Contributed by Jeff Holt, eStrategist
Online reputation management (ORM) may seem like a daunting task, but if you are in the hospitality industry and are not participating in ORM, you need to seriously consider making the plunge. It is safe to say not only is this a trend that will not go away, but it will continue to increase considerably in use in the future. Remember that every guest that stays at your property is potentially defining your brand through online reviews, discussions with friends, and through social media. Fortunately, once ORM is built into your daily routine, it should not take too much time, and will actually help you improve your hotel services.
ORM should begin the moment a guest walks onto the property. Front staff should be friendly and helpful, and be able to identify a guest’s needs. Ask guests frequently if everything is ok with their stay, and if they express a concern, promptly offer a solution. Make their stay memorable; find little things to do to set you apart from the competition. If the guest sits down to write a review, these are the things they are likely to remember. Make sure all staff is aware of your efforts, and trained properly to handle any situation that may come their way. Asking guests for reviews is not rude! You are asking for a review not to build your brand, but to obtain honest feedback on a guest’s stay. Let your guest know that you are always looking to improve your efforts, and that their opinions are valued.
- Develop a daily plan that is simple enough to follow and you will soon gain control on your online reputation.
- Create a list of online review sites that you will monitor; go where customers go.
- Reply to both positive and negative reviews. Replying to negative reviews shows potential guests that you care about each individual experience.
- Communicate your action plan with your staff. Hold regular meetings to keep them up to speed with your efforts. Make them aware of the impact that they have on the guest experience.
- Ask guests for reviews upon checkout, this will keep your stream of reviews fresh.
What about fake reviews written specifically to damage your online reputation? Hoteliers have been asking sites like TripAdvisor to validate a reviewer’s stay at a hotel before letting them post a review, but that is easier said than done. The process is difficult and looks like it is a long way out. The best practice is to keep calm and secure positive reviews that will drown out those fake reviews. Never reply to a suspected fake review, focus your time and energy on engaging with legitimate reviewers.
Fake reviewers often post anonymously, and will only have a few reviews per profile. Savvy users using review sites to plan out their next stay will know that these types of reviews come with less credibility than those linked to a profile that has several reviews associated with it.
Still not convinced? Keep in mind that your online reputation can be used as a sales tool. According to Brian Ferguson, VP of Analytics at Expedia, on scale of 1-5, a 1 point increase in an overall review score equates to a 9% increase in ADR. Jennifer Davis of Expedia states that 4 and 5 star reviews generate more than double conversion than a hotel with 1-3 stars. So get a plan in place, and start your journey in online reputation management.