Frequent visitors to either of the Sands properties in Las Vegas — The Venetian or The Palazzo Resort — may notice some changes since their previous stay. Shorter check-in lines, for example, or more places they can lounge outdoors in the shade.
To the casual observer, such changes may seem minor — and in many respects, they are. But before deciding what improvements to undertake, the Las Vegas Sands Corp. aggregated consumer feedback from thousand of review sites to discover which issues loomed largest in the minds of its most frequent — and most vocal — guests.
Or more accurately, it hired someone to. In 2007, Sands was approached by Biz360, a seven-year-old marketing research firm in San Mateo, CA, about being a beta client for a new service it was rolling out. Called Opinion Insights, the service uses natural-language processing and data analytics to give marketers fly-on-the-wall insights into what is being said about them across a vast swath of the Internet, not unlike similar services offered by Nielsen Buzz Metrics or other companies that claim to track Internet “buzz.”
“We were immediately able to identify certain areas where they were strong vis á vis the competition… They had a strong dining experience, for example, and people loved that they offered free entertainment. That was a real advantage over the competition,” Tony Priore, chief marketing officer for Biz360, said. “But there were problems with the check-in experience, long waits at the desk. People also complained about a lack of shade by a pool.”
Presented with the results of the baseline study, which was conducted in Q1 2008, Sands undertook a handful of improvements, including shortening the lines at the check-in desk and resolving the lack of shade by the pool (which turned out to be merely a failure of signage, as there were other pools on the property where guests could lounge in the shade).
Six months later, when Biz360 went back to the boards for a follow-up evaluation, it found that Sands’ “Weighted Net Advocacy Score” had risen 27 percent, and that complaints about the specific issues that the hotel addressed had dropped off considerably.
“We were able to pinpoint which aspects of each property received significant positive customer feedback as well as which needed improvement,” Rom Hendler, vice president of strategic marketing for the Venetian and Palazzo Resorts, said in a written statement. “I feel like we have discovered an amazing new source of customer intelligence that delivers detailed insights about our property and competition that we’ve never seen before.”
But while the results suggest the hotel was able to use the mined data in order to have a real impact on its customer’s experiences, one might still ask, did the Sands really learn anything it couldn’t have learned from a suggestion box in the lobby? Why go to such lengths — and expense — to cull feedback from their own guests?
Priore says that such questions miss the point, because services like Opinion Insights don’t just tell you what some customers think of your hotel (or car, or airline), they sort through thousands of opinions and rank them in terms of influence in order to tell you which issues are truly worth addressing.
“Instead of wasting time on anecdotal evidence, focusing on something that might not be a serious issue, you have the ability to look at a much wider perspective,” he said. “This provides a more holistic and objective view of what consumers are saying. You can jump to a lot of conclusions based solely on anecdotal evidence.”
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