Much attention has been paid to what the younger generations – Millennials and Gen Z – want when it comes to their sports travel experience. Not much, however, has been written about what they don’t want.
But new research suggests that as a whole, these demographics – and many attendees as a whole – aren’t very good about reporting problems they encounter. It’s a bad equation for event directors because it adds up to people not returning to a destination, hotel or event without any explanation. So what can be done about it?
First, the problem: The 2019 Zingle Guest Services Report paints a rather bleak picture, as reported in Hotel Management. In fact, people only report problems with their experience about 25 percent of the time overall . Gen Z and Millennials were the least likely to say they would report any issues that impact their hotel stay at 17 percent and 18 percent, respectively, said the survey. Thirty-three percent of baby boomers (ages 56-75) said that they would report any issue that impacts their guest experience.
Why is it happening? What is behind the trend of people not reporting problems? In some cases, because it’s not easy. Nearly one out of every three respondents who say they don't report issues don't because there is “not an easy or quick way to do so.”
And face it, you’re talking about the electronic generation. The report found that 45 percent would prefer to report the issue through SMS or a messaging application, versus over phone, e-mail or in person. Fifty-eight percent of Gen Z respondents would prefer to answer via text while 56 percent of Millennials would.
The takeaway here: Make problem-reporting into your problem. Post-event evaluations are great but don’t wait until everyone has gone home to find out about the difficulties or challenges people encountered while they were onsite. If your event has an app, does it include a way to communicate with organizers, hotels, CVBs or other relevant groups? Who has oversight for any reports that are filed during the course of the event?
If comments are responded to quickly, and if the person is being kept in the loop regarding who is addressing their problem and a timeline for a response, they come away with the understanding that the event owner (or other relevant party) is concerned about the quality of their experience, then it’s a win.
Lee Corrigan, president of Corrigan Sports and the director of the Baltimore Running Festival, noted in an article in SDM that when a complaint starts appearing on a survey (or being heard by staffers), it needs to be acknowledged:
“One year, we kept hearing people complaining about congestion at the finish line. We reconfigured the area to improve the flow of people coming through, and to make it much more runner friendly. It’s something we might not have known about it if it hadn’t been for the surveys, which allowed people to tell us what they thought was wrong. But it’s not enough just to say to your staff, ‘Okay, we’ll work on that for next year.’ You have to let the participants know you appreciated their feedback. That’s why we make sure we reply to people and say, "We heard you loud and clear. This is what you wanted, and at our next event, here is what we’re going to do differently." In the case of the changes to the finish line, we made sure everyone knew we’d made improvements and that they’d see them the following year. As a result, a lot of people were ready to commit to running again.”
Conversely, however, if people wind up with no acknowledgement of the problem they reported, you’ve just compounded your original problem – and made registrants feel like you've proven it’s not worth complaining to anyone. The upshot is an unhappy participant – and likely, someone who won’t return to see the improvements the following year.
In fact, here are two more key points from the survey:
- 42 percent of respondents say they would return to a hotel if it were able to turn a poor experience into a positive one by solving a problem immediately, and an additional 52 percent would “certainly consider it.”
- 87 percent of respondents report that they at least sometimes feel “more emotionally connected” to a brand when their customer service solves a problem for them.
And here’s one more thing to know. Just because people don’t report their bad news to you, it doesn’t mean they’re not talking about it. According to the American Express Global Customer Service Barometer, dissatisfied consumers will tell others about their experiences, both good and bad, with the bad news reaching more ears. Americans say they tell an average of nine people about good experiences, and nearly twice as many (16 people) about poor ones – making every individual service interaction important for businesses.