Sentiment of the Week: Surprise in Hotel Booking

By: Clarabridge Team

August 27, 2015

customer experience
Sentiment Analysis

Logistics. Even just typing the word is sigh-inducing.

The things that must be done. The contents of your checklist. It’s what you need to take care of before…doing just about anything that you actually want to do. Like go on vacation.

In today’s Sentiment of the Week, we explore the hotel booking process—something that is a critical piece of the customer experience, although not as glamorous as the stay itself.

We’re not joking. Using the Clarabridge platform to examine hotel guests’ top mentions within a sampling of hotel reviews, we used  sentiment analysis to score and examine customer sentiment. The Clarabridge platform measures positivity or negativity on an 11-point scale from -5 to +5, 0 being neutral. To conduct our analysis, we aggregated data from online review sites where customers provided rankings from 1-5. And as you can see below, the Room Reservations topic was the only one of ten categories that failed to register any positive impact, resulting in the most net negative review rating(an abysmal -1.6).

Rating Impact By Hotel Theme

Total Negative Impact
Total Positive Impact

Digging into the data, a pattern begins to emerge that might explain the wholesale negativity when it comes to the booking process. See if you can spot it (all reviews are sic):

I think that it is completely bogus to charge an addition fee on a hotel room that I booked through one of the websites.

I booked this hotel with and I am very disappointed because when I booked it says no resort fee, but when I got there well surprise there was.

Negatives: Well that goddamn resort fee came of nowhere as I booked Expedia, but F me I guess everyone does that BS.

Say it with me: hidden fees. Or “surprise” fees, depending on how closely one looks before hitting “confirm” on the reservation page.

You’ll notice that each of the above representative reviews specifically mentions booking through a third-party merchant – as about 35% of all online bookings occur. While you could theorize that such separation might deflect a bit of the blame, that’s not the way people see it when faced with the bottom line.

The arrival of that bottom line is also likely to impact the way visitors view their experience: it either comes ahead of time, serving as a sort of first impression for the stay, or it comes when checking out, as a disappointing finishing touch – whatever’s the opposite of a cherry on top.

So what’s a hotel to do? As we’ve detailed before, clear and open communication goes a long way towards improving the customer experience. Burying important details in the fine print is for movie villains and old-timey Motown contracts – in the age of the Voice of the Customer, you can’t get away with such skullduggery.

Ensure that all fees are expressly noted and accounted for. Even better, some sites have experimented with the revolutionary idea of presenting a “real cost” subtotal, inclusive of all up-to-date fees. The bottom line, however, is that logistics get a lot less painful, and customers will look upon their hotels much more favorably, if there are fewer surprises at the end of the road.

Clarabridge’s blog, Sentiments, helps businesses incorporate customer sentiment and feedback into their business strategy. Published by Clarabridge, Sentiments speaks to customer experience professionals, marketers, customer care leaders and anyone who wants to make informed, strategic decisions that delight customers. Follow Sentiments on Twitter @Clarabridge.