If it seems too good to be true, then it usually is. Wise words to live by and more important than ever for today’s often over-informed consumer. With guests searching through 20+ different websites in order to find their ideal hotel stay, it really does pay to build a strong online reputation.
With that precious goal in mind,here are a few simple Do’s & Don’ts to building and maintaining a good online reputation.
1) DON’T mislead your guests
There’s a difference between creative wording and outright lying, just as there is a difference between high quality photos of your hotel and cropped, photoshopped or misleading photos of your hotel.
Honest marketing is integral to online reputation management for one very logical reason: if you’re not honest, you will get found out. With guests visiting so many sites, many of which are based upon reviews, they are bound to come across at least one guest whose expectations were not met.
Failed expectations are the #1 cause of negative reviews and the more misleading you are with your hotel images and details, then the more frustrated guests will be. These are the guests who are the most likely to leave a negative review and tarnish your online reputation.
“The days of misleading photos and fairytale descriptions are over,” says hotel expert, Daniel E. Craig, founder of Reknown. “If you don’t deliver on your promises, guests are going to be disappointed and this will lead to a backlash in negative reviews.” In other words, ensure your hotel can provide exactly what your descriptions lead guests to expect, or you risk damaging your online reputation. This applies not only to your brand website, but to OTA listings, social media profiles, print advertising and brochures as well.
The Library Hotel Collection in New York has earned its #1 ranking on TripAdvisor for New York because it is honest, if at times painfully honest, in its hotel room descriptions. While it still refers to its smaller rooms as ‘cozy’ it also makes very clear to guests that it isn’t recommended for longer stays and there isn’t a view. This kind of ‘reality marketing’ not only manages guest expectations, but also builds a very unique form of trust between the hotel and its guests.
Of course you’ll want to include beautiful and professionally taken photographs of your hotel property, but consider including a video or virtual tour as well. That way potential guests can see the property in more realistic detail and see it’s best aspects without building unrealistic expectations.
2) DO have genuine prices
Predatory pricing or special offers with fineprint designed to catch your guests out will leave guests with a very bad impression of your hotel. As a result they are more likely share these negative opinions on review sites like TripAdvisor.
A complaint against just such practice from InterContinental Hotels Group was validated by the Advertising Standards Authority in December. IHG stated on their website that reservations made through their site would be the lowest rate available or they would match the lower rate and provide the first night for free. However a clause in their T&Cs, located on a separate page not shown with the offer, meant that bookings made on non-US sites were not applicable.
If brands like IHG are called out on their unfair pricing strategies, then you can be sure there will be similar repercussions for other hotels that do the same.
If there are T&Cs attached to your offers, which guests would fully expect there to be, make them as clear and straightforward as possible. Whether it’s off-peak timings, direct bookings or stays of a certain length, state those conditions upfront. Guests looking for a deal will be happy to work around these conditions in order to get the best price, that way both parties benefit.
3) DON’T write fake reviews
You may be thinking, who would do such a thing? Or you may be thinking, yeah we’ve all done it. But passing your own reviews off as genuine guest feedback is basically a form of fraud and TripAdvisor, as well as most consumers, are pretty good at spotting fakes. Unnatural language, multiple positive reviews within a short space of time, using similar language and detail-lacking reviews are all warning signs of fakes.
If you are caught posting fake reviews the consequences could be serious. Continuing with the example of TripAdvisor, a hotel found to be posting disingenuous reviews is banned from it’s Traveler’s Choice Awards and top 10 lists and may even receive the notorious “red flag” by it’s listing; causing irreparable damage to the hotel’s online reputation.
Encourage genuine feedback
Knowing the damage of fake reviews, it becomes apparent the power of good ones too. Use every opportunity to encourage your guests to provide you with honest feedback and reviews. Offer rewards through your hotel loyalty scheme for reviewing your hotel (although don’t ask them for a good review in exchange for reward points, that’s almost as bad as writing them yourself).
About the author