How to manage online reviews during COVID-19

As travel begins to recover, the hospitality industry is coming together to make consumers feel safe and secure when it comes to resuming their lives and getting back on the road. The hospitality ecosystem understands that with COVID-19, traveler behavior is changing. Consumers are paying closer attention to details of the travel experience that weren’t as critical before, including hotels’ health and safety precautions. In response, hotels are being more transparent about cleaning and disinfecting than ever before. They are leveraging health experts’ advice and sharing their cleaning protocols on their websites and in promotional emails.

Review sites are also enhancing their features to meet travelers’ needs for health and safety information. In a recent PhocusWire article, TripAdvisor shared how it has expanded its consumer search functionality to allow travelers to better understand hotels’ safety measures. The company has added new COVID-response filters, prompting travelers to share safety details in reviews. In the article, Lindsay Nelson, chief experience and brand officer at Tripadvisor says, “As always, by submitting reviews, our hundreds of millions of members will be the best check and balance to ensure these businesses are responsibly abiding by their policies.” In this blog post, we provide best practices to manage online reviews during COVID-19.

First, it’s important to remember the value of online reviews for hotels. As TripAdvisor writes on its resources page, “Reviews and their accompanying responses provide transparency, create a level-playing field for businesses large and small, and can serve as an incredibly powerful marketing tool for hospitality providers who consistently deliver great value and high standards of service.” After more than a decade helping hotels manage their online review programs, we know that hotel online reviews help drive bookings and provide hoteliers with data for improving operations. And today, with travel anxiety at an all-time high, it’s more important than ever to pay close attention to your online reviews, especially any that call out health and safety concerns.

In order to derive value from your online reviews, you must operationalize your hotel online review process. First, you need to make sure that you are actively reviewing all new online reviews. Since there are more than 80 online review sites and OTAs where guests can write reviews, most hoteliers choose to use a platform, like Revinate Guest Feedback, to ensure that they know when a new review appears. Revinate brings all reviews together in one place, with customizable alert settings that ensure you never miss an important review.

When a new review arrives in your system that mentions an issue that might worry prospective travelers, we advise that hoteliers look up the guest by first and last name in their Hotel CRM or PMS, since the guest may have stay comments regarding issues they encountered during this stay. Do your due diligence in researching any issues to see if the hotel was made aware during their stay, either via an in-stay survey or a conversation with staff, and solved the issue while the guest was still on site.

Depending on the issue, email the review to the corresponding department managers to see if managers have any background on the issue. The greater the context you have to the situation, the better you can respond. Revinate customers can use routing and ticketing tools in Guest Feedback to make this process quick and easy. 

Revinate customers will also benefit by having an accurate guest profile to review. (Unlike CRMs that are full of dirty data, Revinate uses Advanced Profile Synthesis to ensure the cleanest and most accurate guest profiles in the industry.) Hoteliers that use Revinate can see how many times this guest has stayed at your hotel and whether they have provided post-stay feedback in the past, either via Guest Surveys or online reviews. If this guest is a repeat and loyal customer, it is vital to do everything you can to turn this guest’s experience around.

Gather all feedback from hotel managers within 24 hours. The longer your review is out there without a response, especially if it mentions health and safety concerns, the more prospective guests are reading that negative feedback. Response coverage and a quick turnaround is absolutely crucial.

Once you have the information you need to respond to the review, it’s time to craft your response. Above all, it’s important to remove emotion from the equation and ensure that you don’t panic! Keep your cool and stay professional. You want to thank the guest for providing feedback. Explain that you have shared the review with the team to ensure that the issue has been resolved and so other guests won’t have the same issue. You should also include details about policies that your staff is following to ensure the health and safety of guests. Let your guests (and prospective guests) know how seriously you take feedback by ending your response with an invitation to reach out to you directly to discuss their experience in more detail. (Revinate customers can also easily find the guest’s email or phone number in the profile if they want to follow up 1:1.)

Travelers understand they may encounter hiccups during their stay. Unfortunately, during COVID-19, their emotions are heightened by fear of catching COVID-19 and they will likely be easily spooked when they feel their safety might be at risk. For this reason, it’s even more important than ever for hoteliers to publicly respond to reviews to show how seriously they take safety measures at the hotel and how actively and professionally they seek to resolve situations. When done well, a well-crafted response to a negative review can not only win back a disappointed guest, but also drive new guests to book.

Today, when hoteliers are doing more with fewer staff members and less resources, responding to reviews might seem like a nice-to-do versus a must-do task. But, with Revinate Guest Feedback, you can easily automate the online review process so you can stay on top of new reviews without getting bogged down by the process. Revinate Guest Feedback makes it easy to aggregate, analyze and respond to reviews, all in a single dashboard. (No more visiting review site after review site to find your reviews.) Built-in reporting also allows you to benchmark your performance against your competitors and track the effect that your responses have on your standings. 

In today’s shaky travel environment, hotel review management is critical for hotelier success. To see Revinate’s solution for hotel surveys and online review management, reach out to schedule a meeting. We would love to show you why thousands of hotels trust Revinate for guest feedback.