Two out of three ain't bad in Meat Loaf's world and in hospitality four out of five has become the new average over the last decade. A bold statement, perhaps, so join me as I examine the forces that have nudged society's service expectations up for the better.
Despite its unverified reviews and flaws, I like TripAdvisor. I really, really like it. So much so that I have their App on my phone, I check it daily to keep tabs on my members and also use it as a metric to judge how successful my consultancy process is. Having said that, I would die a happy man if I knew the "secret sauce" of their constantly changing algorithm which decides the rankings of accommodation providers.
Yet for all my admiration for what a tremendous force for good TripAdvisor has been by ensuring there is no hiding place for the full spectrum of poor hospitality businesses, there has been a big problem for quite some time.
Way, way, WAY too many establishments listed on TripAdvisor have a score of at least four out of five, with a stupendous amount having "maxed out" with 5/5 bubbles/circles/Kermit the Frog in plan view with his eyes closed. Most of the other you know who OTAs utilise an out of 10 score and I firmly believe it is time for TripAdvisor to follow suit.
Since 2010, TripAdvisor has been dishing out its Certificate of Excellence to hotels which have an overall score of at least 4/5. I do not wish to diminish the hard-work of any accommodation providers, but because the COE has become so widespread its value and stance as a beacon of quality has fallen steeply. Harsh critics would say the COE is "ten a penny" and they would not really be unfounded in saying so when one looks at the cold, hard statistics:
Top ten UK cities (even though one's a town !) with highest number of 2015 COE winners:
1. London 3210
2. Edinburgh 732
3. Glasgow 457
4. Blackpool 351
5. Manchester 323
6. Liverpool 318
7. Bristol 295
8. York 291
9. Birmingham 277
10. Brighton 244
Blackpool has 1,000 places to stay. That means well over one third of the accommodation providers are "excellent." Surely this necessitates a Certificate of Par Excellence to enable Guests to sniff out who the true best are ? 1,2,3,4,5 might have worked for the bloke who sings Mambo Number 5, but it has clearly been too restrictive a range for many Guests to accurately judge their stay, with hunger for the 1 to 10 range found on the large OTAs and Strictly Come Dancing.
However, movements have been made to sieve the finest out with the TripAdvisor Hall of Fame, which due to the exclusivity of only being awarded to those with five consecutive COEs in a row, has the credibility which the COE in isolation has now lost.
Number crunching, and discounting the top two, Hall of Fame being awarded to between 30 and 61 places per destination sits far better as a trustworthy sign of greatness:
1. London 344
2. Edinburgh 145
3. York 61
4. Glasgow 53
4. Bath 53
4. Blackpool 53
7. Liverpool 42
8. Brighton 36
9. Windermere 35
10. Torquay 34
TALKING OF BLACKPOOL AND WINDERMERE...
Did he really Pay and Stay ? Or is this a publicity stunt ?
Londoner's bizarre TripAdvisor rant calls for Lake Windermere to be lit up https://t.co/RbHn8RThZJ pic.twitter.com/xeNQvzMnLA— Daily Mail U.K. (@DailyMailUK) November 25, 2015
To compound the situation even further, there are thousands of establishments listed on TripAdvisor which are rated either two or three stars by Visit England/Wales/Scotland or The AA yet have got solid four or five out of five TripAdvisor ratings. Guest is God at Little Touches, but when it comes to star ratings, facilities come first, thus meaning a big discrepancy between The Circles of Green and An Inspector Calls in many cases.
Across the Atlantic, a similar dilemma can be found with AAA Diamond or Forbes Travel Guide ratings as examined in a recent Skift article entitled "What’s the Value of a Hotel Star Rating in a TripAdvisor World?"
A further attempt to take the twinkle twinkle out of the stars can be found on Business Insider.
Score on the door:
Red Boat ice cream parlour
Beaumaris, Isle of Anglesey in Wales
maxes out with 5 out of 5
The Food Standards Agency grades on a scale of one to five. Even though a score of one to three are passes, how many of us would be comfortable eating at a cafe, pub or restaurant with a score of less than 4 ? Those with a 1, 2 or 3 might as well put a sign up saying "rat infested kitchen" such is the negativity that an uno, dos or tres figure conjures up in the minds of most Guests.
My friends Matthew and Donna Cheltenham are the publishers of Blackpool City Guide, which has a section listing local restaurants called "Food Glorious Food." They could have no doubt allowed any Food & Beverage operator to advertise with them and raked it in, but they didn't.
Wanting to do their bit to drive up standards in the resort, they put a clause in place. The rule was that F&B operators can only advertise if they have a food hygiene rating of four or five out of five. This complemented their refreshing quality approach to a local guide - it is printed on similar material to a match-day football programme, which is why so many people are often amazed it is a free publication.
I do, of course, advertise Little Touches in Blackpool City Guide and as we have our own driving standards up remit with our APPROVED mark, I see it as only logical that I back Matt and Donna in their quest to do for F&B what I am trying to do for accommodation.
(Not so) Fantastic five to Perfect ten
The two bad, one satisfactory, two good 1 to 5 rating scale has outgrown itself. The way things are going, the hunger for more business transparency and rapid increase in Guest expectations could mean that before we know it out of ten is old hat. Nonetheless for now, with more power to the staying, playing, eating, paying Guest the increasingly commonplace 1 to 10 scale means it is easier than ever to p-p-p-pick out a peerless.