NB: This is a guest article by Michelle Wohl, vice president of marketing at Revinate.
Many hoteliers today view reputation management as a reactive discipline of monitoring reviews and social media and responding to reviews in a way that ensures customer know that they care.
While managing reviews is a great start to online reputation management, there are a growing number of hotels who are getting proactive in their efforts and seeing significant benefits.
So at the end of 2012, we dug around some of our hotel customers to find great examples of how they have dramatically increased their metrics and scores related to online reputation management to prove how a proactive stance toward reputation can pay off.
What is proactive online reputation management?
Proactive reputation management can take many forms depending on a hotelâ€™s operational structure, size, and objectives. Review solicitation is a great way to encourage guest feedback and has the added benefit of driving higher popularity rankings.
In Q4, 2011, The Milford, in New York City received 561 reviews. In the same quarter one year later, by actively soliciting reviews with happy guests at check-out, they received 1315 new reviews, proving the power of proactive staff involvement.
While Las Vegas hotels traditionally get more reviews than hotels in other markets due to the number of rooms and amenities, Aria Resort & Casino dramatically outpaced its comp set in 2012 when it came to review volume. The hotel received an average of almost 600 reviews a month, which was 11% more than its comp set average.
And of course, the beauty of reviews is that they contain a wealth of information that hotels can use to better understand guest satisfaction.
Many hotels that have taken a proactive stance to reputation management have turned sentiment information contained in reviews into key performance indicators and changed their operational models. By sharing customer sentiment data at all levels of hotel management and with line employees, hotels can see dramatic shifts in accountability and team building.
By using reputation data to shift operations, hotels can get to the core issues experienced by their customers, improve sentiment scores, and improve review scores.
The Hotel Erwin, in Venice, California, improved in all key online review and social media metrics from 2011 to 2012.
The hotel moved up from #23 in December 2011 on TripAdvisor‘s Popularity to #17 at the end of December and fully operationalized how it manages online reputation, with all employees, from line staff to managers, aware of their review metrics and the benefits of great reviews.
This process ensures that reputation is central to this hotelâ€™s operations at every service encounter.
The Denihan Hospitality Group has operationalized online reputation management across its portfolio of 15 hotels in New York, Chicago, Washington DC, and Miami.
Staff uses feedback from reviews to guide decisions, from capital improvement plans to pricing. The sales teams actively use online reviews in client meetings to show how the hotels fare against the competition in guest sentiment and quality scores.
The marketing team regularly engages with guests and prospects using social media to monitor guest satisfaction and aid with service recovery. Social media proved to be extremely handy during Hurricane Sandy for monitoring the hotels with limited services.
The most obvious, yet elusive way to improve your reputation is to see gains in your popularity ranking relative to competitors. With an increase in rankings, hotels are sure to see an increase in bookings.
The Surfcomber Miami went from #149 in Q4 of 2011 on TripAdvisor Popularity Index to #5, where it currently resides. That’s a 144 point improvement in one year!
According to Kevin Carter at TripAdvisor, the Popularity Index takes into account the quantity, quality, and recency of TripAdvisor traveler content and of other opinions available on the web.
When we see a pattern of improvement such as the one experienced by the Surfcomber, it is clear that they proactively managed their reputation by improving quality, soliciting reviews from customers, actively responding to reviews and engaging in extensive social media marketing.
Any hotel can benefit from proactive reputation management
While many people assume that branded, four and five-star luxury properties dominate at online reputation management, 2012 saw independent, boutique, and limited service hotels excel, showing just how much the industry and hotel priorities changed this year.
Online reputation management is no longer important to just luxury or high-end properties. It is imperative to any hotel, anywhere in the world.
The good news is that proactive reputation management can have as strong an impact as expensive adverting and branding that only large chains enjoy.
RevPAR follows pro-active reputation management
One objective of online reputation management is to increase RevPAR. Hotels want to make sure that the investment in time and effort will benefit their sales overall. Many hotels in 2012 have done the correlations to show that positive improvements in reputation drove gains in RevPAR.
The London NYC in New York ended 2012 ranked #1 in RevPAR versus its competitive set. This independent, luxury hotel improved its overall rating versus its competitive set, improved its reviews pace versus the competitive set, and improved its rank on TripAdvisorâ€™s Popularity Index from #51 to #38.
The Galleria Park HotelÂ in San Francisco increased its RevPAR by 23% to date. This gain, which was double the comp set average RevPAR increase of 11%, was supported by a number of factors.
First, this hotel strictly managed their online reputation, which yielded an increase in TripAdvisor’s Popularity index from#17 to #14. With 600 online reviews this year, the hotel exceeded its goals around review volume by 241%.
Second, managing director James Lim told me that as a result of these positive metrics, employees felt that they had a positive impact on the hotelâ€™s online reputation and financial performance for the year. Sharing these positive metrics had an additional benefit of improving work climate, which also drives great service.
What we see at the Galleria is that by improving a hotelâ€™s reputation and communicating those results to employees, RevPAR and employee satisfaction increase.
When employees feel pride in hotel operations the way they interact with customers improves and service levels increase which in turn has even more positive impact on review rankings.
NB:Â This is a guest article by Michelle Wohl, vice president of marketing atÂ Revinate.
NB2: Reputation image via Shutterstock.