Bad reviews no disaster, says research

Holidaymakers brush aside negative accommodation reviews in favour of positive ones, but both affect bookings more than satisfaction guarantees, new research says.

Macquarie University researchers found prospective guests might browse through numerous online reviews, but they tend to place most weight on the positive ones while virtually ignoring mixed and negative reviews.

The study, published in the Journal of Hospitality Marketing and Management, looked at the influence of positive, negative and mixed reviews on prospective accommodation customers, finding that people struggle to interpret and evaluate mixed reviews.

As a result, people tend to place greater weight on purely positive or negative reviews, with the positive reviews winning out and having the most influence as people also generally find it harder to evaluate reviews on the negative side of the spectrum.

The findings showed that while satisfaction guarantees have no effect on whether a customer makes a booking, they can affect how guests evaluate reviews.

According to author and lecturer at Macquarie’s department of marketing, Dr Shahin Sharifi, when a hotel offers a ‘100 percent satisfaction guarantee’, mixed reviews come to the fore. Customers consider the guarantee a signal that positive comments in a mixed review should be weighed more heavily than negative ones.

“In today’s interconnected world, where more bookings are made online than ever before, customer reviews can make or break a business,” said author Dr Shahin Sharifi, a lecturer in Macquarie’s marketing department.

“Understanding the impact of positive, negative, and mixed reviews on their business is crucial for a hotel manager, particularly as managers are spending more time than ever responding to online reviews. Our findings suggest much of this time may be in vain.”

The findings showed that satisfaction guarantees have no effect on whether a customer makes a booking – researchers suggesting that managers focus primarily on improving customer experiences and if not offering a satisfaction guarantee, should prioritise responding to mixed reviews over others.

 “For hoteliers, the most important thing is to focus on providing a good service to customers rather than guaranteeing it,” added Dr Sharifi.

“Positive reviews influence prospective customers more than any other so, as you would expect, to drive future bookings it is best to have as many good reviews as possible.

“Following that, it is important to respond to mixed reviews as quickly as possible.”

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