It's a great time to be a hotel guest, according to the J.D. Power 2018 North America Hotel Guest Satisfaction Index (NAGSI) study, which found that hotels of all shapes and sizes are currently making their customers happier than ever before - a feat driven largely by increasing levels of guest approval of both rooms and hotel facilities, with overall satisfaction with the industry having increased by 8 points to 825 (out of 1,000 since the same time one year previously). This article is copyright 2018 The Best Customer Guide.

The company found that, although upgrades are now losing their effectiveness as drivers of customer satisfaction, hotels in all price ranges have excelled lately at ensuring their customers have a top-notch experience, and several 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," said Jennifer Corwin, Associate Practice Lead for the Global Travel and Hospitality Practice at J.D. Power.

And hotel service is also improving, albeit at a slower rate. According to Corwin, in consideration of economic cycles, hotels should now emphasize refining their service efforts because this area represents a greater opportunity for improvement and requires less investment than previously-seen capital improvements.

Now in its 22nd year, the study is designed to help hotel operators add focus and clarity to the product and service improvement efforts that matter most to their guests. The study measured overall guest satisfaction across eight hotel segments: luxury; upper upscale; upscale; upper midscale; midscale; economy; upper extended stay; and extended stay. Seven key factors were examined in each segment to determine overall satisfaction: reservation; check-in/check-out; guest room; food & beverage; hotel services; hotel facilities; and cost & fees.

Among the key findings of the 2018 study:

  • Up, up and up: Compared with 2017 results, the greatest improvement in overall satisfaction occurs in the upper midscale segment (+12 points on a 1,000-point scale). A 7-point increase is posted in the luxury, upper upscale, upscale and midscale segments, while a 6-point improvement is found in the upper extended stay, extended stay and economy segments.
  • Flying high: The Ritz-Carlton scores 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. Similarly, Drury Hotels scores 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% 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.
  • Technology offerings are important: Technology is becoming more pervasive in the guest experience, specifically in guest rooms. Adding capabilities has a clear association with higher guest satisfaction, but this plateaus as offerings become standard. Consider that 77% of guests surveyed say a large flat-panel television was available in their rooms, but only 10% have a tablet for in-room information. The former is worth a 12-point lift, while the latter is worth a much larger 47-point increase. Mobile app adoption generates a 58-point increase in 2018, compared with a 65-point increase in 2017.
  • Service satisfaction increases at a lesser rate: While on the rise, hotel services satisfaction continues to be outpaced by the growth in product satisfaction. Guest room and hotel facilities satisfaction, which are primarily product-focused, are increasing at a greater rate than any other factor (13 and 11 points, respectively). The factor areas with the highest level of staff touch points (check-in/check-out and food & beverage) have improved the least (5 and 7 points, respectively), which coincides with a smaller improvement in cost & fees (5 points).
  • Think local, act local: Providing authentic local experiences has increasingly become an important focus of the hotel industry as a means of providing a unique, destination-specific feel to a hotel room. While providing an authentic local experience in food and beverage is essential, more guests experience the guest room decor and hotel facilities. Focusing on delivering a location-specific feel can cause a greater lift to overall satisfaction.

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

Full details of the study and its results can be obtained directly from J.D. Power online, here: http://www.jdpower.com