The Coppid Beech Hotel: are you asking the wrong questions?

I wanted and needed a good nights sleep

On Saturday night at around 1:30am my wife and I ended up checking into The Coppid Beech Hotel  – a local hotel a few minutes drive from our home.  By this time we had been to a party, come home and spent some 45 minutes trying to get into our home and failing to do so because our children had accidentally locked us out.  We were both tired, had a big day the next day as friends were coming over for the day, and just wanted to get to our room and sleep soundly.

The hotel failed to deliver the core service: I did not sleep well

As soon as we got into our room I knew that I would not sleep well.  I looked at the bed and could clearly see that the mattress was sagging in the middle and so both my wife and I would end up being crunched together in the middle.  Now that is just fine for my wife as she is a heavy sleeper.  It is not fine by me; I am a light and some would say a fussy sleeper.

Being so tired I did eventually get to sleep only to find myself being woken up at least three times between the hours of 2am and 8am.  I could clearly hear the loud voices in the hallway and once I heard talking in the room next door.  The net result was that the hotel had failed to deliver the core service: a good nights sleep.  So it was with interest that I looked at the “Guest Comment Form” that was prominently displayed on the table in the room.

The hotel is asking for feedback and going about it the wrong way

The form asks about the all kinds of things: “Prior to arrival”; “Front of house”; “Bedroom”; “Breakfast in Rowans”; “Dining within the hotel”; “Lounge bar”; “Room service”; “Waves health & fitness”; and “Brasserie at the Keller”.  In total there are 9 sections and 55 questions: for most of the questions the guest is asked to rate the hotel as either “Excellent”, “Good”, “Average” or “Poor”; and for each of the 9 sections there are only two lines for comments and suggestions.

As I look at this guest feedback form I notice several things.  First and foremost, not one of the questions asks about the core service from the customer perspective.  What is the core service?  I’d argue for a hotel it is providing a good nights sleep.  There is no question about the quality of the bed or the pillows.  And there is no question about noise or the lack of it.

Second, given that there are 55 questions, how many guests are actually going to fill in the form?  I suspect only a small minority.  And if that is indeed the case then how representative is the feedback?

Third, how will this type of questionnaire (ticking the boxes) actually help the hotel to figure out what matters to customers?  And where things rank in terms of importance?  And what areas of the hotel to focus upon?  It is possible that an area is rated as “Average” and that is all that a customer expects in that area because that is an area that simply is not important to the customer.  It is also possible that another area is scored “Good” and yet that is insufficient because it is so essential to the customer that it needs to be “Excellent”.

Lessons for Customer Insight teams

I am sure that those that want to find lessons will be able to find several.  For my part I want to draw attention to how the hotel can get more useful feedback if they simply ask the following questions:

  1. Why did you choose to stay at our hotel?
  2. What were you looking for /expecting to get out of your stay in our hotel?
  3. How well did we deliver on that?
  4. In what areas can we improve?
  5. What do you suggest that we do differently?
  6. Are you willing to write a positive review and recommend us on TripAdvisor and/or our hotel website?

Finally, there is really big difference between designing Voice of the Customer feedback programs to look good (or simply go through the motions) and designing them to get a real insight into what matters to customers and how your organisation is doing in terms of delivering what matters.  I suspect the Coppid Beech Hotel is simply going through the motions of soliciting customer feedback like so many other organisations.  What do you think?

Author: Maz Iqbal

Experienced management consultant working at the intersection of strategy, customer, and technology. Combine a tendency to think strategically with a penchant for getting my hands dirty at the coalface of implementation.

5 thoughts on “The Coppid Beech Hotel: are you asking the wrong questions?”

  1. Lovely article. I particularly liked your prompt for a reference (question 6).

    In class I often use ‘hotels’ as an example to illustrate the role of products – that is, as a solution to a need. If it does not solve the core need, it fails, regardless of all the bells and whistles that the company may have added (e.g., free wi-fi, loyalty cards, …)

    As for the survey you mentioned, I bet that it was designed with data processing in mind: it is easier to enter a score (2, 3, …) against each question and later calculate an array of stats, than it is to process qualitative answers. Though, as it is often said: you put garbage in, you get garbage out.

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    1. Thank you Ana, I am 100% with you on your thinking.

      Too many organisations simply are too busy doing the newer, sexy, stuff and have forgotten about the core service and the need to continually improve that core. As for the survey being designed for ease of data processing it reminds me about the story about the drunk looking for his key under the street lamp (even though he had lost it elsewhere) simply because there was more light under the street lamp and so the task of searching for the key was easier.

      Finally, thanks for taking part in this conversation and making your contribution. I look forward to hearing your voice soon. Be well!

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  2. Dear Mr Iqbal
    Thank you for your most constructive and helpful comments with regard to the guest questionnaire here at the Coppid Beech Hotel.
    The guest questionnaire that you saw in your bedroom, by coincidence, is coming to the end of it’s print run, and as a result we will be looking to re-develop it in the near future. Perhaps, from a customer perspective, and as you are local you would be willing to come and see me at the hotel, so that I may use your thoughts to develop the best questionnaire for both the hotel and our guests.
    Looking forward to hearing from you,
    Andrew Oxley
    General Manager

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    1. Dear Mr Oxley,
      I am pleasantly surprised that you have picked up on this post and that you have reached out to me. It occurs to me that through your actions you have shown that you do care about your customers and the customer experience. As this is what I really passionate about: helping organisations to prosper by doing a better job of looking after their customers you can count on me to contact you to arrange a time to meet.

      Kind regards
      Maz Iqbal

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