by Loren G. Edelstein | July 25, 2018
Hotel guests are happier than ever, particularly with guest rooms and hotel facilities, according to the J.D. Power 2018 North America Hotel Guest Satisfaction Index Study, which was released yesterday. Overall satisfaction, based on responses from approximately 55,000 hotel guests, rose by 8 points, to 825 on a 1,000-point scale.
 
"Hotels in all price ranges have excelled at ensuring their customers have a top-notch experience," said Jennifer Corwin, associate practice lead for the Global Travel and Hospitality Practice at J.D. Power. "Years of capital investment in offerings such as higher-end televisions and in-room tablets have left their mark. Now, as hotels look to push customer-satisfaction levels higher, their focus should turn to service areas, particularly when it comes to direct booking."
 
Service areas also are improving, but at a slower rate. According to Corwin, hotels should focus on refining their service efforts, which represent greater opportunity for improvement and require less investment than capital improvements.
 
Now in its 22nd year, the study is designed to help hoteliers add focus and clarity to product- and service-improvement efforts that matter most to guests. The study measures overall guest satisfaction across eight hotel segments. Seven key factors are examined in each segment to determine overall satisfaction: reservations; check-in/check-out; guest rooms; food and beverage; hotel services; hotel facilities, and costs/fees.
 
For 2018, the following hotel brands ranked highest in guest satisfaction in their respective segments:
 
Luxury: The Ritz-Carlton (for fourth consecutive year)
Upper Upscale: Kimpton Hotels
Upscale: Hilton Garden Inn (for third consecutive year)
Upper Midscale: Drury Hotels (for 13th consecutive year)
Midscale: Wingate by Wyndham (for fourth consecutive year)
Economy: Microtel Inn & Suites by Wyndham
Upper Extended Stay: Staybridge Suites (for second consecutive year)
Extended Stay: Home2 Suites by Hilton
 
Following are additional highlights from the 2018 study.
 
Luxury segments showed the most improvement. Compared with 2017 findings, the greatest improvement in overall satisfaction occurred in the upper-midscale segment (+12 points on a 1,000-point scale). A 7-point increase was noted in the luxury, upper-upscale, upscale and midscale segments, while a 6-point improvement was found in the upper-extended-stay, extended-stay and economy segments.
 
Ritz and Drury scored big wins. The Ritz-Carlton scored 902, up 14 points from last year and the highest ever for a brand in the study. The Ritz-Carlton is at the top in five of the seven factors in the luxury segment. Drury Hotels scored 895, also up 15 points from last year and the third-highest score of any brand. Drury Hotels ranks highest in the upper-midscale segment across all seven factors. Both brands have high levels of consumer loyalty and advocacy, with 70 percent or more of guests stating they "definitely will" recommend the brand to someone else, and more than half of guests saying they "definitely will" stay at that hotel chain again.
 
Service has improved, but slowly. While it's also on the rise, satisfaction with hotel services continues to be outpaced by growth in product satisfaction. Guest-room and hotel-facilities satisfaction, which are primarily product-focused, increased at a greater rate than any other factor (13 and 11 points, respectively). The areas with the highest level of staff touchpoints (check-in/check-out and food & beverage) improved the least (5 and 7 points, respectively), which coincides with a small improvement in costs and fees (5 points).
 
In-room gadgets boost satisfaction. Technology has become more pervasive in the guest experience, specifically in guest rooms. Adding tech capabilities has a clear association with higher guest satisfaction, but this plateaus as offerings become standard. For example, 77 percent of guests surveyed had a large flat-panel television in their rooms, but just 10 percent had a tablet for in-room information. The TV is worth a 12-point lift in satisfaction, while the tablet was linked with much larger 47-point increase.
 
Guests appreciate everything local. Providing authentic local experiences has become an important focus of the hotel. While local food-and-beverage offerings are essential, room décor and hotel facilities also should reflect the destination's unique appeal. Delivering a location-specific feel to the property's ambiance can boost overall satisfaction.