How Online Review Sites Are Affecting Your Hotel
By Brian McEvilly , GM GoGroupBooking.com
Before the age of the internet, social media, online travel agents (OTAs), and online review sites, a bad review from a guest was just that, a bad review. But in today's world where everyone is connected to everybody through the World Wide Web, two or three bad review from guests on Trip Advisor has the potential to seriously damage your hotel.
The Impact of Online Reviews
Increasingly a guest's first action after choosing a location is to get their smartphone or tablet out and look up online reviews for hotels in the area their going to be visiting. A recent survey carried out by Search Engine Land; found that 88% of people surveyed now trust online reviews as much as personal recommendations.
Big OTA sites such as Holiday Check, Booking.com, and Trivogo can offer travellers tens of millions of hotel reviews to look at. In March 2013 Trip Advisor announced it had 100 million reviews uploaded to its site.
As hotel review sites such as Trip Advisor grew in popularity and started to gain more influence over travellers, tensions between hotels and review sites were inevitably going to rise. It looked like that hotels were preparing to declare all out war on review sites in 2011, after number of hotels brought Trip Advisor to court alleging that false and misleading reviews were published.
However since 2012, relations between review sites and hotels have improved considerably and a number of hotel chains have now entered into partnerships with review sites. For example, the Four Seasons group allows potential guests to access Trip Advisor reviews through its own website.
The reason for this change in attitudes is because hotel's now understand that review sites cannot be beaten and are here to stay. A 2012, study by Forrester found that over 50% of travellers would not book a hotel that didn't have online reviews.
How to Generate Positive Reviews for your Hotel
Positive reviews on review websites such as Trip Advisor can be extremely beneficial for your hotel. According to hospitality and resource tools.com, a one star increase on your average rating online can increase your hotel's income by 9%. 360E-commerce found that revenue rose by 56% for hotels that consistently generated good online reviews.
Clearly generating a consistent and steady flow of positive reviews is very important for your hotel. But achieving this is easier said than done. However there are some practices you and your staff can follow to ensure you achieve a high number of good online reviews for your hotel.
Become a Guest: It is a really good idea for hotel managers and owners to experience what it's like to be a guest at their hotel. Hoteliers that familiarise themselves with the guest experience get a much better appreciation of what a guest like and dislike about their hotel.
Be Honest and Manage Guest Expectations:
A lot of hotels fall into the trap of over selling and over promising. Over selling and over promising will be perceived by guests as been dishonest and will lead to an avalanche of bad reviews been posted online.
Deliver Excellent Gust Service: Exceeding your guest's expectations is a great way to ensure you generate a large number of positive online reviews. Try and anticipate your guests' needs before they even ask. This isn't always an easy thing to accomplish but if you and your staff can pull it off, your guests will be blown away by your customer service and will be far more likely to post good reviews.
Marla Diann writes in her article, The Best Referral Strategy on the Plant, writes, "When we go well beyond meeting the expectations of our clients, and give them those special "extras" that simply "wow" them – we have the making of a raving fan and a loyal client who will more than likely write a great review.
How to Deal with a Bad Review
We know how important online reviews are to hotels. Regularly obtaining good reviews online will do wonders for your hotel's reputation and really help boost your hotel's revenue. But what happens when your hotel gets a bad review on Trip Advisor or another review site? No matter how great your hotel and staff are, you are bound to get a bad review every once in a while. It's simply impossible to please every single guest every single time.
Some experts claim that one bad review can result in up to 30 lost reservations, while this may be over stating the problem slightly there is no doubt that bad reviews online are bad for business.
However hotel owners and managers do have some options when their hotel receives a negative review. The consensus amongst industry experts is that hotels should respond to every negative online review.
A 2012 survey of 2,800 people carried out by TripAdvisor and Pho Us Wright found that 84% of respondents agreed that an appropriate management response to a negative online review improved their impression of the hotel. 64% of respondents agreed that an aggressive or defensive management response to a negative review made them less likely to book a stay at that hotel.
It is clear that the way you respond to bad reviews is key. Carolyn Murphy a in her blog, How to Respond to Negative reviews, outlines the steps you should take when responding to a bad review.
Thank the guests by name:
You should thank guests by their name for their feedback even if the review is aggressive and upsetting. The effects of a bad review can be alleviated if you handle the situation with tact and politeness.
Apologise for the guest's poor experience:
An apology is not an admission of guilt. You are simply apologising and expressing sympathy that the guest's expectations were not met.
Address Complaints Quickly: If a guest comes to you with a problem or complaint you have to make sure you address that problem promptly and effectively. Failure to deal with the issue will in all probability result in bad review for your hotel. Guests want their complaints to be taken seriously.
Evaluate the need for follow up procedures:
If you have the guest's email address it is a good idea to email them and ask them some follow-up questions such as.
- Did this guest experience a systemic problem that each customer could face?
- Is there an easy fix to the problem?
- Is the problem unfounded or not likely to be repeated?
Emailing the guest will also mean that the conversation will be moved of a review site and into a private setting, avoiding any more PR damage.
There is no doubt that online reviews are having a major impact on the hospitality industry. The number of online reviews your hotel can expect in a year is growing year on year.This blog has outlined the steps you can take to ensure your hotel generates a consistent flow of positive reviews and outlined the action you should take if your hotel does receive a bad review
Online reviews are going no way; travellers trust them and will read them in ever increasing numbers before they book a hotel. Hotels have no other choice but to adapt and expect the influence of online reviews. For better or worse, the guest is now well and truly King.