The Cornell University Center for Hospitality Research has come up with a technique for hoteliers who want more customer feedback than they get from the usual comment cards. The idea, called photo elicitation, is to give guests a camera and ask them to take pictures of whatever causes them to have the experience they have, both positive and negative.

In a pilot study, faculty members of the School of Hotel Administration Madeleine Pullman, PhD, and Stephani Robson gave one-time use cameras to hotel guests at the Statler Hotel, which is a teaching hotel operated by the school, and asked them to shoot whatever influenced their experience of the hotel. Guests and the researchers then went over the photos, which on the plus side included a lobby flower arrangement and a scenic view; on the minus side were a pile of electrical cords and an armoire door that didn’t work properly.

“We found that the 40 guests who participated in this study were enthusiastic about recording their likes and dislikes,” says Robson in a report in the Cornell Center for Hospitality Research News. “Although we used film cameras, a hotel manager could arrange for guests to use digital cameras and then compare the results via the Internet.”

The technique also could be useful for meeting planners who would like to know more than what’s written on the evaluation forms.

Click here for more on this and other techniques and tools developed by the Cornell Center for Hospitality Research.

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