Mountain Resort Guest Satisfaction High While Frogs Boil?

Are mountain resort guest satisfaction scores distracting managers from significant innovation opportunities and threats?

300 U.S. mountain resorts became boiled frogs in recent decades. Hundreds more are at significant risk.

Are mountain resort guest satisfaction scores lulling resorts into becoming boiled frogs?

Is your focus on resort guest satisfaction lulling you into becoming a boiled frog? Photographer: Brian Gratwicke.

Surviving resorts benefit, at least temporarily. Annual U.S. skier visits, which has been static while the population grew 20%, is concentrated among fewer resorts. There’s a tinge of complacency in press releases touting the industry’s “stability” and resort guest satisfaction.

That’s risky.

Mountain resort guest satisfaction scores rarely predict growth paths. The scores provide diagnostics. They don’t prescribe innovations that sustain competitiveness. They don’t inform responses to external forces that are inexorably eroding the mountain resort guest experience. Fourteen of these forces are described below.

Is your resort at risk of getting cooked? These three questions will help you assess your situation.

Q.1) If guest visits weren’t meeting projections, you’re management team would most likely (choose all that apply)…

  • A)   Reallocate marketing dollars to the most effective tactics
  • B)   Create more promotional events
  • C)   Look for drops in your mountain resort guest satisfaction scores for clues about what’s going on
  • D)   Refresh your understanding of the guest experience
Focusing on resort guest satisfaction to the exclusion of threats gets mountain resorts in hot water.

Are guest satisfaction scores distracting mountain resorts from more useful insights about what to innovate? (Screenshot: “Frogs watching TV” worms, YouTube.)

What about option D, refresh your understanding of the guest experience?  Do you believe option D has more fuzzy outcomes than A, B, or C?  Option D casts a big net to understand all influences on guest behavior.

On the other hand, options A, B and C don’t detect all of the influences. And, they can delay refreshing your understanding of the guest experience by weeks or months.

Q.2) Is a mountain resort guest satisfaction survey the primary means by which you’re detecting influences on guest behavior?

Satisfaction studies are great for tracking specific measures of service quality. These services deliver only part of the total experience that influences guest loyalty.

Guest behavior is influenced by more than what happens at your resort. The whole guest experience includes conscious and unconscious events, expectations and frustrations that happen before, during and after they deal with you. Guests’ experiences are influenced by the contexts of guests’ lives, not just what happens when they arrive at your destination.

Resort guest satisfaction can become a distraction leading to boiled frogs.

Consider how opportunities (or urgent needs) for innovation are propelled by events in guests’ lives, such as changes in,

  • household structures, singlehood, divorce and the rise of single heads of households
  • competitors’ offerings
  • consumers’ increasing access to global vacation options
  • shifts in values from material to experiential
  • how social groups coalesce differently in different cohorts
  • ethnicity and customs
  • adoption of new technologies and apps
  • corporate cultures and work-life balance
  • monetary exchange rates
  • travel costs in time and money
  • generational spending power
  • stock and bond market performance
  • disease outbreaks and control (e.g., Zika virus)
  • payment preferences

We’ve seen all of these influences at play. Some of these influences are inspiring innovations at hotels and resorts as we speak.

Can your guest satisfaction survey detect all of these shifts? If not, that’s not a failure of your survey. Remember, satisfaction surveys only measure aspects of service quality at your resort. That’s because guests will spend only a minute or two providing honest answers.

High guest satisfaction has lured hundreds of resorts into becoming boiled frogs

Mountain resort guest satisfaction surveys have another important limitation: selection bias. The only the guests completing satisfaction surveys are the ones who show up. Satisfaction scores can remain “high” while guest visits decline. You need other ways to learn what’s influencing guest experiences and behavior.

Last question…

Q.3 When would your management team consider researching and revamping the guest experience? Check all that apply.

  • a) After marketing efforts fail to produce desired results
  • b) After guest visits continue declining
  • c) After guest satisfaction finally drops
  • d) After all of the above happens

Did you include C, waiting until your guest satisfaction scores drop? At most resorts, the number of guest visits goes up and down without corresponding changes in guest satisfaction scores. For the reasons above, your guest satisfaction scores may never drop, even as guest visits decline. Resorts are refreshing their guest experiences in other ways.

How often do resorts refresh their guest experiences?

We follow up with companies two to three years after refreshing their guest experience. They suggest that the usable shelf life of  guest experience insight averages five years.

Most report significant improvements. One saw a 27% increase in sales. Benefits include online and traditional marketing efficiencies, higher-demand products, pricing models that boost repeat visits, revenue and referrals, and streamlined operating costs.

What could be the benefits to your business? The numbers below demonstrate a model for figuring this out.

  1. Let’s say your resort has historically generated $15 million in sales annually. Every !% change in sales represents $150,000.
  2. If your sales fall short 5% over the next five years on average, you’re out $3.75 million.
  3. Most guest experience studies costs about $40,000. That’s about 1% of $3.75 million of revenue you could have earned. You’d have better cash flow, less revenue to make up and less pressure from your board.

Is it worth it? Only you can decide. Awareness of the limits of guest satisfaction surveys and some simple math can keep you out of hot  water.

Vacation Behavior’s Guest Experience and Satisfaction Suite provides the most comprehensive approach available for influencing mountain resort guest satisfaction and loyalty. Learn more here.

5 reasons why guest satisfaction won't boost resort or hotel guest visits...and what willIf you like this post, please share it with colleagues. You may also enjoy reading :

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Resort Hotel Social Media Marketing: Two Facts (and Myths)

resort hotel social media platformsMost resort hotel social media activity seems to be based on two assumptions. Or, misconceptions. The first is that customers value social media interactions with resort hotels. The second is that social media delivers all the customer feedback hotels need.

Are these legitimate facts…or myths?

There’s a lot of confusion about social media. [APRIL 4 UPDATE: Ryan Solutions cites 12-20% decline in resort hotel social media postings in 2015. The post below contributes some insight as to why.]

I’ve been looking at a lot of resort hotel social media and gathering a consensus of opinion from content marketing experts, including CMI. Here’s where I’ve wound up.

Fact-myth #1: Customers value interaction via resort hotel social media

Resort hotel social media can include Facebook, Instagram and other platforms. That’s where consumers hang out. So, it’s essential to show up and introduce your brand. But, taking your relationship to the next level will probably require “bringing them to your place.”

Here’s what I mean. Someone might stumble over one of your Facebook posts. They might see your ad. They might even ‘like’ something you said. But, the vast majority are not on social media to interact with your company. According to Kissmetrics, 99% will likely never visit you again. Customers use social media to interact with each other.

Tourists reviews imageIn the context of vacationing, customers want to share information about compelling destinations, lodging alternatives, restaurants and places to see.  And, the most reliable, trusted source of  information about those places is other travelers who’ve been there.

Tripadvisor, Foursquare and Gogobot are among often used sources of traveler-generated reviews and information. Facebook, not so much. (There are FB marketing fails all over the interwebs, including this post that never calculates the ROI promised in its title, or this Kissmetrics post.)

Still, if you use social media in your marketing mix, do it with the intent of earning your prospect’s attention—and their email addresses. That way, you can quickly take them to your place, your company’s blog or email list. When customers accompany you to a channel you own, you can engage them far more reliably. Your posts won’t be screened by Facebook or other social media platforms. You can provide content they’ve expressed interest in. You can listen to their comments and complaints.

These are two of most common pieces of advice offered by social media experts: Deliver high quality sharable content and give customers a reason to share their email address with you. Online contests and giveaways are common.

Fact-myth #2: You can get the customer insight your business needs from social media.

The best way to nudge you toward clarity about fact-myth #2 is by asking you this simple question:

Is any media, social included, so comprehensive that you’d willingly give up all others?

Most people would say no. But, some tourism marketers quickly pivot to “the relatively high speed and low cost” of social media research.

Yes, there are ways to quickly send surveys out on some resort hotel social media platforms. There are text mining packages that can scrape comments. resort hotel social media surveysYou can identify who social media influencers are, what they share and with whom.

Is social media research faster, cheaper or more effective? Any one of these, maybe. Any combination of two, probably not. All three? You’re on really thin ice.

It’s just like any other method for collecting customer feedback. There are trade offs that many marketers don’t have time to think about. This second question might help simplify things.

How big of a business investment are you willing to risk based on the data you acquired from a survey of your company’s Facebook fans?

Probably not a big investment, unless you had corroborating data from multiple other sources. There are more questions to consider, like these for example.

What if the purpose of your research is to create new products and services to attract new customers? Are your Facebook fans the right people to ask? Should you even be asking closed ended survey questions? Should you be having conversations with prospective buyers to learn what their preferences are and the language they use to express them?

So, what’s been your experience with engaging and getting feedback from customers on social? Please share your comments below!

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