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Voice of the Guest: How Data Informs the Hotel Guest Experience | By Terri Miller

What makes an exceptional guest experience? This is the question hoteliers find themselves continuously striving to answer as they work to refine (and evolve) their service offering.

However — this is also a question that can garner countless different answers, depending on which guest you ask.

The better question for hospitality experts becomes, what tool or methods can provide hoteliers with critical insights if they had the opportunity to ask every prospective guest what matters most to them? In other words, how can hoteliers capitalize on the fruits of an individual conversation they can't actually have, but need to in order to understand how to provide exceptional, personalized service? Genuinely effective hospitality marketing involves the recognition and understanding of each guest's needs and desires, frustrations, values, travel behaviors, and more.

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What makes an exceptional guest experience? This is the question hoteliers find themselves continuously striving to answer as they work to refine (and evolve) their service offering. However — this is also a question that can garner countless different answers, depending on which guest you ask. The better question for hospitality experts becomes, what tool or methods can provide hoteliers with critical insights if they had the opportunity to ask every prospective guest what matters most to them? In other words, how can hoteliers capitalize on the fruits of an individual conversation they can't actually have, but need to in order to understand how to provide exceptional, personalized service? Genuinely effective hospitality marketing involves the recognition and understanding of each guest's needs and desires, frustrations, values, travel behaviors, and more.

Data is the answer. Data, collected at various touchpoints of the guest experience, and beyond, provides hoteliers with access to the Voice of the Guest—let's call it the VoG. With the right strategy in place, VoG allows you to hone in on important data segments and translate a wide variety of guest opinions, objectives, and expectations into actionable insights for your property. A shows companies using the voice of the customer data have almost ten times as much annual company revenue growth those who do not utilize VoG data. According to the same study, they also have much higher employee engagement and customer retention rates. For hoteliers specifically, this means improvements in guest satisfaction, loyalty, spend, market share, marketing ROI, and more. It's important to note true VoG extends beyond reviews, surveys, and questionnaires. While these are handy resources to obtain an overview of some aspects of the guest experience, they don't provide the type of intuitive insight we're looking for when we refer to VoG. Why? Because guests may not always be able to effectively communicate what they want through the structured, solicited confines of those tools in a way that is actionable to a hotel. A quick online survey could potentially send a hotel into a damage-control mission over a one-off problem that isn't an actual trend for guests at that hotel. Ultimately, solicited data (while still at times useful) is limiting and can be easily misinterpreted or manipulated to fit agendas that may not be valuable to a hotel long term.

Further, most feedback surveys provide information post stay—hoteliers looking to attract guests to their hotels want access to that data ahead of time. Think a proactive marketing approach, versus a strategy that is always reactive in nature.

The best approach involves taking those direct requests and recommendations from guests and combining them with the insights revealed through guest behavior. VoG allows hotels to understand each guests' needs, track all feedback in one place, conduct competitive research, and continuously monitor data in an actionable manner. Information isn't of any value to a hotel without context—that's merely the "what" without the "why." Instead, VoG enables hoteliers to understand what guests do, and why they do it.

Ideally, with the right technology in place, hoteliers can access a user-friendly dashboard that displays guest insights derived from a wide range of sources (reviews, OTA's, booking channels, social media, and more). Using this information—which can include direct reviews, search behaviors, stored preferences, social media habits—hoteliers gain a truly holistic view of their guest.

Hoteliers today are in a unique position, as the Internet of Things (IoT), machine learning, AI, online channels and communication streams provide more access to guest-specific data than ever before. Capitalizing on VoG, your hotel can build stronger, personalized relationships with each guest, while better identifying problems (even before they happen) and systematically specifying your marketing efforts and investments.

Are you ready to see (and understand) the person behind each reservation?