Leveraging Online Reviews and Social Media to Improve Hotel Operations
Today we hosted a webinar on how leveraging online reviews and social media can help hotel operators capture more information about customers than ever before and use that information to improve hotel operations. For those of you who missed the session, we have a recording ready and waiting for you, as well as some key pointers and takeaways below.
Why is Online Review Data Critical for Operations?
Hotels and restaurants that sign up with Revinate have taken the first step towards managing their online reputations. But the real benefit is using the data that Revinate‘s technology solution provides to make operational improvements and base critical decisions on.
Online review data is critical for operations for four reasons. First, it is the best source of free, readily accessible, real time data about your property. Second, the data’s public nature means that it influences other peoples’ purchase decisions so offering services and amenities that guests love and write about will drive sales as more and more people visit online review sites to validate decisions prior to booking. Third, with sentiment analysis you can pinpoint what guests love and don’t love about your property and identify where you might need to dedicate more resources. Finally, the close analysis of online reviews allows you to make better decisions because it’s based on voice of the customer data, making guest satisfaction decisions from large capital improvements to small service-level changes easier for you to determine.
Why is Sentiment Analysis More Effective Than Traditional Satisfaction Surveys?
Many of you might think that the benefits listed above sound very similar to those of traditional guest satisfaction surveys. While we definitely see value in soliciting guests for feedback, we think that online review analysis is the next generation of guest satisfaction for a few reason.
First, closed-ended questions, such as “please rate your satisfaction with the amenities in your room on a scale of 1 to 10,” will not yield specific data about what a customer liked or disliked about his room-based amenities. With traditional surveys, only a small number of questions can be asked of each customer in order to keep response rates high, which is inherently constricting. Moreover, survey questions only focus on areas hotels feel need to be measured, which can lead to missed topics that are actually more important to customers. Finally, in a “please tell us if we met your expectations” closed-ended survey scenario, a hotel that you have already stayed at and you know offers incredible levels of service may score lower (e.g. they might “meet your expectation” – you expected great service and received it) than a hotel you had never stayed in and delivered amazing service (e.g. they “exceeded your expectations” – you had no expectations and were delighted). In an open-ended online review survey, this problem is averted, as the guest would attest to the amazing service regardless and have room to offer more detailed, specific feedback.
Online review feedback can be analyzed and measured through sentiment analysis technology, giving hotel managers a variety of ways to track customer preferences. A major advantage to online review analysis is that you can delve into the data of a sentiment analysis tool any time, rather than having to craft a question on a survey and then wait for a response. For example, a traditional survey question about guest room amenities may provide a level of satisfaction from 1 to 10. But an analysis of customer sentiment about guest room amenities becomes a great way to learn highly specific preference information. For example, Revinate’s sentiment analysis tool can show sentiment about amenities in over ten detailed categories, allowing you to precisely identify what guests love and whether there are issues that might need immediate attention.
Management does not have to look far to identify hot button customer issues when looking at sentiment analysis data. For example, if a property finds a room odor problem through analysis of reviews and then invests in a new carpet cleaning service, they will want to measure a return. Depending on the frequency of reviews, they may see improvement in room sentiment scores in as little as a few days to a week. Revinate’s sentiment analysis tool provides search capability for words like “odor” and “carpets” to read specific reviews that mention these terms. With traditional guest satisfaction surveys, it would be necessary to change the survey, add an odor question, test it, wait for sufficient responses, and then report the results. The issue with asking such a detailed question on a survey is that you may introduce question bias as customers think hard about the smell in the room, when they might not have flagged it as an issue to begin with. If they were only slightly dissatisfied with odor they might answer that it was a big issue because the question brought it to their attention. With sentiment analysis, you only see the results of reviews where guests brought the odor issue into the discussion, so their insights are more genuine.
Sentiment analysis can also help hoteliers identify trends across time. A recent Revinate customer began highlighting sentiment analysis information about staff service levels in their property-wide staff meetings. By having detailed information about service levels by department and sharing that information with the staff, they were able to see significant gains in customer satisfaction. By showing increases in guest satisfaction with staff month by month, the management was able to see the trend continue as more employees could see the outcome of their increased satisfaction focus. This customer moved their service sentiment scores from 73% to 82% positive satisfaction and received a healthy bump in positive reviews as well.
How Can Online Reputation Data Incentivize Better Staff Performance?
Using sentiment analysis to determine compensation for hotel managers is another way to improve operations. Sentiment information can yield very specific details about service elements and can improve the influence that performance plans have on management. Unlike surveys, data is available quickly and inputs from customers are open-ended and unbiased. Compensation structures can focus on monthly or quarterly results and ensure positive attention to service issues more quickly. In addition, because sentiment information is so specific, plans can be designed to measure areas of weakness in a manager’s otherwise strong departmental performance. Tying compensation plans to reviews is not a new trend and reflects the importance of reputation management for hotels today. However, the level of detail provided by sentiment analysis means that every service department from housekeeping to food and beverage can now be incentivized individually.
The Bottom Line
Contained in public reviews and social media is a goldmine of information about your hotel, your competitors, and your customers. One of the biggest benefits is a solid understanding of what will delight your customers and this can translate into more profit. A Revinate client in Mexico used sentiment analysis and reviews to learn what amenities would sell the best at their hotel. Rather than engage in time-consuming and expensive trial and error, they were able to comb reviews for suggested service enhancements. These amenities led to more incremental revenue, more positive reviews, and greater popularity. Simply put, social media and review data through sentiment analysis can show management the best places to allocate investment resources to have the largest impact on guest satisfaction. Smarter spending leads to greater profits.