The importance of TripAdvisor and Holidaycheck cannot be underestimated. People like to follow recommendations from their friends. But now they also follow the advice of their “virtual” friends on social media hotel review sites.
TripAdvisor’s Popularity Index is based on quantity, quality and recency of customer reviews, so the marketing goal becomes obvious for hotels: get more, better and up-to-date reviews, which studies show impart the most powerful sense of value for consumers.
Hotels that work to increase their rating in this index will undoubtedly increase demand. One glowing example is the Four Season Hotel in Austin, Texas. Not long ago, the hotel was ranked 27th in the city. Today it’s number one.
Management attributes this remarkable rise to their engagement of reviewers. Management’s responses to reviews encourage others to write their own positive reviews and keeps the hotel in the top position.
Leverage Listening Technology to Identify New Reviews
This transition did not happen without technology. A recent study shows how the implementation of a Reputation Management System at the Four Seasons Austin supported the dramatic rise from 27th place to first in a short time.
Reputation Management Services – sometimes known as sentiment management systems – are designed to track and notify hotel managers whenever their brand is mentioned across Twitter, Facebook and TripAdvisor (among other sites). They also shows daily reports on reviews, compares reviews with competitors’ and offers metrics like rate of response. Vendors of Reputation Management Services include Trustyou, Olery and Revinate.
Enforce a Deadline for Responding to Negative Reviews
Four Seasons’ corporate office encourages managers to respond to a negative review within 24 hours of its posting. This mitigates the possibility that other customers will see an unanswered negative review.
In one example (shown below), a guest complains of waiting 55 minutes for food poolside during her stay at the hotel and not getting what was ordered when it finally arrived. Management located hotel staff that could shed light on the problem and compose a meaningful response rather than just a stock answer.
By gathering the details of every negative experience, the staff is able to evaluate procedures and offerings and identify areas where training is needed to ensure guests are more likely to leave a positive review.
Devise a Specific Content Structure for Your Response
To ensure consistency and simplify the process of responding to negative reviews, the management established a structure of their responses.
- Thank the customer for their time writing a review
- Acknowledge any positive comments
- Apologize for the specific complaint or issue
- Explain a specific, forward-looking plan of how the hotel will fix the problem
- Invite the customer to come back
Let’s look at a recent example:
Above, you can see, the manager thanks the customer for the feedback and acknowledges that the customer was impressed by the staff, the view from the hotel and the food. He then offers his apologies for the unmet expectations in the room and bathroom.
He then quickly targets his response toward the customer’s specific complaints—they say the room was small and obstructive. He explains that upcoming renovations will make the rooms spacious and more functional. Responding with this format allows Hagelberg to engage the guest in a conversational but effective way that keeps the message casual and addresses the customer’s specific issues.
Respond to Positive Reviews With a Personalized Message
Responding to the positive reviews can be invaluable as well. Corporate doesn’t ask individual Four Seasons hotel managers to respond to positive reviews, but management chooses to, and potential customers have shown they’re more likely to stay at a hotel with personal responses.
Reviews for New Generation Hotel Chains Carry Special Significance
New generation hotel chains are characterized by, among other attributes, a minimal number of staff on duty. Guests are encouraged to take advantage of the self-service features, whether that be reservation, check-in, check-out or even F&B. So without staff on premise, how can a guest pass on a complaint or a compliment? The answer, of course, is via hotel review sites such as Tripadvisor or Holidaycheck as well as via social media. In fact, the “always-on” clientele of new generation chains is even known to post reviews during the stay. So management and staff of these hotels and chains need to read and react to reviews particularly quickly, perhaps multiple times per day. If computers, websites, apps and kiosks are handling the standard operational tasks, the designers of these systems should also be involved in the feedback loop. After all, if there was a problem at check-in, for example, it just might be a problem that a software vendor needs to resolve.
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