Protecting your online reputation

Protecting your online reputationI’m often asked in my years as a hotel consultant, “How should I respond to negative online reviews”? And “Do I need to respond to positive reviews”? We have all experienced the highs and lows of guest reviews online. On one hand, when it comes to guest feedback, it’s great to hear your guests’ positive thoughts about their stay at your hotel. On the other hand, negative feedback is just as important as it shows you where your team and property have opportunities to improve.

But, what happens when that negative review is posted online for all to see? The problem hoteliers face today is that guest feedback is no longer private. Your guests are writing about their experiences at your property on social media and sites like TripAdvisor and Expedia and prospective guests are reading these public reviews before they make their decision to book you. According to a TripAdvisor study, 93% of travellers say online reviews have an impact on their booking decisions.

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Responding to both positive and negative reviews offers additional benefits, according to a TripAdvisor study published September 2014. Hotels that respond to over 50% of their online reviews increase their likelihood of receiving a booking by 24%, compared to properties that did not respond to guest reviews.

Online tracking tool, Revinate, says hoteliers should respond to at least 25% of positive reviews within 48 hours. This encourages loyalty with the traveller and in return they spread the good word in person to their friends and via social media channels about your hotel.

From a hotelier perspective it is disheartening receiving negative feedback about your property. But, it is important to stay calm, be professional and take the following steps into account.

  1. Do your research first. Check your property management system and with your front office team for background information that may assist in your response. Is the customer a regular guest? Did they actually stay and when did they stay? All this information will help you formulate a response.
  1. Depending on the severity of the review, check the guest’s online social remarks on review sites. Is this something they frequently do? Be aware of scams to exploit the system.
  1. It is critical to respond to a review within 24 hours so that your review is not left exposed and unanswered online for prospective guests to see. Management responses should come from as high up in the organisation as possible. The General Manager is best or the Director of Sales.
  1. Thank the guest for taking the time to write the review. Pull out a positive in the review with the apology on the negative remark. Ie: “We apologise you did not have a good experience in our restaurant but we are glad you enjoyed the views from your hotel room. ” Never use your hotel name in the negative response, as this will appear on future online searches when your hotel name is searched for.
  1. Invite the reviewer back to stay again, and ask them to contact you prior, so you can oversee their stay. Do not include your email address or contact number as these are not permitted and may delay your response being posted.
  1. Put yourself in the reviewer’s shoes and be sincere in your response. Most people just want to be heard and be acknowledged. They understand that their stay may not be perfect. However, it is how hoteliers respond to an issue to resolve the situation that will be the deciding factor of them returning and spreading the good word about your hotel.
  1. Have someone proofread your response to ensure it is well written, error free and on-brand.
  1. Finally, if you’ve not already, consider investing in an online reputation management system, with the likes of Revinate or TrustYou. This way you will not miss a guest review, responding is made easier and hoteliers can also monitor and benchmark against their competitor set.

About the author

Kerry Chew Kerry Chew is a sales and marketing expert at Expert360, an online platform connecting businesses with freelance professionals who specialise in the hotel industry. As a consultant at Hotel Tourism & Business Solutions, a consulting company primarily for the hotel, club, and tourism industries, she focuses mainly on sales and marketing, Internet strategy and online marketing, including social media. Her specialty is hotel openings and she has opened over a dozen hotels.

 

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