Tag Archives: mystery shopper

Twenty Percent of Hotel Guests Report Problems With Their Stay

Negative word of mouth spreads faster than positive word of mouth. With 43% of guests who will not likely return to a hotel in the future, this is an eye opener.

According to hotel and motel management we have provided services for, more than 20% of guests who have spent more than $250 a night said that they had experienced some sort of problem during their visit. Furthermore, guests who experience a problem are 43% less likely to return in the future. This is a big deal in the hospitality industry.

With this relationship between problems reported and decreased guest loyalty, it is pertinent to keep service up to par to avoid losing market share. Unhappy guests tend to tell others about their experience even more so than happy guests. This means that negative word of mouth spreads faster and has the potential to damage your business’s reputation. Here’s a fact: Yelp gives power to the people. If you are not regularly challenging yourself to provide customer service excellence, Yelp will reflect these efforts. Ergo, profit loss will be imminent. Why even take the chance?

Hospitality professionals know that the answer is to deliver extraordinary levels of customer service. Go above and beyond for your customers. As a hotel manager, or any business manager for that matter, be sure to know how your guests are being treated. Make note of both good and bad experiences in order to pinpoint areas of improvement or reward for top performing employees.

This is where Advanced Feedback comes in. We provide professional mystery shopping services that will undoubtedly deliver you and your business results. Browse or website today and see if our award winning services are right for you.

AdvancedFeedback.com

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Boutique Hotels – Missing the Opportunity to Provide Personalized Services

One measure of personalized customer service, and perhaps its most objective indicator, is a hotel’s willingness to practice it over the phone.  Being one of only two possible first impressions a hotel has to work with, the personalized phone call is so simple it ought to be automatic yet it is increasingly rare. Less than 5% by one measure!

In part one of an independent national study to measure customer service and sales in today’s web-based world, Advanced Feedback, Inc. called over 250 boutique hotels to see if this traditional line of communication was any more personable than an online search.

“The phone shop doesn’t lie” explains Zachary Hooker, President of Advanced Feedback. “Unlike customer surveys or feedback requests, there is no upset customer or buyer biases, just the facts.  They either do it or they don’t”.  Zachary is referring to whether or not the front line is tasked with and performing the niceties of good old fashioned personalized sales and service:  “May I have your name?”, “Have you stayed with us before?”, “Would you have any special requests that I may help you with?”

The company began their study by focusing on a segment that should lead the pack in personalized services, boutique hotels, the popular personality or lifestyle brands of recent years.  Using a simple mystery phone shop to check rates and availability, Advanced Feedback was able to objectively determine if the hotel is intent on providing service any more personable than an online reservation form.

The answer is no.

In fact, based on their results one could argue that today’s hotel agents ask fewer questions to personalize the service than found in a typical online rate inquiry where we know we’re at least asked to select room type or bed preference.  One could also question if some properties have an objective to encourage guests to go online versus call their business. Looking at the data below tells us management is no longer committed to phone skills that include rapport and personalized services:

17%      Asked for the caller’s name

31%      Asked the caller if it was their first stay or reason for visit

9%        Asked about specific needs or preferences

10%     Mentioned any hotel amenities or benefits prior to quoting price

4%         Covered all four areas of personalization

Boutiques might be well designed to cater to a particular lifestyle or modern trend, but the Advanced Feedback study shows a missed opportunity to turn a hotel’s charm and personality into a memorable first impression.

Furthermore, looking beyond the qualifying aspect of the call, one might speculate that specialty hotels would at a minimum embrace each incoming call as an opportunity to highlight something interesting about the property.  Yet only 10% of those called mentioned even one unique feature or benefit of their boutique property!

“We started with boutique properties thinking this would be a benchmark for how good phone skills set the stage for a personalized hospitality experience.  We didn’t necessarily anticipate better overall skills from boutiques, as the major well known brands often have phone training systems in place, but we did expect the personalization to be there” continues Zachary.

Comparing the overall phone skills performance of boutiques to a sample of well known brands, collected during a control group survey, the study shows no overall difference, boutiques 37%,  majors 37%.  In addition to the personalization aspects of inbound phone skills  (rapport and needs assessment), the survey scored other phone handling and sales criteria such as the use of a professional greeting and asking for a reservation.  These scores, shown below, are also roughly inline with a random selection of non boutique hotels.

92%      Answered within three rings

82%      Used an appropriate hotel greeting

47%      Asked to secure a reservation

24%      Handled resistance to a reservation

33%      Attempted to lead the conversation

37%      Overall phone shop score

In general,  it can be concluded that the front desk or reservations is adequately staffed and trained to answer the phone professionally and politely, but that’s where the training stops.  It seems this is true across all brands, not just boutiques.  The company will know for sure when a second phase of the investigation is complete.  “Clearly when only 47% of hotel agents ask the caller to make a reservation, phone skills training is no longer front and center.  Excuses include cuts in training, attention to online sales, etc. but as long as you’re paying people to answer the phone, they should be selling your service”, challenges Zachary.

The survey covered a wide variety of self proclaimed boutique hotels, ranging in size from only a few rooms to over 500.  On average small boutique properties did worse in all areas.  Those with less than 50 rooms had the lowest average overall score of 21%.   Above 50 rooms, there is a weak correlation between a hotel’s size and practice of good phone skills, boutiques above 500 rooms faired best at 62%, but with a small sample size.

Rooms                          Average Score             Calls

1-49                              21%                             46

50-99                            34%                             49

100-149                        39%                             59

150-199                        44%                             30

200-249                        48%                             27

250-499                        34%                             31

500 plus                        62%                             10

All Boutiques                37%                             252

With regard to the drop in performance with fewer rooms, Zachary claims that it doesn’t have to be this way.  “Our on demand phone shops give small hotels an incremental and low cost solution to training, one equally as effective as programs used by the large hotels and groups.”

“Again, what’s keeping the scores so low are the components of communication where boutiques should excel, namely the personalization of the call.  Personalization as simple as asking for a callers name, asking if the caller has visited their property before, if there are any preferences, and mention at least one feature of the property that may be a benefit to the caller – on average, done less than 5% of the time” he emphasizes.

Advanced Feedback’s survey also looked at differences between specific cities, states and regions of the country.  In part two of this study the research firm will investigate variations in service between brands, independents and hotel groups.

Go to THIS LINK (http://www.advancedfeedback.com/hotelsurvey2011.html) for a copy of the full report, or to find out how your hotel fairs relative to others in your area, region or the national average.

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Is Your Hotel Hurting, or Are You Hurting Your Hotel? – Small Tourist Area Sampling Returns Big Results

San Diego, California, May 11th 2009 – Advanced Feedback, Inc. a nationwide customer survey and mystery shopping company, phoned ten hotels, over half the hotels in seaside Coronado CA, a popular tourist island just west of downtown San Diego.  Part of a wider study on business and the economy, the mystery shoppers, posing as potential customers, simply called the front desk and asked “How far are you from Sea World?”

“I wanted to see if agents would make an attempt at a sale … with someone calling their hotel from out-of-town.” explained Geoff Gladu, Account Manager for Advanced Feedback.  Perhaps not shocking to this group of seasoned mystery shoppers, but alarming to any business manager, the team did not find one hotel agent who attempted to continue the conversation beyond answering their initial question.  “I was hoping to hear something along the lines of  ‘would you like for me to check rates and availability?’ or “Is there anything else I could help you with?’ anything, really.  Also, no one even thanked us for calling”, he added.  Considering these businesses spend a good share of their marketing budget on getting travelers to call their hotel, Advanced Feedback’s survey uncovered pervasive missed sales and branding opportunities.
Perhaps the hotel agents ignored the sales opportunity because the scenario implied the caller wanted to stay closer to Sea World, 6 miles from Coronado? To test this possibility, the team conducted a second survey to the same properties with the question “what is there to do for fun in the area?”  This time, all hotel agents did fine to sell the area but only two agents built value for their hotel and only two others thanked the customer for calling. Again, not one hotel representative attempted to continue the conversation or make a sale.

Deciding to make it as simple as possible for the front desk agent to recognize a sales opportunity, without saying “I want to make a reservation”, the mystery shoppers called the same hotels a third time asking, “How much are your rooms?”

Only one out of the ten properties that were called received a passing grade; the agent qualified the caller, built value for both rates and property and even offered to make a reservation.  All others failed.  One property attempted to qualify the caller, another spoke well of their property, but all of them were quick to provide the rate and let the potential customer off the phone – never once asking if the caller wanted to stay there!

“With beach weather soon approaching, there’s no better time for these seaside hotels to learn how to recognize and pursue the sales opportunities given – this usually starts with phone skills via a mystery phone shopping program”, said Geoff.

In a challenging economy like the current one, Advanced Feedback’s research is a wakeup call to companies not to overlook the training and monitoring of frontline employees.

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Ocean Park Hotels turns to Advanced Feedback for Mystery Phone Shops

Advanced Feedback, Inc. is proud to announce and welcome new client Ocean Park Hotels with offices in Valencia and San Luis Obispo California.  Ocean Park Hotels owns and operates properties under the flags of Marriott, Hilton, Holiday Inn Express, and Best Western Franchises.  Hotels are located in Camarillo, Thousand Oaks, Valencia, Monterey, San Luis Obispo, Santa Barbara (Goleta), and San Diego (Poway).

OPH is the latest client to use Advanced Feedback’s telephone mystery shopping services (phone shops).  The hotel group had tried other mystery shopping companies but turned to Advanced Feedback based on the recommendation from Michael Chisholm, Executive Director, who expressed that he “was most comfortable with his overall experience with Advanced Feedback” when he was a hotel general manager.

OPH will use the phone shops for quality compliance checks across their range of properties and will further encourage the use of phone shops as a flexible tool to improve hotel service and sales with better phone skills.

Linda Tran, Account Administrator at Advanced Feedback states, “in these economic conditions, many businesses rely on phone shops and mystery shoppers to be their eyes and ears on their employees, and to serve as an effective alternative to quickly-forgotten and costly training.”

Advanced Feedback mystery shoppers, posing as potential customers, call hotels inquiring about rates and availability.  Employees are scored based on a number of criteria, such as qualification, building rapport and value, sales offers, aggressive closing, friendliness and helpful knowledge.  Advanced Feedback provides immediate actionable results in the form of an individual phone shop report and recorded call, and then follows up with a trend report to track continuous improvements.  “We welcome and look forward to helping Ocean Park Hotels maintain their high standards of sales, quality and an excellent customer experience” says Linda.

For more information regarding mystery shops or phone shops please visit www.AdvancedFeedback.com.

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Advanced Feedback extends mystery shopping to canine pals too!

Advanced Feedback, Inc. has extended their mystery shopping services to their local neighborhood Humane Society, who was originally concerned that the mystery shopping company was too big for the single location.  As stated by Nicole Campos, Customer Relations Manager, “I appreciate all of your help while we develop a program that best suits us and within what your company can do.  I realize that it is a little different than what you normally do considering the nature of our business and that we only have one location.”  After working closely with her dedicated Account Manager, the two companies were able to tailor a program to fit Nicole’s exact needs. The San Diego based company now conducts both weekly phone shops and a monthly onsite mystery shop offering valuable feedback in a timely manner.

Phone shops are placed to help make sure that each incoming call is forwarded to the correct department is important.  Phone shops help get pet related questions answered correctly while capturing the quality and level of the customer service by targeting each of the Humane Societies eight departments.  These calls range in a number of different scenarios and are valuable to Nicole due to the frequency of the calls, which are delivered to her by email including the recording and a detailed survey within 24 hours. These phone shops help keep the employees on their toes and provide the required level of customer service to all guests, both two legged and four.

The onsite mystery shop conducted each month not only targets a specific department but also the main facilities.  With a full summary of the details, along with an easy to understand scorecard, the information allows Nicole to visualize from the customer’s point of view.

When asked about the program after six months of use, Nicole stated, “We are very happy with the shop results and are finally able to really use a lot of the data we have collected for training and new hires.”  At www.advancedfeedback.com you can learn how this mystery shopping firm is able to customize and tailor their services to fit your needs.

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Beach House Renews Mystery Phone Shops With Advanced Feedback

Advanced Feedback, Inc. is proud to Advanced Feedback, Inc. is proud to welcome the Beach House. Originally signed in 2004, the mystery shopping firm previously conducted monthly phone shops at the Hermosa Beach property. Due to reconstructing of management, the Beach House reestablished their phone shop service under the new management of Jerry Cronk.

The hotel relies on phone shops to monitor each agent’s customer service skills. Mystery shoppers pose as potential customers and call inquiring rates and availability. Agents are scored based on a number of criteria, such as qualification, reservation offers, aggressive closing, building rapport and value, friendliness and helpfulness. Linda Tran, Account Administrator of Advanced Feedback states, “In this day and age, many businesses are relying on phone shops and mystery shoppers to be their eyes and ears on their employees. Phone shops are made to see how the agents perform when they think that they are in the clear. It also helps business owners obtain the initial impressions of their guests.”

On a daily basis, Advanced Feedback provides immediate results to the Beach House, these results include the agent’s individual phone shop report and recorded call. This immediate feedback allows for correct training and counsel to take place if needed.

For more information regarding mystery shops or phone shops to enhance your level of guest service, please visit AdvancedFeedback.com

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Mystery Shoppers Knock on Healthcare’s Door!

Mystery shopping has been used to enhance customer engagement initiatives in most service industries, such as Hospitality, Retail, Automotive, and Financial Services for a very long time now. Is the Healthcare community finally embracing the benefits of this vital service and sales improvement tool as well? The answer appears to be yes.

Healthcare has traditionally limited itself to long-term approaches such as customer surveys or physician surveys. However, due to the competitive nature of today’s technologically savvy and demanding “shopper”, it seems the industry as a whole has woken to more aggressive techniques for fast acting monitoring and feedback such as mystery shopping.

Zachary Hooker, President of San Diego based Advanced Feedback, a leader in mystery shopping says, “Though we have been servicing almost all areas of the service industry for more than a decade now, this is the first time we have seen some activity on the Healthcare front. It looks to be pretty promising and long term.”

“Mystery shoppers” posing as patients evaluate the facility by placing appointment calls, information calls for pricing, visiting the facility, faking symptoms, making special requests and sometimes staying in the facility overnight. The medical centers and facilities who have undertaken the services lately, believe that a number of changes have been made as a result of the practice including improvement in employee behavior, change in ambience of waiting room and reception areas, more concern towards patient privacy and lesser wait times.

While like most other research techniques, mystery shopping gives insights into ways to improve patient interaction, identifies problems in service, and increases customer loyalty, one of its most effective uses is the aid it provides in explanation of customer survey results, that is, its ability to explain the customer feedback or response.

The “Mystery Shopping” approach seems to be particularly popular amongst mid size and small size segment of the industry. This is possibly due to the stiff competition and evaluation the smaller clinics and nursing homes face. Larger organizations also benefit from the service by using mystery shoppers from within their patient database, as well as those out-of-plan. Certainly, the fast turn around time, immediate results and comparatively lower cost of service makes it an attractive feedback and training tool.

“The foray of Healthcare into the Mystery Shopping arena is a welcome move and we look forward to the customer service initiatives it will promote in the sector.” Comments Zachary Hooker from Advanced Feedback.

Advanced Feedback has over 15 years of experience in doing mystery shopping and customer engagement surveys. For more information, please visit www.advancedfeedback.com or write to Zhooker@advancedfeedback.com.

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