“How Has Everything Been?”

About a 3 min. read

Vanessa Shelby
Director, Qualitative Insights & Strategy

My husband and I had been counting down to this trip to the Maldives for an entire year, and we were finally here. As we exchanged a few people-watching quips, the Duty Manager from the resort approached us. “How has everything been?” he asked. Without thinking, my husband and I both responded, “Great, wonderful!” but I felt a moment of internal struggle. Should I tell him about the confusing menus, the electric toilet in our room isn’t working, or that we are still waiting to hear if we can get a later checkout? Instead, I smiled and said, “everything’s great.”

How has everything been?” is not inherently a bad question. It made me feel valued as a guest and gave me an opportunity to air any unmet needs. As a moderator, I might leverage this question to kick off an interview or focus group. When I reflected on my own response, (“everything’s great!”) I realized how comfortable and easy that is for both the question asker and the respondent, but how unhelpful it actually is. “How has everything been?” may or may not yield constructive feedback.

“How has everything been?” became a question we heard from staff throughout our time at the resort. We learned that there had recently been some major updates to the guest experience since the pandemic, and management was genuinely curious to know how it was performing. I refrained from putting my consultant hat on and stuck with my oversized beach hat, but this experience made me think about the importance of meeting respondents where they are (ex: some cultures are more open to speaking their mind while others need more encouragement), of going beyond the surface level, and the need for current customer intelligence as expectations of travel have changed since the pandemic.

Meet Respondents Where They Are

In a recent qualitative study with an airline client, we knew asking about travelers’ experience would not yield the granular detail needed to understand and improve NPS. To truly understand their journeys, we recruited 50 future travelers to complete a “fly-along” via mobile ethnography software. We were virtually with them in real time throughout their journey, and by allowing them to participate through their smartphones, they could discretely provide feedback similar to texting a friend or posting on social media. The result? An actionable list of in-the-moment pain points that if solved could move the NPS needle in a positive direction.

Encouraging live guest feedback in a private setting with a third-party researcher or a mobile ethnography approach would help the resort I stayed at get the real answer to “how has everything been?” By leveraging a third-party researcher to conduct interviews or probe on uploaded responses, guests’ potential concerns for seeming difficult or for disappointing the resort’s hardworking team members with criticism would be diminished.

Go Beyond the Surface Level

“How has everything been” is not a bad question, but several other questions should follow. To improve the overall experience, it’s critical to spend time asking about both the points of friction as well as the drivers of delight across the customer journey. In qualitative research, we often use projective techniques, such as metaphor elicitation, to help the respondent share what’s on their minds when it’s hard to articulate. While it sounds simple, reminding respondents that the conversation is a safe place for both praise and criticism, and that the client genuinely wants to improve, can be the nudge needed for respondents to dig deeper when comments like “everything’s great!” are rampant.

Get ‘Revenge’

With a sense of normalcy emerging, it’s no mystery that consumers are ready to travel again. On any given day, my Instagram feed is filled with friends’ adventures in Aruba, foodie tours of France, and babymoons in Belize. With travel being halted and unsafe for much of 2020 – 2022, “revenge travel” means travelers want to make up for lost experiences. What happens when you’re craving a vacation after all that has transpired in the past 2+ years? Your expectations and needs for that trip are much higher.

Travel is surging, as are the amount of dollars being spent by travelers to ensure the vacation of their dreams. Now is the perfect time to reconsider the customer experience and craft an action plan to earn their continued loyalty.

CMB’s team of seasoned researchers with expertise in the travel and tourism industries can help your team go beyond “How’s everything been?” to achieving repeat bookings. Let’s get in touch!