If you’re a hotelier who hasn’t been paying much attention to guest reviews, you haven’t been paying attention much at all. A 2016 report found that 96% of TripAdvisor users consider reviews to be an important factor in their booking decisions, while 83% actively read reviews for any property before they make a booking. As guests and travelers, we all know that reviews sway us. Managing your reviews is obviously important.
Of course, it’s not really possible to “manage” reviews once they’ve been published. You can write a response, but then it becomes a “he said, she said” scenario. The real challenge is to manage them before they’re written, when ideas and impressions are still being developed. Here is where the conversation turns toward things like employee morale and interaction with guests and ensuring we have ways to hear from guests as soon as they have a bad experience so we can address it immediately. Improvements in these areas often lead to marked improvements in the guest experience, which generates better individual reviews and overall scores.
So where do we find most of these reviews, exactly? A 2016 report by Revinate (a hospitality consultancy) analysed hotel review trends globally and concluded that nearly 80% of reviews can be found on one of four web sites: Booking.com, TripAdvisor, Google and Hotels.com. When we drill down further, we see that Booking.com and TripAdvisor are the clear leaders, accounting for 65% of all hotel reviews between them.
So is that the only place to look ?
Of course not! We actually need to look everywhere. Some hotels might see the Revinate report and decide to ignore everything but the most popular channels. I would argue that this is a mistake. If you don’t believe that every review matters, you probably don’t think that every guest (and every potential guest) matters. Significant attention should be given to any review on any platform.
Aside from the usual review channels, hotels should look at where most of their reviews happen to occur. We have no detailed studies breaking down reviews by country or postcode, but it’s obvious that different sites are more popular in different areas. For example, Booking.com accounts for nearly 40% of global review totals. This stems from the platform’s early dominance across Europe, and its increasing foothold in places like Australia. Depending on where you are, the hot spot for hotel reviews might be TripAdvisor, Expedia, Google or even Facebook. It may even be among the 7.5% of global hotel reviews that appear on “other” sites, according to the report.
Putting technology to good use
One thing most hoteliers find challenging is keeping track of scores and reviews across multiple sites. Let’s say you’re a two hundred-room property with high occupancy rates. The reviews are flowing in every day, fast and hopefully not furious. When you consider the importance of overall review scores — as well as the importance of responding to individual reviews — the situation seems daunting.
So, isn’t it great when technology creates an overwhelmingly complex situation, only to solve it with more technology? Services like ReviewPro, Reputation.com, and other reputation management platforms were designed precisely for this purpose. No hotel manager can be expected to scour review sites day and night for any mention of their property. Reputation management software has a growing list of helpful features, including global review indexes for your property, instant notifications when new reviews come in, and insight into how other hotels are playing the review game.
Aside from hotel-specific solutions, there are services like Hootsuite that help users keep track of ‘mentions’ on review sites and/or social media. Certain Property Management Systems also have third-party integration features allowing you to manage reviews on major platforms. The point is, there are many tools out there to help simplify this complex situation; it doesn’t have to be overwhelming.
Sharing positive feedback with your team
I’ve seen a few hotel managers compile reports of positive and negative feedback for their employees, using it as a means of inspiration and improvement. To be honest, I think we should see more of this. It is ruthless to pare your entire operation down to a single number on a 10 point scale, even if that kind of simplification is necessary for modern travelers with more choices and less time to make them. But it’s not just the big bold number we should be looking at. It’s the individual words and experiences behind the number. This is why some operators have reverted to simple questions like “please tell us what you most liked” and “please tell us what you most disliked”. If we can distil down to three or four key issues, we will be doing well.
Guest reviews are a precious resource that tell us about ourselves in a way nothing else can. They’re a living, breathing map of our failures and successes — and a visceral reminder that the experiences of guests who are staying in our properties right now, today, directly influence the number of guests who will arrive tomorrow and into the future. Ignore them, or manage them badly, at your peril.
For further industry insight, please follow the links below.