The importance of online reputation management is no longer disputable. It’s also easy to make mistakes, as many hoteliers have found, as the wrong response can get a lot of bad press. Here are some of the common mistakes we see in the hospitality industry when it comes to online reputation management.
1. Choosing the wrong person to respond
Many hotels, especially independent hotels, struggle with who should have the responsibility to respond to reviews. Many properties meet this need with the most obvious person, the General Manager. This is often the right choice since the GM should be on top of what guests love and hate at the property, but as the task becomes more time intensive due to the increasing popularity of posting reviews, is this the best approach?
First, it is good to consider the size and budget of your business. If your staff does not include a dedicated marketing person, guest service manager, or social media manager, the GM is usually the best person to respond to reviews. However, there are an increasing number of hotels that outsource or delegate review response to customer service groups, but is this sending the right message? Customers want to know someone who can make a difference to the operation of a property has considered their review. If every negative or positive review is met with a packaged response, the effectiveness of management response decreases. Clearly the time constraints on busy GMs make delegating or outsourcing review response appealing, but it is still important for GMs at large properties to understand what guests love and hate, and weigh in regularly to show that they’re listening for feedback and welcome guest opinions. This one-on-one discourse with management is really what the reviewer is looking for.
Choosing the right member(s) of your team to respond to reviews should include consideration of the following factors:
This is a big consideration in a world where businesses are trying to do more with fewer resources. Ideally the person responsible should be able to dedicate time to responding to reviews every day. Lack of time is a common issue with GM-focused solutions. If you want to or need to have a busy GM keep this role, then a good reputation management system can not only reduce the time it takes to respond to reviews, but also ensure that you have a comprehensive approach to reviews from all sites.
Empowerment to solve problems
Properties that choose to have someone other than the GM respond to reviews often have issues with empowerment. The best customer service responses come from employees who are empowered to make a service recovery and implement operational changes that can prevent that problem from reoccurring. Employee empowerment has always been a key facet to good service and this still holds true in the age of online reviews.
Writing skills and brand training
With the prevalence of OTAs in so many of today’s online bookings, reviews are often the only brand communication that speaks directly to a potential customer at the time they are considering a purchase. As with any other type of official communication, it is critical that your review responder can write professionally and represent the brand effectively. Every business has a brand, be it a large chain hotel or a one-of-a-kind inn.
Customer care characteristics
Responding to complaints is nothing new to the hospitality industry. The same traits that make someone a good customer service person make a good review responder. Empathy, patience, a caring nature, and a genuine love of people and communicating will help someone succeed in this role. Writing ability and brand training can be taught over time, but having the “right stuff” to handle customers is inherent to someone’s character.
2. Ignoring negative comments
It’s very clear in today’s increasingly digital world that responding to negative reviews is a top priority for any customer service business. Responding to negative reviews can accomplish several things:
We’ve seen this happen before: When a guest goes online to complain, the solution to his or her problem is often fairly simple. Sometimes all it takes is some follow up on the complaint, an apology, and a promise to make the situation right for an unhappy guest to amend or post an update to a negative review.
Your guests see your reviews online while making a booking decision, and it has long been established that responding to negative reviews in the right way can help mitigate damage to your reputation by showing prospective guests that you care about the guest experience at your hotel.
3. Responding too much
A Cornell report released in May 2016 shows that when looking at increase in revenue as a function of percentage of review responses, bookings revenue increases in relationship to review responses up to a 40-45% response rate.
But, you’ll notice that beyond that, there are actually diminishing returns, to the point where responding to too many of your reviews can actually hurt your revenue.
So what does this mean? While there are clear benefits to responding to your negative reviews and maybe some of your particularly glowing positive reviews, perhaps responding to too many reviews becomes transparent in a negative way to consumers. Perhaps it comes off as a little defensive and gives prospective guests the impression that you care more about how you look online than the actual guest experience at your hotel.
4. Missing out on data intelligence
Your online reviews are a great way to learn about macro-level trends about your guest database as a whole, that are very specific to your property. You can figure out what they like and dislike, and see trends in that data to see areas where you might be able to improve.
And the great thing is, the technology exists today to analyze text data like reviews and see trends. Revinate Reputation includes Sentiment analysis, which is a text-analytics software that identifies topics that are mentioned most frequently in reviews. The software then scores sentiment based on whether the topic was mentioned in a positive, negative, or neutral light. What you get is a quantitative way to look at traditionally qualitative information.
And what can you do with this data? You can use it to make smart operational changes and investments to your property, where they will matter the most to your guests and give you the biggest return on your budgetary investment.
5. Not soliciting reviews
TripAdvisor and Google both have programs that allow for integration with digital surveys, where hoteliers can submit private feedback for publication on their online listings. But, some hoteliers are wary of making their private feedback public. They worry that prospective guests will see their negative feedback and they worry that competitors will see their property’s weaknesses.
The thing is, times have changed. With the advent of review sites, your guests and competitors are already seeing your negative comments online. Additionally, it can actually help you to be transparent and make your feedback public. How? Combined with the fact that private feedback has a higher average review score, the sheer increase in review volume can have a huge effect on your property’s ranking on Google and TripAdvisor.
We’ve written in detail about this in the past, but here are the basics that hold true for most review sites. TripAdvisor specifically says that the Popularity Index algorithm is based on three key ingredients:
- the quality, or average rating, of your reviews
- the quantity of your reviews
- the recency of your reviews