E-mail as the primary vehicle for feedback is being rolled out by hotels giants Hilton and Marriott according to a recent report in the Washington Post . Most people outside the industry ought to be forgiven if their reaction to the story was a yawn as customer feedback via electronic mail has become the staple for other service industries such as airlines. The article suggests that both Marriott and Hilton favor electronic means of guaging customer satisfaction over traditional methods. That could be a mistake.
Anyone who has sent in an email complaint or suggestion to an email box of virtually any company in any industry is guaranteed a response – as seems to be the case with the proposed solution by the two hotel companies – but in most cases an automated reply does nothing to resolve issues. Marriott and Hilton are likely to see the level of responses (and complaints) rise significantly. How the two companies develop systems to wade through all that email and identify quality issues will be interesting to watch. A better way for hospitality companies would be to focus on a multi-channel feedback system (web, phone and paper). Our industry can never (and never will be) a virtual industry. An industry that pivots on human contact cannot afford to take the impersonal approach that emails perforce entail.