Before booking their next stay, today’s traveller simply refers to their choice of accommodation review sites to skim through a handful of reviews and real-life traveller photos.
Travellers of all ages now routinely rely on the fast-evolving User Generated Content (UGC) model as one of the key drivers in their peer-driven decision making process.
With an abundance of content available, online reviews are likely to be the first stop, and the first impression, many guests have of a hotel or resort. It’s critical that hoteliers actively manage their online reputation at these hotel review sites.
According to research conducted by TripAdvisor, 96 percent of travellers consider reviews important when researching a hotel and 79 percent will read between six and 12 reviews before making a purchasing decision.
How can you ensure your hotel remains competitive in the ever expanding landscape of hotel review sites? What determines how hotels are ranked in their respective cities? Follow the four steps below – consistently – to ensure that your hotel climbs the ranking ladder and stays ahead of the competition.
1. Encourage your guests to leave a review
According to a study of more than 16,000 hotels published in Cornell Hospitality Quarterly, the average rating for a hotel with 11 to 20 reviews is 3.5 out of 5. As a hotel gets more reviews – 101 or more – the average rating climbs to 3.9. Properties with a higher volume of reviews receive a higher ranking than those with fewer reviews.
Additionally, the most recent reviews carry the most weight.
About a year ago, TripAdvisor rolled out a new algorithm that altered the ranking of many hotels. They shared three primary factors to their equation (quality, quantity, and recency), while also refining the calculation to account for and better measure the consistency of a hotel’s performance over time.
To boost your review quantity, and ultimately drive more bookings, consider implementing a mid-stay check-in assessing guest sentiment.
Drive happy guests to review their stay on the spot. It’s best not to offer an incentive, as that can come with a harsh penalty from many of the review sites. This not only builds your online reputation, but also creates greater guest engagement.
If you don’t have a system in place for this, consider a smartconcierge like Ivy to automatically request guest feedback in real time. You can get alerts when a guest is upset on-site and stop bad reviews before they’re written. In the event of a negative response, Ivy passes the issue along to the hotel, allowing for a real time fix to be made before a negative review is posted.
2. Emphasise exceptional service at your property
A recent Cornell study of more than 95,000 reviews and ratings for 99 independent high-end hotels and resorts revealed that overall, hotels with the most consistent service secured the highest ratings across the major hotel review sites.
Not surprisingly, service was overwhelmingly one of the most important components while facilities, location, and amenities factored significantly less.
Make a point to regularly read through every review on your property to uncover actionable insights and opportunities to improve the guest experience at your property. Commit to having a well-trained staff that is prepared to handle various issues when they occur. Some of the most common service complaints at hotels include unclean rooms, no hot water, noisy neighbours, and rude staff. All of these complaints used to typically result in an unpleasant phone call or visit to the front desk.
One way to compete at a higher service level is through the use of a smartconcierge to communicate with guests and handle requests instantly. Powered by a combination of machine learning and staff, a smartconcierge can answer up to 60 percent of guest messages in less than one second. This allows the front desk to focus on more complex requests and provide more attentive service.
Another way is to personalise the guest experience as much as possible by tapping into previous stay preferences and using the guest’s name whenever possible.
3. Ensure your profile is up to date
Invest in the resources required to create and maintain a top-notch profile on every major online review site to make sure you stand out from your competitive set. Update it often with new photos and videos, significant changes, and news about important events.
Remember that this is the first impression many prospective guests have for your hotel. Showcase a variety of high quality, accurate photos to provide guests a feel for what it’s like to stay with you.
4. Respond to customer feedback – both positive and negative
While manager responses aren’t factored into TripAdvisor rankings, responding to reviews shows travellers that you’re paying attention and committed to guest satisfaction. One Phocuswright study found that 85 percent of users believe that a manager’s review response improves their impression of a hotel. Take this opportunity to address hotel improvements, or turn the conversation in a positive direction with something exciting about the hotel, but make sure you abide by the TripAdvisor Management Response Guidelines before responding on their platform.
A word of caution: hoteliers should respond to reviews but be careful not overdo it. A Cornell study found that after about a 40 percent response rate, hotels seem to reach a point of diminishing returns.
The researcher, Associate Professor Chris Anderson reports, “It turns out that making too many responses is worse than offering no response at all, in terms of both ratings and revenue. So, managers should focus on making constructive responses to negative reviews rather than simply acknowledging positive comments.”
For negative reviews, follow this process: thank the reviewer for their feedback, acknowledge the issue, reiterate the importance of guest satisfaction and include your contact details for follow-up as needed. All hotel responses should be courteous and sincere.
In today’s world, there’s no shortage of user-generated content for travellers to find when seeking out their next stay. What users say about your property and how they rate it impacts your bottom line. To continuously improve your hotel’s online reputation: (1) encourage guests to leave a review, (2) focus on service excellence, (3) actively manage your profile, and (4) stay on top of and respond to all negative reviews.