How to Make Friends and Influence Hotel Guests: Online Reputation Management
What is online reputation management? Why is it so important, and how can it help your hotel? We’re also sharing a few of our favorite resources to get you on the right track.
First, what exactly is involved in managing your hotel’s online reputation?
Essentially, you’re managing your online brand in terms of social media interactions and reviews. Of course, this means both positive and negative ones.
After that, you’re looking at exactly how reviews and your social media channels impact your property, and how the brand is portrayed.
Here are some examples of questions your team should ask: how do you deal with negative reviews? Are you responding to tweets and Facebook messages? What kind of tone does your hotel use on social media? Are you more casual or more formal with your guests online?
For hotels, managing their online presence and reputation is especially important today. This is because consumer behavior and booking patterns have changed.
Potential guests frequently decide whether to book your hotel based on reviews and any interactions or experiences they’ve had with the hotel. This often overshadows over factors – even ones like price, facilities or location. 93% of the people find reviews important when determining which hotel to stay at. This includes word-of-mouth, or the social media equivalent: if a friend of yours wins a Twitter contest or frequently shares posts from a hotel in London, wouldn’t you be inclined to think of that hotel first when you look for a hotel in London? Even if it turns out to be a bit more expensive than you were looking for originally?
The platforms that your hotel and your guests can interact on are many, and they are accessible 24/7. These sites range from your own site to sites like TripAdvisor, Booking.com, Facebook, Twitter and even YouTube!
Your hotel should have profiles on all these platforms. The keys is to have an up to date and interactive presence online, to be vocal with your brand and connected with your potential guests and followers.
If hoteliers don’t have the resources to manage these social spaces, their reputation can start to decline. If there is no one to monitor these sites or respond to guests’ posts or reviews, this can show a lack of interest in trying to resolve the situation. At best, they’ll assume you don’t care enough to check your Twitter – that’s not a positive.
These days, a guest who tweets a complaint to your hotel’s Twitter profile expects a response, whether they’re talking about the quality of food in your restaurant or the poor service they received. Even a quick apology will do – guests want to feel listened to and valued, and they expect someone to be reading and responding to them online.
How many of these is your hotel on?
Does Reputation Management Really Matter?
Let’s take a look at the statistics related to the review and booking process:
93% of the people find reviews important when researching hotels. 53% of the people surveyed say they wouldn’t book a hotel without reading a guest opinion about it. That’s significant.
Hotel guests are making more informed decisions than ever before. They’re reviewing the hotel’s reputation on all platforms, and benchmarking hotels against each other. Hotels guests trust these reviews for their ultimate booking decision. For your hotel to ignore these or not communicate with users is to ignore one of the most influential factors of your brand.
As online reputation management becomes more important, it is becoming vital for hoteliers to build an honest and professional online reputation. Your online reputation should be included in the marketing plan for your property. Since your online reputation is so readily visible to potential guests at all times, from reviews on Booking.com to Facebook posts to Twitter, hoteliers need to monitor these channels as often as possible.
Focus on responding to reviews: this will promote interaction with your guests, and tells your guests that you are interested in their feedback and review. In turn, this will increase your popularity and lead to more hotel bookings.
Think about scrolling through the reviews on Expedia for a hotel you’re considering staying at, and a negative review for a hotel with only a small number of reviews catches your eye. You skim it and you frown, weighing that negative review heavily against the positive ones you’ve just read. But then, you notice that a representative of the hotel has replied to the review, apologizing and trying to make amends. How far would that go towards erasing the effect of the negative review?
Reputation Management affects every part of your hotel’s operations where guests have touch points. This goes from sales to F&B, receptions and operations. Think of these as opportunities for personnel to interact with guests, and to encourage guests to leave positive reviews or share their experiences online.
If you promote this in the hotel on a team level instead of leaving it to one dedicated and assigned person, the culture of your hotel can change to one that’s aware and taking advantage of your online reputation. Get everyone involved and aware of the importance of your online reputation, so staff can help encourage guests to write positively about their experiences.
Poor reviews should be shared with staff so actions can be taken to resolve complaints, and positive reviews should be highlighted to recognize and reward the staff members responsible. Check out this resource on how to make your reputation a team effort.
Reputation Management is a practice with many different moving parts, which is why it can come across as a foggy concept. To ensure hotels have a clear focus, Daniel Craig, the Founder of Reknown, has listed his 10 Essential Steps of Managing Your Hotel’s Online Reputation. If you’re looking for a great guide, this is a good place to get started.
Departments: here’s a few tips to start building your reputation.
- Marketing: engage daily with guests and fans on social media platforms and other sites. You should monitor any feedback or post that is listed, analyse guest satisfaction, and reply promptly to combat any negative damage. Respond to positive comments too – guests always like to feel heard!
- Sales: Use reviews to benchmark against your competitors during your sales pitch to secure new contracts. Also, conducted research has proven that a positive online reputation has the influence to push higher price tiers for online sales. You can even create a knock on effect for corporate negotiated rates and group bookings rates.
Put Reviews and Social on Your Site
Your guests are using reviews and social experiences at the point of purchase to influence their booking decision. If there are no reviews on your own website, guests are forced to leave your site to search for reviews – and they may not return to book. They could end up on OTAs like Booking.com or Expedia to book, giving you a booking with a higher commission percentage paid and a less personal relationship.
To combat this bounce rate, add reviews to your website. This promotes a strong brand image, shows your confidence in your hotel and what people are saying about you, and keeps reviews right next to the point of purchase on your own site.
More positive reviews gives your property a better position against your competitors. For example, Tripadvisor’s Popularity Index is based on quality, quantity and recency of reviews, and the Popularity Index determines your page ranking on their site. If you’re at the top, your hotel looks like – and is! – a popular choice, and trustworthy with regards to your competitor set.
More reviews will also benefit your property in a more tangible way, beyond their influence on booking rates. They contain an array of information that hotels can analyse to understand guest satisfaction better. This lets you make any service changes that need to be made.
Take these reviews as an opportunity to grow your bookings and help improve your hotel.
After all the hustle and bustle of branding and marking your hotel, it is the guest who does the final shaping: by sharing their honest comments and experiences, they can make or break your hotel. Make sure they make it.
From an online marketing point of view, genuine, positive guest reviews are the best way to sell your property and convince a guest to book a room in your hotel.
Here’s the guest prospective:
- 80% of guests will read approximately 6- 12 reviews before making their decision
- 53% of Tripadvisor users say they won’t book a hotel if it has zero reviews (PhoCusWright)
Reputation management should be included in your marketing mix, but it should also work hand in hand with revenue management.
Reputation Matters to Revenue
In the past, pricing structures and decisions were based on factors like supply and demand, local events, negotiated rates, weddings/groups, and competitor rates.
Corin Burr, director of Bamboo Revenue in London, says:
“Online reputation management is becoming hugely important to hotels because reviews have a direct correlation with demand, the holy grail of revenue management.”
Serge Chamelian, Managing Director of H-Hotelier, has stated:
“Managing online reputation – specifically improving guest satisfaction by increasing operational effectiveness and efficiency – pays off financially. Hotels want to make sure that the investment in time and effort will benefit their sales i.e. RevPar. Hence, by improving a hotel’s reputation and communicating the results to employees, both RevPar and employee satisfaction increase.”
Recent research from the prestigious Cornell School of Hotel Administration has verified that guest satisfaction has a direct impact on the financial performance of hotels.
This quote from the study sums it up:
“A 1-point increase in a hotel’s 100-point ReviewPro Global Review Index™ (GRI) leads up to a 0.89% increase in price (ADR), a 0.54% increase in occupancy, and a 1.42% increase in Revenue per Available Room (RevPAR). The study verifies that the impact is across all distribution channels: online and off”.
Reputable research has proven that a positive online reputation has the influence to push higher price tier for online sales. This in turn has a knock on effect to corporate negotiated rates and group bookings rates.
Kelly McGuire, leader of Hospitality and Travel Global Practice at the SAS Institute, would agree:
“In recent research, we found that the sentiment of online reviews reduces the impact of price on purchase decision, meaning that good reviews will influence a traveller to spend more, and bad reviews will discourage bookings, even if the hotel room is discounted.”
“Given what I’ve been seeing in some of my research, it will be essential for revenue managers to understand their “satisfaction position” on online channels as they make pricing decisions,” says McGuire of SAS.
Quick Resources to Get Started
Convinced of the importance of having a strong, adaptable strategy for managing your reputation online? Here’s a few resources, along with those linked throughout the article, to get you going.
Jeff Higley, Editorial Director of Hotel News Now, had a “Managing Your Reputation Session.” In this, the members complied a quick 21 Tips to Manage Your Hotel’s Reputation Online. To find out more how to implement the advice we’ve given you today and generate a positive presence online and more revenue, check out the guide here.
If you would like any more information or would like to implement revenue management software in your property, here are a few of the market leaders you can take a look at: ReviewPro, Revinate and RateGain are a couple strong industry names to start with.
It is critical for hoteliers today to be actively involved in reputation management.
Reputation management affects the property as a whole, and needs to be managed by every department working together. It should go hand in hand with revenue management. It should also guide hoteliers to use reviews to influence their decision-making process and effect change where necessary.
There’s your primer on reputation management: what it is, why it’s vital and a few great resources to get you started in building your hotel’s online presence.
What’s your experience with building your brand online?
Article written by Karen Connaughton