It’s very simple. Hospitality businesses such as hotels are at risk if they don’t focus attention on their online reviews and take control of their reputation management.
As more and more guests turn to one another for advice on where to stay in cities around the world, the effectiveness of traditional hotel advertising is declining – while the impact of online hotel reviews is on the rise.
Failure to monitor, manage and respond to feedback will skew your hotel management strategy to issues that are unimportant to customers, as well as provide unhappy customers with ammunition for negative feedback on travel and social media sites.
Ultimately, we live in a social age.
It can be difficult for an individual to get through their lives without significant episodes being recorded on social media channels, let alone a hotel to exist without the blemish of social media complaints.
While feedback can be challenging, it can also help hotels to determine priority areas for improvement.
A recent Phocuswright report, co-sponsored by SiteMinder, found that:
- Managing a reputation on websites like TripAdvisor is viewed as the most effective way of generating bookings by over half (54%) of independent hoteliers in the US.
- For hotels across the US and Europe, online reviews are nearly twice as important as search engine optimisation in influencing hotel booking decisions.
These findings are significant.
They signal the competitive advantage of online reputation management as a factor in hotel success.
And as the impact of online bookings and digital feedback continues to rise, the importance of reputation management rises with it.
Yet while online reputation management is a trend across the hospitality sector, it is still considered an indulgence by some independent hoteliers. Part of this rationale is driven by the confusion around how to deal with both positive and negative feedback online.
So here are some standard ways hoteliers can deal with online reviews – regardless of sentiment:
How to handle your hotel’s negative online reviews
The most feared of all feedback online is a negative review.
However, audiences are particularly savvy in determining the value of feedback, not just because the “voice” of the author is on display, but because audiences often apply a filter to their reading of any review.
Consciously or subconsciously, they consider the value of any commentary, as well as the relevance of a comment to their own experiences and preferences.
So a comment on the convenience of a hotel location to an equestrian events venue will be of potential importance to horse-lovers, yet entirely irrelevant to many other potential guests.
Where a rational negative comment is posted, hotels do have options on how to respond.
Acknowledge and Action
For a genuine, reasoned negative comment on customer experience, it is best for hotels to respond in a timely manner (within 72 hours of posting), acknowledging the issue and describing how it will be addressed. Ideally, a follow up post will occur after actioning the issue, and showing how the experience will not be repeated.
This is by far the best possible response to negative feedback, because online audiences are far more willing to value action and positive changes in behaviour, than think poorly of the initial negative experience.
Apologise and Compensate
For a negative comment which illustrates an experience that was difficult or impossible to avoid, an appropriate response is to apologise for the poor experience and to privately offer either monetary compensation, or discounts on future bookings.
While this is unlikely to totally satisfy the customer with the stated poor experience, it will indicate to other customers, the prioritisation of customer experiences at the hotel. It’s important to take compensation offline where possible to avoid inviting those like to complain for free stuff.
Apologise and Thank
For negative comments that focus on pedantic details, the most appropriate response is an apology for the experience and an acknowledgement that this feedback will help shape your hotel’s future guest experience strategy.
This is far more useful than a response which states that the comment will be passed to a customer service team, because the customer already believes that service is the problem at the property.
How to thank hotel guests for their positive feedback
While most organisations are thrilled with the prospect of positive reviews, an abundance of rave reviews can be just as suspicious to audiences as a series of negative reviews.
Therefore, positive reviews also need a response.
Where a positive review is excessive and perhaps gushing, it is wise for firms to thank the guest for their enthusiasm, but to also acknowledge areas where you are attempting to improve. This reinforces commitment to customer service.
Where positive feedback is sincere and reasoned, the best response for hotels is to express delight and appreciation for the feedback and the desire to serve again in future. This is the easiest response to deliver, but is often the least fulfilled.
Where feedback is predominantly neutral, but some aspects are highlighted as being of particular value, it is advisable for hotel managers to express thanks for the feedback and to request further advice on how the organisation could improve in specific areas.
Again, try to take this conversation offline with an email or personal phone call. This enables more considered feedback to follow the initial post.
Reputation management is often considered difficult or time-consuming. Yet the results of research into the importance of reputation management are unarguable: the value of reputation management is substantial and growing.
Understanding how to respond to feedback is not just a competitive advantage, but potentially a means of ensuring your hotel stays in business.
You can easily turn complaints around and win hotel guests back – and these basic reputation management responses are your first line of defence.