Oldie but goodie: Why replying to reviews is still the key to a successful online reputation
By Kevin Kitchen, Vice President of Sales & Operations, Americas at TrustYou
By now, we all know that reviews impact a traveler's booking decision. Numbers and studies vary, but in general, hoteliers know that not paying attention to ratings, reviews, and opinions of guests will cost them bookings, revenue, and a good reputation.
The more options we are presented with, the harder it is to make a decision. That doesn't change the fact that guests want to be heard and appreciated. It is part of the psychology of online reviews, or simply the "why" behind submitting a review. Consumers write reviews to be listened to. They share their feedback on their hotel stay to make a difference. Hoteliers need to acknowledge the time that the guest takes and the suggestions he makes and react to it. If the experience was a positive one, consumers also acknowledge the great service or product that they invested in and to help the business succeed further. However, a negative experience can often result in negative reviews, since people feel the need to vent and get an explanation or an apology from the management, as well as to put out a "warning" for future customers.
This is where hotels can still make a difference. But time is a valuable resource, which is why there are online reputation management tools that make replying to reviews as easy as possible. State-of-the-art features such as posting replies directly on some of the largest review sources such as Booking.com and Google are the key to a high response rate. Replying from within the software saves valuable minutes that hoteliers would otherwise spend logging in and out of multiple sites to see where and what guests have reported about their experience on-site. Combining this tool with a survey solution can provide up to 78% coverage of reviews that can be replied to within one tool. According to TrustYou's review source analysis Booking.com is the #1 source for reviews (32%) on a global level, followed shortly by Google (24%), and TrustYou Surveys (23%).
But simply replying isn't enough - it's about what you say. Nothing is worse than the generic "Thank you for your review, we are glad you enjoyed your stay." The key to a successful reply making it personal. The guest took the time to write a review - so the hotelier response should feel as if you've really listened to their opinion. And here's the good news: only 15% of all reviews are negative, so for the most part, it should be a pleasure to interact with your guest's reviews. To make it easier, here are some useful tips for the case of a negative review:
- Open on a personal note: Let the guest know that you appreciate the feedback, regardless if it's positive or negative and that it is will trigger the process to help you make future improvements.
- Acknowledge and address the issue: If the guest had a negative experience, address the issue and don't opt for a general, impersonal, and superficial response, even if that's the easiest way to go. This is the time to do a quick introspection, to investigate the problem, and to see if there's a real reason behind the complaint. As long as you take responsibility and try to actually make amends, the guest will appreciate your honesty and effort.
- Assure the guest that necessary measures will be taken in the future: It is not enough to only take credit for the negative experiences that a guest has had. You have to assure him - directly - and future guests - indirectly - that you will take the necessary measures so that the specific thing that caused the complaint will not happen again.
- End on a positive note and invite the guest back: The "sandwich approach" is recommended when giving feedback to subordinates, but it is also applicable when replying to reviews. The secret is to start with something positive (thanking the guest), address the negative (taking credit for the issues and trying to solve them ASAP), and go back to the positive, in order to end the reply on a good note.
- Keep it personal: Make sure to sign off the review with your name and an appropriate way for the guest to contact you. It shows that the hotel is truly interested in ensuring its guests have a great experience.
All in all, it takes some empathy, a bit of structure and some practice to reply to negative reviews in a way that shows concern and helps to solve issues to prevent similar cases from happening. By making sure that hotels take their guests' reviews seriously and replying to them gives them the ultimate two-way advantage for the reputation and for marketing:
- Previous guests realize that their feedback has high value to the hotel and they feel appreciated, and will hopefully come back to your hotel
- Future guests see that you care for your guests and can assume that they will very likely have a good and personal experience when they book a stay
Ultimately, replying to reviews is still the best outlet to show guests that you care. Doing this on a regular basis and making it a main KPI will help to increase your online reputation and help to get you more bookings.
Kevin KitchenMore from Kevin Kitchen
TrustYou helps companies win through the power of listening and provides a guest feedback platform that makes listening to customers easy, powerful, and actionable. The platform unlocks the potential of guest feedback and helps to:
- Understand all reviews across the web and make better business decisions.
- Publish hotel reviews on the website and on Google and allow positive feedback to influence bookings.
- Create unlimited opportunities to listen and respond to guests' needs.
TrustYou empowers companies to earn trust, make better decisions, and ultimately, win. Find more information on TrustYou and the guest feedback platform on www.trustyou.com.