Customer feedback made easy

An overnight stay at Ramada Inn & Suites in Red Deer inspired Collin Spires to develop a product that he thinks could revolutionize the hospitality industry.

Ramada Inn and Suites Red Deer general manager Vimal Pillay holds a tablet used in his hotel to gather customer comments.

Ramada Inn and Suites Red Deer general manager Vimal Pillay holds a tablet used in his hotel to gather customer comments.

An overnight stay at Ramada Inn & Suites in Red Deer inspired Collin Spires to develop a product that he thinks could revolutionize the hospitality industry.

Spires recently filed a United States patent for The Review Genie — a system that transforms customer surveys from pen and paper to touchscreen and computer. In use at the Red Deer Ramada since mid-July, The Review Genie allows guests to quickly and easily provide feedback about their stay using one of two electronic tablets at the front desk.

“It’s a great tool,” said Ramada general manager Vimal Pillay, who’s worked in the hotel industry for 18 years.

Customer feedback, he explained, is a critical source of information that enables the Ramada — and every other hotel — to identify and address problems. The Review Genie simplifies and accelerates the process.

It will even issue an instantaneous text message to Pillay’s cellphone if a negative review is received, allowing him to intercept unhappy guests before they depart and seek to address their concerns.

Spires has operated VIP Google, a search engine optimization company, for nearly a dozen year. The Ramada is one of his clients, and while staying there in June the Edmonton-based businessman began pondering the hotel’s guest feedback form.

“I looked at the thing, and I conceptualized The Review Genie.”

Working with his staff, Spires developed the software and arranged to implement it at the Red Deer hotel where the idea originated. Not only has it improved the quality and usability of the information received, it’s increased the volume of responses by more than seven-fold — helped by the availability of prizes to respondents.

Pillay said the system has eliminated stacks of paper and the need to process these manually, and gives him more ways to use the resulting data. For instance, he can link reviews to hotel staffing at the time, and can also modify questions to get immediate feedback on areas of concern.

“You can isolate your problem areas and focus on those.”

Email addresses obtained as part of the questionnaire process also allows the Ramada to stay in contact with satisfied customers.

Pillay said he’s not aware of any other hotel using a similar system.

Another benefit could be near, with Spires currently talking to officials with hotel review website TripAdviser.ca about incorporating The Review Genie data into their rating system. That would help address the damage done by a handful of poor reviews that aren’t indicative of what the majority of a hotel’s guests think.

The Red Deer Ramada, for example, is rated three out of five on TripAdviser.ca but its guests have given it an average score of 4.1 on The Review Genie. That difference could have a huge impact on the hotel’s occupancy numbers, suggested Spires.

He and his staff are now pitching the technology to other hotels in Alberta and British Columbia, with plans to expand their marketing efforts much more broadly.

“We’re going to go right through the States.”

They’re also talking to businesses in other service industries, like restaurants and banks, where The Review Genie might also prove valuable.

Additional information about The Review Genie can be found online at thereviewgenie.com.

hrichards@bprda.wpengine.com