Measuring the Pre-Purchase Experience of a Hotel Guest
This is the first instalment of a 3 part article series about the stages of guest satisfaction called the pre-purchase experience.
As we know, the guest experience starts well before entering the doors of the hotel, it starts when the potential guest turns on the computer and starts the internet browser to seek information about the hotel, its services, location etc.
What makes this stage so important?
Because the pre-purchase experiences can set the expectations of the upcoming visit, or at least influence the formation of them.
Obviously, if the decision to make the reservation is based on misinformation, this is something that every hotelier would want to prevent from happening again.
Let’s say a hotel collaborates with 15 active tour operators from different global regions, then most likely the tour operators use intermediaries such as travel agencies to sell their package holiday product. It is highly likely that each tour operator will have hundred or more retailer partners through which the package holiday product is moved. In theory this means that a hotel can be promoted through hundreds and hundreds of intermediaries, who may or may not have the most accurate information about the hotel, and this can result in a scenario outlined above.
In terms of measuring the pre-purchase experience, some ideas have been put forward at the end of this article how to use the ever important tool of guest satisfaction questionnaire for the purpose.
But first few words about the process itself, when the potential guest is seeking the information, it is likely that the information will be obtained from one, or a combination of the four mediums listed below:
–Online booking engines and review sites e.g. booking.com, Tripadvisor etc.
–Brochures (the printed material)
–Consultation of a travel agent, friends or relatives, in general persons familiar with the hotel
From the point of view of the hotelier, only the hotel website and brochures are the mediums that the hotel has 100% control over the published information. However, majority of the purchasing decisions are nowadays being made based on the online reviews, recommendations made by travel agents, friends or relatives. Obviously, the latter two are somewhat less under the control of the hotel management, besides trying to provide the best possible guest experience during the stay, and hoping it will result in a positive recommendation either online or by word of mouth.
Nonetheless, the pre-purchase experience could be measured in the guest satisfaction questionnaire. Having the knowledge of the source or sources of information that led to the purchasing decision is going to shed light on the areas of product promotion that perform well and conversely the areas that under-perform.
By asking the guest first what was the source or sources of information used for taking the decision to make the reservation, and the following question would address whether the source or sources provided accurate information about the hotel, or turned out to be inaccurate or even misleading, for example by simply giving the options of YES (accurate) and NO (misleading), or using a scale from 1 (accurate) to 4 (misleading).
Furthermore, instead of providing only a selection of ‘tick the box’ options for the used sources, it would be more beneficial to provide additional space next to the box for the guest to write down the actual used source by its name that led to the purchasing decision whether it was a recommendation made by Travel Agent X, Tour Operator Y, or online review read in the booking platform Z etc.
By doing this, the process of identifying the areas in product promotion that perform well and the areas that under-perform will become easier, and in a case that the Travel Agent X, Tour Operator Y or online booking platform Z had given misleading information e.g. regarding the services provided in the hotel or inaccuracies regarding the room specs, the guest would be able to identify the misleading part/s after which the misinformation could be easily traced back and fixed accordingly.
By revisiting the questionnaire design and making the aforementioned modifications might eventually ease the process of assessing the performance of different channels of product promotion, and naturally improve the perceived guest satisfaction as the expectations would be formed based on more accurate information.