How To Respond To Online Traveler Reviews - The Good, The Bad And The Ugly
Posted in Reputation Management on July 02, 2012 by Diana Friess
In an increasingly technologically savvy world, it has become second nature for both business and leisure travelers to turn to the internet to research for a hotel destination, whether through a search engine, social media channel, brand website or online travel agency. The internet has made it fast and easy to research properties, view photos, read traveler reviews, and compare rates from virtually anywhere--at desktop computer in their own home, on their mobile phone or on a laptop computer. With the increased availability and access to information, hotels are not the only ones controlling their brand image and the content available to travelers and consumers.
The growing sophistication of online marketing in the travel industry has created more sophisticated consumers, who cut through the hype and marketing provided by a hotel and seek out independent opinions and reviews as their most influential source of information. In a recent survey conducted by TripAdvisor and Forrester Consulting, 81% of travelers said reviews were important when deciding which hotel to book, and almost half said they wouldn't book a hotel unless it had reviews.
The relationship between OTAs, review sites and hotels has always been complicated, but with the proper knowledge and practices, the hotel and third party sites can grow to have a loving, successful relationship! A major part of regaining control of the content about your hotel and making a significant impact in the minds of travelers is to respond to the reviews that travelers have posted online, often known as reputation management.
Here are Blue Magnet's top tips on how to respond to online traveler reviews of all types--the good, the bad, and the ugly!
Until proven guilty, assume all reviews are real and true
Do your due diligence in investigating each review. If a guest review is negative, investigate the issues presented by the guest and take the necessary steps to get to the bottom of the issue. Look to see if the guest issued a complaint while on property and ask your Director of Operations if there have been any issues in any departments that could attribute to the review. There are going to be false and misleading reviews posted about your hotel, but it can only help your cause by taking the high road and treating these reviews as real. If you do discover that the review is false, be sure to report it to the site with all of your supporting information in order to have the review removed as soon as possible.
Take a deep breath before submitting a response
It is easy to get defensive about your property and the criticism that a reviewer posts publically. But remember, you are representing the hotel brand, the property and all of its employees. Your response should demonstrate that all feedback, both positive and negative, is important to you by being polite and professional.
The guest is always right...online
No matter how much you believe this to be true or false deep down in your gut, your public online response must address the needs and concerns of the guests first. For example, a guest writes a review that they were unable to control the temperature of their room because the directions on how to use the thermostat were hard to understand. If you were to look at the directions, as part of the hotel staff they might be clear to you since you are familiar with the thermostat system. However, the guest is always right and there is usually a kernel of truth to extract from their experience, which you can use to improve your product. Take the opportunities that guest reviews provide to reevaluate the issues that guests bring up to strengthen your property thus enhancing the guest experience.
The following steps will help hoteliers structure their property's online reviews and manage their online reputation more effectively:
According to TripAdvisor, 50 million travelers are utilizing the site every month, so it is crucial to your hotel business to be an active part of the online correspondence. Management responses give you the opportunity to engage with your past guests and market your property to future guests. Industry research shows that management responses are highly influential with travelers during the booking process. When an owner responds promptly and professionally to a review, addressing any specific complaints as well as the positive comments, it can make a big impact on prospective customers! While responding to reviews might seem like a trivial, grass-roots public relations effort, it does make a strong impression on travelers when it comes time for them to book.