issues in real time, and there isn't something that festers."
While it may seem like having a digital tool to connect customers to hotel personnel is an unnecessary added step (wouldn't calling the front desk be the ultimate real-time feedback?), several hotel brands maintain that guests aren't always comfortable with in-person interactions, particularly when visiting countries that don't speak their native language.
"Some people don't really want to complain directly, because maybe they are shy or ashamed, or there's a language barrier," argues Caroline Piel, founder of hotel brand Hotel en Ville. She says the real-time feedback tool has been invaluable, improving the overall Expedia reviews of the nine properties she manages, and letting her team respond immediately to a complaint.
"We know exactly what our guests want up to the minute, and we can help them, or correct a mistake immediately."
Expedia has since extended the product so it is available for customers who have purchased flights and cars.
"In the travel space, I believe we were one of the first to launch this, and I've seen variations of this appear in the market in the last two years," notes Benoit Jolin, Expedia's Vice President of Global Product.
Other companies have followed Expedia's lead.
Earlier this year, Virgin Trains launched the Awesometer that similarly gathers customer survey information and generates instant reports.
And in 2015, low-cost carrier EasyJet teamed up with Rant & Rave to trial a similar tool.
"We believe that real-time feedback of guests' sentiments is something that will only grow over time," says Jolin.
"The next challenge is to make the handling of that feedback as easy and frictionless as possible."