Best practices for managing your hotel reviews in an online world.

How to turn"lookers into bookers".

Most of us would agree that a customer review can hold a lot influence on how a guest makes a buying decision, and there’s plenty of research to support that especially when it comes to booking a hotel room. A recent TripAdvisor® study revealed that more than half of travelers won’t book a hotel until they have read reviews and 83 percent of travelers read reviews because they believe it helps them pick the right hotel.

While collecting feedback can be challenging, it does help to determine priority areas for improvement in your property. According a study from TrustYou the link between reviews and hotel conversion rates and pricing shows travelers are almost four times more likely to choose a hotel with higher review scores when the prices are the same, and 76 percent of travelers are willing to pay more for a hotel with higher review scores.

According to ReviewPro, online reviews can also positively influence search engine ranking, OTA (Online Travel Agent) rankings, your online reputation score and sales and conversion rates – all of which can have a positive effect on your property’s overall sales performance.

It’s clear that online reviews play an important part in a guest’s decision making process when choosing where to stay, so as hotel operators we need to be accumulating and responding to these reviews and making them readily available online.

Reviews are also a free way to assess how your property is performing. They highlight what’s going well and where improvements can be made.

To help you make the most of the time that you have, we have created below five best practices on managing your online reviews and how to improve your reputation management skills:

1.    Invite guests to share positive feedback online

Accumulating reviews is great for enhancing your property’s online visibility, and the quantity and frequency of your reviews may influence your overall index ranking. The more reviews your property has, the more the good reviews will outweigh the negative ones.

But sometimes it can take a little effort to entice guests to transfer their positive experiences into online reviews.

Here are some tips to increase the number of guest reviews:

  • Monitor your social media channels and OTA sites, and if a guest is saying something nice ask if they would be okay to post those comments on to a review site.
  • In follow-up emails to guests after they have checked-out place a link in the email to a review site.
  • If you have comment cards at your property and a guest leaves positive feedback, contact the guest and ask if they would share the comments online.
  • Leave a sign in a prominent location (front desk, elevator, etc.) to remind guests that you value their opinion.

 2.    Be humble and respond to comments in an appropriate way

As operators we are always happy to see positive comments, but an abundance of rave reviews may flag up some doubt in a travelers mind just as much as a series of negative ones. No one is perfect, and travelers know that, so if 100% of your feedback is positive it can raise suspicions, having a mix of opinions adds credibility.

  • Where a positive review is “over the top” in its praise, thank the guest for their comments, but also be modest and acknowledge you are always looking to improve the guest experience.
  • Where positive feedback feels genuine, the best response is to express your appreciation for the feedback and the wish to serve them again soon.
  • Where feedback highlights particular challenges or points of friction, thank the author for their time and ask for more information to be able to address the issues. It is wise to take this type of communication off-line to be able to feedback on the specifics.

 3.    Monitor what review sites are saying about your property

Take time to monitor online reviews and track your social media mentions. To be able to effectively manage your online reputation, respond quickly and improve your rating on review sites and OTAs you may need to employ a social listening tool. Examples of tools are Google Alerts or Hootsuite, or an online reputation management system like Revinate.

4.    Be honest and respond appropriately to a review

Honesty is the best policy, it is important to be able to share all guest opinions, not just the ones that you like.  To run a successful property you need to accept all feedback and use it to either market your property or to understand how to improve the guest experience. 

According to TripAdvisor, 87 percent of TripAdvisor users agree that an appropriate management response to a negative review improves their impression of the property, and 62 percent agree that seeing hotel management responses to reviews generally “makes me more likely to book it (versus a comparable hotel that didn’t respond to travelers).”

The message is clear: properties that respond to reviews engage travelers more than properties that don’t. 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. A response provides the opportunity to recover an unhappy guest and your property’s reputation as well as show travelers that you care.

5.    Stay focused

To help you stay focused, here are 9 steps to help you manage your property’s online reputation:

1. Understand the importance of online reviews and share with your team the impact they have in a guests’ buying journey, and why they need to be nurtured and listened to.

2. Discuss internally and agree what your reputation objectives and strategy should be for your property. Do you know which review sites to track, and what your ratings and ranking should be – especially when comparing yourself to your local competitors?

3. Start to outline what is your social media policy, put guidelines in place to ensure that employees know what to do. Train and empower your staff to understand guest expectations, and have the competency to prevent on-property issues from escalating to online complaints.

4. Optimize your online presence across the online review sites by making sure there are appropriate descriptions, imagery and contact information, and ensure content is kept accurate and current over time.

5. Check-out the latest social media monitoring tools to make sure that you can track mentions and are alerted to comments about your property.

6. Pay close attention to comments in reviews and look for any trends that flag up strengths to leverage in marketing communications or issues to address in improving the guest experience.

7. Share feedback good and bad with your team; use it in training and to update policies and procedures to address complaints.

8. Celebrate your successes where you have made progress against guest satisfaction goals.

9. Respond to reviews if you want to increase the number of positive reviews, and remember to listen to your guests and act on their comments.

Take Away

As an operator you should encourage public, online reviews because most travelers won’t book a stay without reading them. Ultimately, your property’s reputation depends on how you deal with a negative comment, rather than the comment itself. Audiences are particularly savvy in gauging the value of feedback, not just because the interaction shows the personality on display, but because audiences can apply a filter to their reading of any review and make up their own mind.

HappyBooking  is first and foremost a property management system. That means they help you with the boring admin and automate tedious tasks giving you more time to monitor your online reviews and interact with customers. On average customers can get back up to 10 hours per week  – think what you could do with that extra time!

HappyBooking have always focused on creating a user-friendly booking system to help property owners improve overall performance, and generate more revenue and reduce costs by enabling guests to book directly rather than go through a third party.

Our guest blogger is John Kennedy. 

John is a hospitality consultant, dedicated to helping increase revenue through marketing, revenue management and efficient operations.

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