Best Practices for Monitoring and Responding to Online Reviews

By Mary Gendron Senior Vice President / Managing Director, Eric Mower & Associates | June 17, 2018

Travel review sites are regarded by many in hospitality as a blessing and a curse. A glowing review can polish a brand's reputation and stimulate reservations. A negative one has the opposite effect and can hurt sales. A spurious review is especially vexing to hoteliers when properties are unfairly blemished, which sometimes happens in this subjective medium. Depending upon the reviewer's passion and platform, a review may go viral, amplifying exponentially.

Today, 95% of travelers report reading reviews before booking a trip. Research has shown that 70% of consumers trust the opinion of total strangers and 25% (or less) trust advertising. A hotel or resort can gain a competitive advantage if it can engender trust in the marketplace. In my company, we call that Brand as Friend, a philosophy based on nine scientifically proven drivers of friendship. By interacting with guests in the very public domain of review sites, hotels and resorts can gain - or regain - trust and win new friends simultaneously.

Since review sites are here to stay, savvy owners and operators are embracing them, shifting their outlook from "I hope we don't get a negative review" to "What can we learn from reviews and how can we use that intel to provide a better guest experience?"

Let's look at the main review sites:

  • TripAdvisor

Currently verified as the world's largest travel site, TripAdvisor has more than 600 million reviews which, in addition to accommodations, covers airlines, attractions, and restaurants - 7.5 million businesses and counting. The site attracts 455 monthly unique visitors (MUVs) who are attracted not only by the chance to see reviews but to view rate comparisons as well. Robust and delivering an excellent user experience, the site is easy and quick to navigate, serving up hotels by locale, rate and rating at a fingertip's touch to a mobile device or a keyboard.

The TripAdvisor blog provides content for and by travelers - inspirations, tips and itineraries. The #1 go-to resource for travel reviews, TripAdvisor offers two ways to get a hotel listed: by you (or your representative) requesting a listing, or by a guest of your hotel writing a review that initiates a listing. The TripAdvisor website provides a detailed insights section that provides tips and best practices for monitoring, managing and responding to reviews.

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Guest Service: A Culture of YES

In a recent global consumers report, 97% of the participants said that customer service is a major factor in their loyalty to a brand, and 76% said they view customer service as the true test of how much a company values them. And since there is no industry more reliant on customer satisfaction than the hotel industry, managers must be unrelenting in their determination to hire, train and empower the very best people, and to create a culture of exceptional customer service within their organization. Of course, this begins with hiring the right people. There are people who are naturally service-oriented; people who are warm, empathetic, enthusiastic, pleasant, thoughtful and optimistic; people who take pride in their ability to solve problems for the hotel guests they are serving. Then, those same employees must be empowered to solve problems using their own judgment, without having to track down a manager to do it. This is how seamless problem solving and conflict resolution are achieved in guest service. This willingness to empower employees is part of creating a Culture of Yes within an organization.  The goal is to create an environment in which everyone is striving to say “Yes”, rather than figuring out ways to say, “No”. It is essential that this attitude be instilled in all frontline, customer-facing, employees. Finally, in order to ensure that the hotel can generate a consistent level of performance across a wide variety of situations, management must also put in place well-defined systems and standards, and then educate their employees about them. Every employee must be aware of and responsible for every standard that applies in their department. The April issue of the Hotel Business Review will document what some leading hotels are doing to cultivate and manage guest satisfaction in their operations.