Sentiment of the Week: Disappointment in Hotel Rewards Programs

By: Dheepan Ramanan

February 27, 2015

Tags:
customer experience
customer experience management
Sentiment Analysis

Business travelers and other high-frequency travelers look for one thing with their lodging—consistent excellence. These guests, having stayed at their hotel chain of choice for tens or hundreds of nights, understandably have high standards. Rewards programs offer a bonus to these travelers in the form of free nights and points to book future stays. The hospitality industry is known for heavily focusing on the customer experience, so we dug into what customers really think about hotel loyalty programs.

Today we examined data from four popular hotel chains on their rewards programs and the associated guest sentiment.

loyalty_hotel_sentiments_clarabridge_chart

The Starwood Preferred Guest program had the highest total sentiment regarding their loyalty program and by far the most positive overall. Hilton and Marriot rewards are very close in guest sentiment, nearly even in total sentiment. Hyatt is the clear loser in these comparisons.

loyalty_hotel_sentiments_clarabridge_chart2 

Examining the overall conversation, comments around points and room/hotel quality was the highest volume, and both possessed a negative sentiment. When it comes to service, overall guest sentiment was negative. Of all the brands, SPG was the only brand with a positive sentiment score, performing 190% better than the other three chains.

Where are the points?

Loyalty program members keep frequent tabs on points earned, and the points they expected to earn. This one topic accounts for most of the volume overall of loyalty member conversation, and constitutes much of the negative emotion expressed to these brands. This one area has allowed SPG to carve out an advantage in comparison to Marriott and Hilton in overall guest experience.

loyalty_hotel_sentiments_clarabridge_chart4

As a customer group, SPG loyalty members are more vocal about their points than patrons of other chains, mentioning the topic 51% more than average. Perhaps most tellingly, SPG guests are also the only group to mention this topic positively, scoring nearly .3 sentiment points better than any other hotel chain. Again, Marriott and Hilton have similar sentiment performance, close to average, but Hilton guests mention this topic more often. This sentiment gap is further illustrated by mentions of missing points – SPG guests mention this topic 41% less than customers of other brands. Hilton’s performance is the worst in this regard, with their guests mentioning missing points 21% more often than the average. Unsurprisingly, this corresponds very closely to mentions of brand love and inversely with brand anger.

SPG guests expressed the highest level of brand love, with 15% more mentions of this emotion. Marriott had the second most mentions of this theme, followed by Hilton and then Hyatt. As could be expected, anger corresponded inversely, with SPG guests mentioning this theme 23% less often, while Hilton guests touched on this theme the most with 33% more mentions than average. This should be a worrisome sign to managers of the Hilton loyalty program, as certain perks such as lifetime status have recently become easier to obtain with Marriott and SPG. If this trend continues, it will not be surprising to see Marriott to overtake Hilton in brand sentiment.


Dheepan Ramanan is a data scientist at Clarabridge. Follow him on Twitter @DheepanRamanan.
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