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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Coming up in June 2019...

Sales & Marketing: Selling Experiences

There are innumerable strategies that Hotel Sales and Marketing Directors employ to find, engage and entice guests to their property, and those strategies are constantly evolving. A breakthrough technology, pioneering platform, or even a simple algorithm update can cause new trends to emerge and upend the best laid plans. Sales and marketing departments must remain agile so they can adapt to the ever changing digital landscape. As an example, the popularity of virtual reality is on the rise, as 360 interactive technologies become more mainstream. Chatbots and artificial intelligence are also poised to become the next big things, as they take guest personalization to a whole new level. But one sales and marketing trend that is currently resulting in major benefits for hotels is experiential marketing - the effort to deliver an experience to potential guests. Mainly this is accomplished through the creative use of video and images, and by utilizing what has become known as User Generated Content. By sharing actual personal content (videos and pictures) from satisfied guests who have experienced the delights of a property, prospective guests can more easily imagine themselves having the same experience. Similarly, Hotel Generated Content is equally important. Hotels are more than beds and effective video presentations can tell a compelling story - a story about what makes the hotel appealing and unique. A video walk-through of rooms is essential, as are video tours in different areas of a hotel. The goal is to highlight what makes the property exceptional, but also to show real people having real fun - an experience that prospective guests can have too. The June Hotel Business Review will report on some of these issues and strategies, and examine how some sales and marketing professionals are integrating them into their operations.