Earlier today, we released our first Digital IQ Index: Hotels report focused on the non-prestige Economy, Midscale, Upper Midscale and Upscale categories. Compared to our flagship hospitality report, in which we annually assess the digital performance of luxury hotel brands, the 48 U.S.-based brands in this new study are, overall, more digitally competent. While 41 percent of the 57 brands in this year’s Luxury study earned Challenged or Feeble scores, just 19 percent of their Economy to Upscale counterparts fell into these bottom two categories.

A higher median score across the lower-priced hotels does not tell the entire story, however. Even though an impressive 88 percent of the brands in this new study have fully-optimized mobile sites, there are still widespread lapses in digital performance. In a segment of the industry where the preferred channel for booking and customer service assistance is still (believe it or not) old-fashioned call centers, that so many brands have invested in forward-looking mobile sites is impressive. What’s harder to justify is that two of the key transition features that help consumers eventually move from offline to online booking–i.e., live-chat and “click-to-call”–are still a rarity. In the chart below, you’ll see the breakdown of customer service tools available among the 48 brands included in the study, and just how dominant a priority offline customer service still is.

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One of the most significant findings in this report was the power of enterprise and how parent companies hold a big advantage for being able to leverage investments across their property portfolios. In terms of customer service among parent groups (see chart below), there was a wide range between highest-scoring Starwood, all of whose online properties offer live-chat and click-to-call, and those on the other end of the spectrum like Wyndham, Choice, and America’s Best Franchising, whose customer service offerings on-site and via social media accounts are still nascent and/or non-existent. It is not an ‘if’ but a ‘when’ guests at these hotels become more comfortable with–and ultimately prefer–the online experience. Customer care being a critical component of consumer loyalty in the industry, these brands would do well to start making their online service as strong as their offline.

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