Hotels around the globe are happily promoting ÒtheirÓ review sites.ÊLogos and links to Trip Advisor and similar sites are prominently displayed on hotels’ home pages and they proudly show off their Òbest hotelÓ awards. After all, being showcased on a very popular and highly frequented travel site puts your hotel name Òout thereÓ and exposes you to a vast amount of traffic, doesn’t it?
But, at second glance, are you really benefitting from this arrangement? On sites like Trip Advisor, you are on a platform that forces you to compete side by side with hundreds of other hotels. In the perception of readers, you are only one of many. It takes away from the brand you worked so hard to build and automatically enters you in the price war game.
Here’s a brilliant way to counteract these effects:
Respond to your guest comments.
I can hear your deep-drawn sigh.
To most hotels, it’s still a dreaded task. After all, what can you say when guests post their highly subjective views or opinions? You can dutifully thank them for a compliment, or apologize in case of a bad review.
Well, maybe there is a bit more to it than that.
It really pays off to invest some time in crafting a skilful response.
With 415 million monthly average unique visitors, Trip Advisor attracts a huge potential of prospective guests Ð a great opportunity to step to the fore and shine some light on your hospitality and unique hotel experience.
Even better, your response to guest comments will help you connect with your readers on an emotional level Ð the ideal start to kick-off the buyer’s journey.
ÒOn a lifetime value basis, emotionally connected customers are more than twice as valuable as highly satisfied customers. These emotionally connected customers buy more of your products and services, visit you more often, exhibit less price sensitivity, pay more attention to your communications, follow your advice, and recommend you more Ð everything you hope their experience with you will cause them to do.Ó
Alan Zorfas and Daniel Leemon, Motista/HBR
A powerful reason to give your guest reviews more attention, isn’t it? If you work in the hospitality industry, you usually don’t have a problem talking to your guests. By now, you’ve probably seen it all and mastered the trickiest conversations. Crafting a good response is not that different if you take a few important points into consideration:
- Avoid sterile, template-like-statements that sound like this:
ÒThank you for taking the time to share your experience with us. We take guest feedback very seriously, and it is disconcerting to hear that you did not enjoy your stay with us. What you described certainly does not meet the standard we set forth, and I am truly sorry that we did not meet your expectationsÉ.Ó
“Thank you so much for your very kind words – we are all delighted that enjoyed your visit so much. We do try hard to make our guests feel at home, and well taken care of,Êso it is very rewarding to know how much our guests enjoy themselves.We hope to be able to welcome you back very soon.”
- Don’t use the same phrases over and over again.
Your guests are very probably reading more than one review and if your feedback is pretty much the same for each of the reviews, they might get the impression that in this hotel, they’re probably just Òa room numberÓÉ
- Don’t take positive reviews for granted and only answer complaints.Ê
- Don’t ignore complaints and only respond to positive reviews.
- Don’t respond to selected reviews only!
(Guests pick up these patterns quickly and it is part of what forms their opinion about your hotel or management style.)
- A fresh look, a new approach and the search for an emotional connection will get you much better results!
Below is a selection of snippets and samples of actual hotel responses that are amiable, authentic and original, which create an emotional bond with their guests:
- Don’t’ take it personally.
Sometimes guests simply don’t understand how a hotel works and why their request can’t be granted, so it helps to explain the situation.
ÒÉWe were very sorry to read you felt so disappointed with your stay at XXX. With regards to your late check-out, we do try to accommodate such requests at all times but on the day you were leaving, we were almost 100% fully booked (contrary to what you apparently saw on the internet, for which we have no explanation without knowing on which site you found this information)…Ó
- Relate to your guests’ pains and problems.
Have you ever noticed how quickly an irate guest calms down when you explain that you completely understand why they are upset? It’s no different in a written response!
ÒÉÉ.. As a coffee drinker myself, I understand your frustration with our Nespresso pods. I have informed our Housekeeping Manager directly to ensure this does not happen againÉÓ
- Don’t be defensive but offer your assistance.
Sometimes it needs a bit more to clear the air, so why not invite further conversation?
ÒÉMy sincere apologies that your stay fell short of your expectation. Please email or call me at your convenience. I would like to discuss this with you and find a way to rebuild your faith in usÉ.Ó
- Be genuine and authentic when you reply.
“Best Customer Service EVER” – that is such a great way to start our day today! Thank you so much for such a wonderful review and for taking the time to write.”
“The customer service experience here was the best we have had” – We believe that hospitality is personal and it all starts with a dedicated and caring team. Your feedback makes us proud … and motivates us at the same time! Thank you.“
- Use a language that expresses your personality, passion and even a bit of humour.
Write just like you’d talk in a face-to-face conversation.
ÒWe are thrilled to read about the “unbelievable experience” you had at XXX and thank you so much for praising our “incredible staff”. It was wonderful to welcome you and your family on the occasion of your mothers 80th birthday. The entire team has such great memories of your trip and everyone sends their best wishes!Ó
ÒThank you so much for your wonderful words – it is like being IN a different city when you come downtown – much more peaceful.ÊSorry about the creaky floors – the oak was laid in a very traditional manner on slats of wood to allow it to move and give it a softer feel to the feet. Sadly this occasionally results in a creak but we will take a look and see if we can silence it.ÊHope we will be able to welcome you back very soon.”
- Use the opportunity to talk about your hotel!
ÒOur Executive Suites are jewels to us and we are so glad you found your stay comfortable and enjoyable. Our walls and shelves are adorned with original artwork and custom-designed furnishings, we like to say the hotel is a living art project. I am so glad you were able to meet our Vice President, who has hand-selected much of the original artwork and antiques you’ll see in the hotel. From small NC Antique stores to Venetian Markets,Êeach and every piece of XXX has a story and experienceÉ..Ó
When crafting your response, look at it from several different angles and use the opportunities that’ll help you stand out. This is a great way to draw attention to your hotel Ð don’t let it pass you by!
About the author
Brbel Pfeiffer is a former hotel executive turned marketer who helps hotels create a distinct online presence that will make them stand out. She is the founder ofÊText Spot On, a communications agency that assists hoteliers with creative marketing concepts that engage, generate leads and drive business.
During her 20-year career in the industry, Brbel worked for Hilton International, boutique hotels in Germany and Switzerland and hotel resorts in the Caribbean. You can reach her atÊ[email protected].
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