Asking the right questions in hospitality


Asking the right questions in hospitality

Photo of Rich New

Insight Manager, Rich New, on how to achieve valuable insight when it comes to measuring your guest experience.

Asking the right questions is at the heart of everything we do at HGEM. This is trickier than it sounds: not only is the phrasing of the questions we ask customers and mystery guests key, but the structure and context of the questionnaires is just as important.

What is the point of running a survey and what is the desired outcome?

Before we design a questionnaire, we make sure we have a thorough understanding of what our client wants to get out of it. Too often, the remit of a questionnaire is far too broad, with a vague spread of questions and a muddled lack of focus.

To give an example, we were recently engaged to work with a new casual dining client. On their customer satisfaction survey, they asked:

If you had any allergies how well did the server deal with your request, did they direct you to the website, did you feel confident our food was correct?

Immediately, we were able to see that there were too many questions rolled into one. We changed it to:

1. How knowledgeable was the server about the menu including any dietary requirements.

2. Did the server recommend any dishes or any additional items?

Remember K.I.S.S

Simplifying questions is key. Ensuring that we use straightforward language and that what we’re asking is unambiguous. Where the questions are for one of our client branded websites, we also need to make sure the tone of voice matches the brand values and standards. Following these rules, this leads to simple surveys with easy-to-draw conclusions and clear outcomes. We try to abide by the KISS principle (Keep It Simple Stupid).

When we begin work with a client and look at their guest experience research to date, we often find that questions are broad – with three thoughts rolled into one question. At HGEM, we know from experience that this puts customers off answering them and provides poor insight. It also means that it’s hard to draw conclusions based on feedback, as often respondents are answering different aspects of the same question.

Break it down

Our unique GEM framework helps break Guest Experience down in a way that makes it easy to measure, collate data and communicate it. This methodical approach ensures that feedback is structured in a way that makes it easy for teams to action.

  • We engage – With the audience, with stakeholders, and with teams to really understand the goals and objectives.
  • We measure – Attitudes, behaviours, key objectives, pain points, challenges or reward/ recognition.
  • We help you improve – Taking actions from the insight to drive business objectives and create positive change.

We’ve thought long and hard about how to make our questionnaires as painless as possible for guests. Simple measures such as moving the personal information data capture fields to the end of the questionnaire means we can use the incomplete insight gathered up to that point, even where there is a drop-off when guests are asked to enter their details. With GDPR coming into place, having strict clarity on this is vital. We are starting to use analytics tools to help us spot when questionnaires are too long or where particular questions are triggering a drop-out.

Our questions are easy to answer, often with a 1-5 rating for key aspects of the guest experience journey. And when we ask for more detail, we choose questions we know will be interesting to answer, for example: “What one thing could we have done to improve your visit?” This allows guests to share personal insight, as it’s broad enough to garner a range of responses.

Aim to be unobtrusive

We’re mindful of not interfering in an irritating way with the guest experience journey. There are a number of new tech-based customer experience tools that badger customers for feedback immediately or during a meal or stay. We understand that this can be counterproductive, and unnecessarily disruptive to their experience.

Likewise, incentivised questionnaires are likely to get a less authentic response. Where a guest is motivated by the prospect of winning a holiday, they are more likely rush their answers, racing to get to the end. Receiving negative feedback about a product and then offering an automated discount on the same item is totally counterproductive. In contrast, guests completing our surveys are motivated to give accurate feedback, whether positive or constructive.

Novel questions can be useful, particularly for clients who have used a similar customer feedback questionnaire for some time. Building in a customisable section of the questionnaire that can be altered depending on the season and occasion can help incentivise repeat visitors to offer feedback.

If you would like us to help you measure your guests' experience more effectively, please get in touch.

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