What are hoteliers talking about when it comes to online reputation management?
NB: Co-authored with Daniel Edward Craig, independent consultant and ReviewPro advisor.
We have collected some of the most popular questions hoteliers and others have about how to handle social media and the steps needed to implement a successful strategy.
“How do you get guests to write reviews if review sites aren’t necessarily on their radar? How can you train staff to ask for reviews?” [from Nils and Carlo]
Some people simply don’t engage in social media but may recommend your hotel by word-of mouth. Promote your social networks and accolades and let travelers decide whether or not to engage.
Exceptional on-property experiences will compel guests to share their experiences with others, and that’s valuable regardless of their preferred mode of communication.
For some hotels and brands it’s against policy to ask guests for reviews. Others feel that the benefits to rankings and positioning justify being more proactive.
If your hotel chooses to ask for reviews, I recommend providing staff with a general script and coaching. Making guests feel pressured or uncomfortable could have the opposite result.
Keep it simple:
“I’m happy to hear you enjoyed your stay. If you would like to share your experience on [review site of choice], it would mean a lot to us.”
And then hand them a card with a link to the site.
“What suggestions do you have for maintaining reputation on your company website? Do you suggest posting negative reviews?” [from Jacqueline]
By posting reviews on your website, you show confidence in your hotel and you may prevent shoppers from leaving your site in search of reviews. Travelers want reviews they can trust—third-party, unfiltered reviews such as a TripAdvisor feed.
The occasional negative review is unlikely to scare them off; in fact, it may be perceived as more authentic. Travelers want to know the whole story, not just the good stuff.
For most hotels, the #1 reason people leave their website is to check online reviews to confirm they are making the right decision to book a room at the hotel.
Having all this information in one place provides instant reassurance to people ready to make a booking – they can see what other guests have said about the property without leaving your site.
Some of our clients are seeing up to 38% improvement in bounce rates after the addition of this widget.
“Can we suggest guests post a review on a specific site?” [from Sandra]
Yes – it’s a good way to build your overall visibility on review sites. What I recommend is looking at a summary of where your reputation stands on each review site. Here’s how ReviewPro clients look at their presence across more than 100 sources in 36 languages:
Once you understand your feedback distribution, you can try various things to incentivize more positive reviews on specific sites. You could just ask guests.
You may provide a different sort of follow-up for guests coming through certain booking source. But however you decide to do this, be intentional about how you build your web presence in this area.
“How can we make sure that a private message we send to a client with a bad review on TripAdvisor reaches the client?” and “If you resolve an issue with a private message, what should you say in your public management response?” [from Carolina and Alexander]
When you send a private message to TripAdvisor members you receive an automated confirmation that it’s been sent and they receive an email alert, but you won’t know if it’s been read it unless he or she responds.
And if a member has disabled the private message option you won’t be able to send a message at all. From what I’ve heard it’s fairly common not to hear back, especially in the case of negative reviews.
Note that when a public management response is posted TripAdvisor now alerts the reviewer.
As for your public response, bear in mind that while you’re addressing it to the reviewer, your real audience is all the travel shoppers trying to decide where to stay.
I suggest saying something like:
“I have sent you a private message and look forward to discussing this matter with you further.”
This shows that you’re listening and trying to resolve the issue.
“What is the best method of dealing with reviews from a couple years ago?” [from Mark]
Begin by explaining any changes – large or small – that have taken place since the review was written. In many cases, the cause of old complaints may have been addressed by a renovation or a change in staffing or some sort of product or service upgrade.
Be clear and communicate this when responding to these sort of reviews.
While you may wonder about the value of responding to review that is 2-3 years old, it’s important to do because any piece of guest feedback could come up in the search engine results page.
Setting the record straight now is the key part of defending your reputation and protecting your overall web presence.
“What do you suggest doing when you request a review site take down a clearly fake review and they refuse?” [from Camilo]
The integrity of reviews is as important to review sites as it is to travelers and hotels. That said, disputing a review is no guarantee it will be taken down.
TripAdvisor wants proof, and that’s not always easy to provide. If it’s blatantly false, be persistent. In the meantime, post a response to set the record straight.
In your response express concern, such as:
- “We have no record of this incident and take such matters seriously”
- “We were surprised by your comments.”
Don’t accuse or provoke. Reviewers can’t respond to management responses on TripAdvisor, but they can take up their gripes on other social networks.
At some point you may have to let it go. Focus on generating positive reviews to push the false one down. Misinformation is a natural product of social media, but in the long run the wisdom of crowds prevails.
“Is it necessary to respond to every good review?” [from Agnes]
No. But recognizing your happiest guests should be a priority since advocates are golden in this social media era where feedback from other consumers carries more weight than anything you can say as a hotel company.
A few reminders when responding to positive feedback:
- Thank them – they’re your advocates
- Share the excitement: “We are thrilled …”
- Keep responses varied by commenting on specifics:
- “I was particularly happy to read your comments about…”
- “I must agree, our location is unbeatable.”
- “Next time be sure to try our crab cakes, my personal favorite.”
- Say you look forward to welcoming them back
“What if the review is about a third party vendor based on your premises?” [from Rashmi]
It depends on the circumstances, but if the vendor has a distinct name it may qualify for a separate listing, in which case you can request to have reviews moved over. If it’s a mixed review that mentions your hotel, you’re probably stuck with it.
I asked Kevin Carter at TripAdvisor about this a few months ago, and here’s his response:
“[Hotel] restaurants are normally listed separately. That way, they appear in the ‘Restaurants’ list when users are looking for someplace to eat … Once it’s listed, the reviews that are only about the Restaurant would be moved over.
“It would need to be a Restaurant that’s open to the public and has a name. (Example – we wouldn’t list a B&B as a Restaurant even though they serve food because dining is for guests only.)”
Travelers typically don’t distinguish among brands within a hotel; they expect consistent quality and service throughout. If a vendor isn’t upholding your standards, the issue needs to be addressed directly with the vendor.
“One of the most common complaints we cannot solve are about location. How do we deal with these types of reviews?” [from Fernando]
Location is always difficult because not many hotels can pick up and move to another place!
What I often find is when you look at the sales and marketing material for hotels that received a lot of location complaints, it could be that they are – intentionally or unintentionally – misrepresenting the location of the property.
If you say your hotel is very close to a popular tourist attraction that really takes a long time to get to, that can spark a lot of location complaints.
So be very careful on how you’re describing your property’s location.
“Should we apologize for high price complaints when we have done nothing wrong?”
Pricing complaints are often less about price than perception of value. If a guest feels we didn’t offer good value, we share responsibility.
Maybe we’re overselling the property or dumping rooms at low rates and attracting travelers unused to our prices. If you fail to deliver on expectations you set, an apology is in order.
Otherwise there’s no need. Remember, however, that perception is reality. An apology costs us nothing, and it’s sometimes all the traveler wants.
“How to elicit personal preferences from guests without being nosey?” [from Richard]
Some hotels and travel companies are providing personalized amenities and services by checking out the social profiles of guests. Whereas some guests will love this, others might find it intrusive.
I recommend respecting privacy by using information only that guests have knowingly provided to the hotel—aside from the basic information you would find on a business card. The best way to do this?
Ask. And record preferences in the guest profile.
I agree with asking guests about personal preferences, but have seen a number of well-received service initiatives that were based on publically available information from the social web.
KLM conducted a widely admired campaign that provided customers with small gifts based on interests these people mentioned in their social profiles:
In the hotel industry, we have examples of companies taking a similar approach in order to deliver memorable service and experiences.
For example, Accor identified loyalty members checking into some of its Sofitel and Novotel properties, and provided rewards – ranging from behind-the-scenes tours to fishing trips to Ferrari test drives.
I wouldn’t complain if a hotel brand did something like that for me. I feel if information is publically available on the web, and a hotel company uses it in a reasonable way to deliver better service, that is acceptable to most consumers.
“We are a small 112-room hotel – do you recommend outsourcing social media management and, if so, how do we find someone or a company to set it up and manage it?” [from Elen]
As a rule I think hotels should strive to administer social networks in-house. Social media is about getting closer to your guests, and the most authentic communications come from staff.
Hire a company to help set objectives, strategies and guidelines, to train staff and to play on ongoing strategic role. Search for them online, check out portfolios to find a company that works with properties like yours, and check references.
NB: Co-authored with Daniel Edward Craig, independent consultant and ReviewPro advisor.
NB2: Hotel bell keyboard image via Shutterstock.
Josiah Mackenzie is a contributing Node to Tnooz and works as director of business development at ReviewPro to provide hotel executives with customer insights and business intelligence through online reviews and social media analytics.
ReviewPro reporting provides valuable insight for action in the areas of marketing and PR, quality & operations, sales, revenue & distribution.
By moving social media engagement from a marketing tactic to an operational tool, they are changing the way the hospitality industry can use and profit from the social web.