Rick Garlick couldn't get his hotel Internet to work for more than an hour on Monday night. And Garlick is well aware that he's not alone in experiencing frustration with hotel Internet service.
The quality of Internet service remains the top problem experienced by hotel guests, and it has the biggest impact on customer satisfaction, according to the J.D. Power 2013 North America Hotel Guest Satisfaction Index Study released Wednesday.
Garlick is J.D. Power's global travel and hospitality practice lead, and he needed the Internet to work on the study.
"The Internet is the modern day hotelier's biggest challenge without question," said Garlick. "Lots of hotels don't offer good Internet connectivity."
Of the 20% of guests who had a problem with their hotel stay, nearly one-third reported a problem with the Internet. If a guest experienced problems connecting to the Internet -- regardless of whether they were charged separately or it was included in the price of their rooms -- that guest's hotel satisfaction dropped an average of 133 points.
Despite complaints about the Internet or other issues, hotel guests are happier than they've been in years.
Some 80% of guests don't complain at all, the study shows, and hotel guest satisfaction increased to the highest levels in seven years, an average of 777 on a 1,000-point scale. That's up 20 points from 2012.
The study ranks eight hotel categories by seven factors. The Ritz-Carlton came in first place among luxury brands, while Kimpton Hotels ranked highest in the "upper upscale" category. Hyatt Place ranked tops in the "upscale" category.
Holiday Inn (midscale full service), Drury Hotels (midscale), Microtel Inn & Suites by Wyndham (economy/budget), Homewood Suites (upper extended stay) and TownePlace Suites (extended stay) each came in first place in their categories.
Focus on the personal touch
A hotel's personal touch also counts, said Garlick.
Guests who interact with four or more different types of staff (excluding check-in) report the highest overall satisfaction (856 on a 1,000 point scale). Satisfaction drops to 724 points -- 53 points below the industry average -- when guests didn't interact with anyone besides check-in staff.
"With self-service check in and mobile check-in, there's a presumption that if you can avoid people and the interaction, you're creating a better experience," said Garlick. "Overall, we see that's not the case. The more interactions you have on property, the better you feel about the experience."
What can guests do?
Think about what you want and need in a hotel and do online research to figure out which hotels will satisfy those wants and needs.
It turns out the most satisfied guests, just 7% in this study, turn out to be those who research their trips using online hotel review sites and use information to seek out hotels they like. Those folks -- categorized in the study as scrutinizers -- report guest satisfaction at 114 points above the industry average, according to the study.
For guests who chose a hotel primarily because of price, satisfaction is significantly lower -- 59 points below average satisfaction.
Now in its 17th year, the J.D. Power study measures overall guest satisfaction using these seven factors: reservation; check-in/check-out; guest room; food and beverage (not in the upper extended stay); hotel services; hotel facilities; and cost and fees.
What do you need and want from your hotel? What is your preferred North American hotel chain?