86% of U.S. youth say traveling is important to them, according Engine’s Cassandra Global Culture Forecast. This sentiment is echoed by 62% of the population, and 80% of Trendsetters, who say they feel more fulfilled spending money on travel than on most other types of purchases.
While there is a high interest in travel, it is also a crowded industry with many hotels to choose from and continued competition from Airbnb and others. With that said, it’s more important now than ever before for a hotel to find a way to stand out and cut through the noise. But how?
The answer may lie in memorability.
Memorability of an experience has a clear connection to guest loyalty behaviors such as word of mouth and willingness to recommend. An ‘OK,’ but not memorable experience is not enough for brands to grow, while a negatively memorable experience has an impact beyond that one trip. It’s important for brands to tap into this passion for traveling by making a travel experiences more memorable. But how do you leave that ‘emotional imprint’?
Let’s first review this idea of memorability. Leveraging Engine’s CARAVAN omnibus, we found that 59% of people say a recent hotel stay was particularly memorable—either positively or negatively. The good news is 89% of those were positive, which means many hotels are already doing a commendable job in cementing the experience with guests. The 11% who had a negative memorable experience, however, are obviously a bigger concern. We probed to learn the impact:
While 37% of guests didn’t do anything as a result of their negative experience, we did hear that:
- 26% told family & friends
- 16% posted a negative online review
- 11% sent an email or letter to management
Additionally, while 47% of guests say they will never stay at that specific hotel again:
- 17% say they will never stay at any hotel part of that chain
- 15% say they will avoid any hotel owned by the parent company
- 28% say the negative experience will not impact future stays
Responses were consistent across age, gender, income, education, and children in household, making this is an issue across our population.We further looked for a ‘memorability gap’—hotel chains that have a disproportionately low number of memorable stays compared to their market share. There are a number of chains that had far less memorable stays compared to total stays, suggesting improvement is needed to better delight guests and imprint on their memory. If not quickly impoved, this can be a leading indicator of declining market share.
So how do you improve the imprint of a stay? How do you ensure positive online reviews, comments, and word of mouth? The word cloud below provides a view of guest responses we received from our survey:
Some key tenets to follow to ensure a positively memorable experience at your property are as follows:
Don’t Surprise Me
Guests will remember unpleasant surprises. The most common complaint we heard was that the pictures online did not match the reality. For many guests, it’s jarring to realize that while you did your research, the property was misrepresented. This applies to surprise costs too, specifically costs like paying for parking. It can be a real financial hit to realize you owe an additional $40, $50, or even $60 per night to park when that was not expected.
Most importantly, we also heard comments that rooms were not properly equipped for a disabled guest (e.g. no grab bars available), an obviously unpleasant surprise with serious implications.
Deliver the Basics as Expected—Every Time
While any given interaction may not be memorable when it’s ‘basic,’ the cumulative effect of consistently delivering the basics can be positively memorable. Some basic deliverables that help with positive memorability are:
- Clean rooms and clean property. This is something that really stood out on the negative side. Room and property conditions that are not up to expectations will be remembered poorly. We heard about everything from stains on the curtains, to climate control problems, dirty bathrooms, and noisy or thin walls contributing to negative memories.
- Consistently friendly and helpful service that is also authentic.
- Comfortable rooms and overall property.
- Comparative sleep quality to stays at similar hotels. This is something that was consistently found to be a driver of delight.
Make it Right, Quickly
Problems can occur, but when they do, fixing it quickly is crucial. Guests will often be understanding and, in fact, will give you positive credit if a recovery is handled well. Addressing issues quickly and completely is one simple way to even turn a negative memory into a positive memory.
Make it Easy
Guests want a hassle-free experience. We heard a number of comments from guests who felt they had a ‘run around’ at their hotel. For example, when getting a price-match guarantee to be honored, delivering an easy, hassle-free experience may mean an immediate small-profit loss, but can help build a positive memory that turns into a lifetime value gain.
Elevate the Experience
Elevating the experience can be done in many ways. One of the most common reasons cited for a memorable visit was having a great breakfast. Gym and exercise availability is another opportunity, as well as generally addressing how wellness is integrated into the offering. Brands like Freehand are combining great art direction with affordable pricing., while something simple like the music choice or scents in common areas can be a differentiator. Additionally, a number of guests feel that one way a hotel can elevate their experience is by fulfilling their desire to have the hotel ‘facilitate good times’.
When it comes down to it, details matter. Even a detail as simple as the selection and quality of the bathroom amenities (don’t forget a good hair dryer!), can be a consistent driver of delight.
Speak to Me, Personally—If You Can Deliver
Personalized service and communications contribute to memorability, but the property has to fulfill against known information, and it must be consistent. For example, don’t ask guests how many pillows they want (or towels, or type of blanket, etc.) unless you can deliver on this consistently on every visit.
From clean rooms to personalized experiences, providing a positively memorable experience can be a differentiator for a hotel. Leading to many positive reference points from a guest, a positive experience can have a lasting impact beyond a single stay. In comparison, as seen above, avoiding the negative is critical. While it may not seem like a big deal in the moment, most guests will take action that is invisible to the hotel, but visible to others, and most guests will not return if they remember a negative experience.
Learn how Engine can help increase your customer experience.