I recently talked to a business analyst at Gaylord Hotels who shared how the company is changing its customer interactions using sentiment analysis derived from its Clarabridge software. Three points were particularly illustrative of a company maturing in its delivery of customer experience:

  • Success is about being great at key interactions, not every one. Originally the hotel believed that during a stay, guests experienced 100 different things — 80 that staff needed to do great and 20 that staff needed to do satisfactorily to satisfy customers. After watching sentiment data for the past couple years, the company realized that in fact only five activities most strongly correlate with guests recommending the hotel to others. For example, the first 20 minutes is absolutely essential, a period that the hotel had broken into several discreet steps but that guests viewed as a single experience. Hotel management now works with staff on executing on these five critical activities perfectly, while on the other 95, they only need to perform adequately.  
  • Prioritizing investments based on target customer needs saves misspent money. While some managers felt that it was necessary to renovate rooms in a wing of the hotel to transform the property and improve customer satisfaction, analysis showed that the hotel was getting no negative comments about it, particularly from its most important segment of guests. Based on the findings, the hotel decided to invest that large sum of money in other areas, such as a technology solution that helped people find their way through the hotel, which was generating more negative sentiment.
  • Systematizing thewow works. The hotel chain has started making strategic bets about what it can do to “wow” groups that come through. By looking for similarities between groups, and watching the sentiments post-stay, hotels alter operations to delight customers. For a group that had connected particularly well with employees the previous year, the hotel will arrange 300 hotel staff members to greet that group in the lobby upon arrival the following year. If an arriving group includes a significant number of families, the hotel will arrange to have a magician working the check-in line and have a guy on stilts making balloons for kids. Or, if a lot of people are expected on a particular day, it will offer specials and guide people to the restaurant beforehand to ease check-in lines. All this is keeping in mind that if it gets the first 20 minutes right, it will get a bump in check-in satisfaction scores, which the hotel has correlated directly to future revenue.