4 Steps to a Healthy Online Reputation in the Pandemic Era

Online reputation can make or break a business, especially in the hospitality industry. According to a TripAdvisor study conducted last year, 81% of the survey respondents always or frequently read reviews before choosing a place to stay, with 78% focusing on recent reviews. As cautious travel consumers slowly begin to venture out again in the wake of COVID-19, online reviews matter now more than ever.

Managing your property’s online reputation is key to recovery during the pandemic and to improving sales going forward. Follow the four steps below to nurture a positive online reputation that brings your hotel more bookings.

1. Set guest expectations

Overpromising and under-delivering only results in dissatisfied guests and negative reviews. That’s why it’s important to set the right expectations from the get-go, starting with an accurate depiction of your property’s stay experience on your website.

While COVID-19 precautions are in place, it is very important to inform customers about your property’s health and safety protocols (such as sanitation procedures, mask-wearing guidelines, social distancing policies and service closures) to both reassure potential guests and to let them know what to expect (and what is expected of them).

In addition to your website, use pre-arrival communications to make customers feel valued, excited and prepared for their upcoming stay. Include information about safety regulations and/or limited services, as well as any special amenities or services available to make their stay more comfortable or enjoyable. Use links to direct customers to further information if needed. Pre-arrival emails can be easily automated through your property management system (PMS) or through PMS integration with CRM solutions. As well, update your TripAdvisor listing with your property’s safety measures using TripAdvisor’s new health and safety checklist.

2. Exceed guest expectations

It’s attention to detail that makes the guest experience a memorable one. Even small gestures can have a big impact on guests and make them feel valued. In order to exceed guest expectations, pay close attention to service delivery, properly training staff and encouraging them to go above and beyond for guest satisfaction. It’s also necessary to equip your team with the tools they need to perform their duties effectively, from good cleaning products to software solutions.

In our current COVID climate, guests’ main concerns and expectations revolve around health and safety, particularly hotel cleanliness and social distancing protocols. Right now, it is essential to get this right—guest satisfaction depends on it. The housekeeping team’s role is critical, so make sure employees are supported with the right training and tools to uphold enhanced housekeeping standards.

Hotel software solutions for contactless check-in and guest communications are also key to delivering the kind of safe (and convenient) guest experience customers want right now. Such mobile applications not only show guests you take their safety seriously, but that you also take your business seriously, utilizing modern technology to improve efficiency and customer service. Use your hotel technology to automate and streamline administrative processes to give you more time to go the extra mile for a memorable guest experience that exceeds expectations.

3. Ask for guest feedback

While review sites provide an outlet for frustrated customers to voice negative experiences, you may be surprised to know that the top reason for writing travel reviews is actually to share positive experiences with fellow travelers, according to the abovementioned TripAdvisor study.

Especially now, as we are all learning to adjust to our new normal together and are making an effort to support local businesses, most travel consumers are happy to share their positive travel experiences and to provide feedback that can help lodging operators fine-tune the guest experience. Now is an ideal time to ask for guest reviews. In fact, it’s more important than ever to generate recent reviews to show potential guests that your property is a safe place to stay in these uncertain times. Automated post-stay communications are an effective way to encourage guests to write a review, by conveniently linking to your property’s listing on your preferred review site. Use your PMS to automatically trigger post-stay emails to guests from the PMS itself or via integration with reputation management software, based on reservation data.

Read our Top Tips for Getting More Online Hotel Reviews for further ideas.

4. Monitor online reviews

A big part of managing a healthy online reputation is monitoring and responding to what guests are saying about your property online—and acting on feedback to improve the guest experience. It’s important to respond to negative reviews and share positive feedback to show customers you care.

Another recent TripAdvisor study reveals that 77% of travelers are more likely to book a hotel when business owners respond to reviews. Follow the advice of our partner BlueJay Reviews on how to respond to negative reviews to turn them into a positive online image.

From Google to TripAdvisor to Booking.com to Facebook, and the hundreds of sites between, hotel guests have no shortage of places to share their experiences online. Manually monitoring your property’s reviews and social media mentions across the World Wide Web every day would be a daunting (if not impossible) task! Automation is key to monitoring online reviews effectively.

Using Google Alerts (a free service), you can set up an alert for your property’s name (or any other search term) and it will inform you whenever new content featuring your property’s name is published on a webpage. Social media management platforms such as Hootsuite (free and paid versions) allow you to automatically monitor social media channels for mentions, schedule posts, engage with followers, manage your social media ad campaigns and access analytics, all from a single dashboard.

Or, consider a dedicated reputation management solution like Revinate, BlueJay Reviews or BirdEye. These powerful platforms bring together all your online reviews and social media mentions, providing a single dashboard from which to respond to reviews across all channels, send feedback requests, manage your social media accounts, and access sentiment analytics to prioritize improvements.

Managing your property’s online reputation is critical to the success of your business, especially now as wary travelers navigate an uncertain world of travel. It’s important to put some time and effort into increasing your property’s online reviews, responding to reviews, and using feedback to improve the guest experience. Your hotel technology can help make this process much easier and more efficient at every step!

Top Tips for Getting More Online Hotel Reviews

Despite the constant evolution of online marketing and distribution platforms and social media, online reviews remain so important. According to recent research, a total of 92 percent of leisure travelers in the U.S. consider online hotel reviews “somewhat important” or “very important” when choosing a hotel. Recent changes to how Google reviews are displayed on hotel pages within Google demonstrate the weight of reviews on the consumer’s decision-making process when looking for a place to stay.

Now when travelers “google” accommodation and click on a property within Google’s Hotel Finder results they will find a separate “Reviews” tab for the hotel that offers the ability to filter, sort and search reviews, and also pulls reviews in from other online sources like TripAdvisor and Booking.com, in addition to reviews from Google users. These changes have resulted in a more comprehensive and efficient review resource that helps consumers make well-informed decisions.

In our increasingly digital world, online reviews are more important than ever. Google’s recent enhancements to its reviews feature should serve as a reminder to lodging operators that reviews do matter—a lot. If chatter about your property has been a bit quiet online lately, here are our top tips for getting more reviews.

Ask at Check-out

There’s nothing wrong with asking guests for reviews face to face. You probably already ask departing guests if they enjoyed their stay—if they did, follow up with something genuine and light like, “That’s good to hear! If you have a spare few minutes sometime in the next few days, we’d love it if you could leave us a review online on [your preferred review channel].” Most guests will appreciate the opportunity to do something nice for your business if they had an enjoyable stay.  

You can ask guests for reviews in more subtle ways too, like including your review profiles on business cards or a small sign placed at the front desk. Include a message at the bottom of check-out receipts, inviting guests to leave a review online on your preferred review site if they enjoyed their stay. You could also consider adding a message that invites dissatisfied guests to email you directly with any negative comments, which will hopefully avoid those complaints going public online.

Post-stay Messaging

It’s best to ask for reviews as soon as possible after a guest’s stay while they are still focused on their experience. Post-stay messaging provides an ideal opportunity to encourage guests to leave a review online.

Whether by email or mobile messaging, post-stay messages thanking guests for their stay should be sent to every guest and should also politely ask them to leave a review if they enjoyed their experience at your property. As mentioned above, invite them to contact you directly with any negative feedback. Post-stay communications can be triggered automatically through your property management system (PMS), CRM or guest messaging platform.

Make it Easy to Leave Reviews

Whenever and however you prompt guests to leave a review, make it easy for them to do so. If it’s not clear where they should leave a review and they have to search online and click around, chances are it’s not going to happen. Instead, point them directly to your property’s profile on your preferred review channel via direct links (or linked icons/banners) included in emails, mobile messages and on your website.

Any printed material should also point guests in the right direction by including the logo or website address of your preferred review site along with your profile name (which should be the same as your property’s name).

Automate Review Management

Make it easy for yourself too, by automating review management with CRM or reputation management software that can send post-stay surveys to your guests, triggered automatically. Through platforms like Revinate, completed surveys can then be submitted straight to important review channels such as TripAdvisor and Google, steadily increasing online review volume.

When your PMS is integrated with your reputation management software, you don’t even need to enter guest details into your reputation management system or CRM—the PMS sends the data directly. The entire process becomes automated, saving you valuable time and ensuring no guest goes forgotten when it comes to asking for feedback.

Be on the Sites that Matter

From Google to TripAdvisor to Booking.com, set up profiles on multiple review channels to make sure you cover the ones your guests like and use. If you haven’t already, search for reviews for your property on Google (and other major search engines like Bing and Yahoo! Search) and take note of the sites that come up—these are the ones that your customers prefer, so make sure you set up profiles on all of them to make it easy for your guests to find you and review you.

Offer Incentives

Sometimes it takes a little incentive to motivate customers to write a review. While at first this approach might sound a bit like a bribe, it’s not really. There’s nothing wrong with running a monthly draw for all customers who submit a review (whether good or bad) online. Promote your draw on social media, on your website, and in emails and other guest communications.

Some ideas for prizes include a free night’s stay, a gift certificate, or a free meal at your restaurant.

Share Rave Reviews on Social Media

Sharing your property’s glowing reviews on your social media channels is a good way to inspire (and remind) other guests to leave their own reviews online. Social media users love it when their content is shared by other social media users, with credit given to the original creator.

Sharing positive reviews on social media is not only a good tactic for generating more online reviews, it also provides great content for promoting your property.

Respond to Reviews

You don’t have to respond to all reviews, but you should endeavor to respond to all negative reviews and some great reviews as well. Thoughtfully responding to online reviews tells customers that you care about your guests and their experience of your property, and motivates other guests to provide valuable feedback that helps your business succeed.

Treat Every Guest like a VIP

Consumers tend to write reviews about exceptionally good or bad experiences—not about average ones. So be exceptional by showing every single customer how much you value them. It doesn’t take much—from anticipating guests’ needs to greeting guests with a smile every time, the smallest efforts can make a big difference to your customers.

Generating a steady stream of online reviews isn’t always easy, but it’s a crucial part of maintaining a healthy online reputation. Follow the above tips and watch the reviews roll in—and your occupancy and revenue soar!

A Hotelier’s Guide to Responding to Online Reviews

Today’s consumers rely heavily on reviews to make purchasing decisions. The quantity and quality of online reviews are both considered when determining what to buy or where to book. That makes them critical to a business’s success. But it’s not just about maximizing positive reviews and minimizing the negative ones (although that’s certainly important). Responding to reviews is also an essential part of reputation management. If done correctly it can further capitalize on the good reviews and mitigate the damage of the bad. Here’s a quick guide to responding to online reviews:

General tips

Use their name >> Always start your responses with the name of the customer. “Hi, Louise. Thank you.. “ or “Hello, Max. We are so sorry…” sound much more personal than beginning with a cold “Thank you …” or “We are so sorry…”. Using names tells your customers that you care about them as individuals. And it makes it seem less like an automated response.

Be genuine >> Nobody likes receiving a canned response. It feels inauthentic and doesn’t do anything to build a connection with customers. So, avoid generic statements and use language that showcases your property’s personality.

Don’t be repetitive >> It can be tempting to use the same responses over and over to save time, but people read multiple reviews when researching online. If the same phrases are repeated time and time again, they’ll notice. So, mix things up—it’ll look better for your brand.

Positive reviews

While most of your responses should be focused on negative reviews, responding to some positive ones is still important. It shows you don’t take customers’ kind words for granted, and is an opportunity to leverage the review even further.

Repeat the positive feature >> When a guest writes a rave review they usually include the specific details that meant the most to them—things like “the breakfast every morning was delicious.” Restate those details in your responses. Saying something like “we’re so glad you enjoyed our breakfast!” shows the guest (and others reading the exchange) that you’re listening to what they have to say and reiterates the positive attributes of your property.

Use your business name and keywords >> When crafting your response make sure to include your property’s name (i.e. “we are so pleased to hear you enjoyed your time at [PROPERTY NAME]” as well as other keywords. You want people to see your positive reviews, and this will help them show up in search results.

Include subtle marketing >> Reviews have a vast audience of potential customers, so don’t miss the opportunity to plug your property further. After thanking the guest for their kind words, include a subtle call-to-action. Something like “we’re so happy to hear you enjoyed your view of the lake! You should come back and see it in the winter; it’s so beautiful!”.

Negative reviews

Negative reviews aren’t fun, but they happen to everyone. And your responses say a lot to the potential customers reading them. So, you need to have a plan for how to move forward. If done well, you can significantly reduce any fallout (and a guest may even revise it afterwards).

Acknowledge and apologize >> The first thing you should do is acknowledge the experience your guest had and express your apologies for it. People tend to calm down when their feelings are validated.

Move the conversation offline >> You don’t want to turn negative reviews into long, drawn-out discussions online. After apologizing for the guest’s experience, include an invitation to contact you offline so the situation can be resolved.

Keep it short and sweet >> Nobody wants to read paragraphs of text, especially when they’re upset. So, don’t add fuel to the fire with long-winded responses. A simple acknowledgment, apology, and an invitation to communicate further are all you need.

Don’t use your business name or keywords >> Unlike your positive reviews, you really don’t want negative reviews to be popping up on search results. For this reason, avoid using your property’s name or relevant keywords in your responses.

Responding to online reviews should be a regular part of your marketing strategy. Make sure you’re doing it right, so you can make the most of positive reviews and reduce the effects of negative ones.

Get Rated! Proven Tips for Getting More Online Reviews

When you look at your hotel listing on review websites, do you feel like a tumbleweed should blow past? If a lack of reviews is making your property look like a ghost town, we have some ideas for you.

According to this article on hospitality.net, travelers are nearly four times more likely to choose a hotel with higher review scores when the prices are the same, and a whopping 76 percent of travelers are willing to pay more for a hotel with higher review scores. If you don’t have any reviews, well, then you are not even in the equation. Furthermore, online reviews affect your ranking on review sites (low to no ratings placing you in 21st place out of 25 hotels, for example, doesn’t look so hot).

According to ReviewPro, online reviews can also influence search engine ranking, OTA rankings, overall online reputation score and overall sales and conversion rates. In light of this, online hotel reviews and ratings are irrefutably important.  And the better the reviews, the better your ratings, and the better your ratings, the better your hotel revenue – and isn’t that the bottom line?

We’ve scoured the Web for you and have come up with these top tips for getting more (great) online reviews for your hotel.

Post-Stay Surveys and Emails

Our recent post on gathering guest feedback shows the importance of post-stay surveys. Post-stay surveys also present the perfect opportunity for straight up asking your guests to write an online review about their stay. Online surveys can even provide links to review websites, making it one step easier.

Be honest, and not pushy, with a simple request such as: “If you enjoyed your stay with us, we would really appreciate you sharing your experience with friends and family on social media and review sites. Your reviews on TripAdvisor in particular are a big help to us. Thank you!”

According to a study on guest feedback, Software Advice found that guests are most willing to leave feedback at check-out or shortly thereafter and the same rings true for online reviews – so don’t delay. We have also read that sending out a reminder email three days after the initial request has great results. Anymore than that may be considered badgering, however.

WebRezPro can send post-stay emails automatically so sending a request is only a matter of setting up a template. And interfaces are available for automatically sending post-stay surveys as well. You might also be interested in TripAdvisor’s automated Review Express program that sends post-stay emails to your guests to request reviews – it’s free for all businesses listed on TripAdvisor.

Business or Post Cards

In addition to asking guests to write online reviews of your hotel via post-stay surveys and emails, place cards in room or at the front desk that guests can keep in order to remind them that their opinion matters to you.

Ask at Check-Out

During check-out, asking guests how their stay was is a nice touch — you can even invite them to review your property online (if their experience was a good one). They can take a card (as described above) with them. Some hotels provide a computer or tablet at the front desk where guests can write reviews on the spot if they desire. However, do be aware that some review sites will label the review spam if it is sent from the same IP address as the hotel.

Follow Up By Phone

Has a guest left positive feedback on a comment card? Don’t let it collect dust on the staff bulletin board; call the customer and thank them for their comments and invite them to share their kudos online. If you receive a negative comment, do be sure to follow up as well in order to resolve any bad feelings before their comments hit the Web.

Provide Perks

Software Advice, a source for research and reviews on hotel management tools, recently conducted a study on the most effective tactics for guest feedback. They found that guests who were provided with an incentive to complete a survey were liable to write more positive comments, which can be a detriment when you are looking for constructive feedback. However, when it comes to online reviews, this is good news! You probably don’t want to be seen as blatantly bribing your guests so make offers simple. Along the same line, lucky draws are also popular. You could invite past guests to write a review and send you the link when the review has gone live. All those who submitted are then entered into a draw for a gift basket, a free night’s stay or a gift certificate for the on-site restaurant, for example.

Social Media

Make sure the “About” section on your social media pages has links to your profile on review sites. Regularly remind followers where your reviews can be found and invite them to write their own. And share positive reviews with your social media followers.

Email Communication

In addition to your contact information, add social media buttons in your email signature that link directly to your social media pages and review site pages. Make it easy for people to always find you online in various places.

Select Sites

There are a lot of review sites out there but only a handful that matter. When you ask guests to write reviews, be specific. The top hotel review sites you should be concerned with are TripAdvisor, Expedia and Hotels.com. Google reviews are also important but can only be submitted by users with Gmail accounts.

Be Responsive

With the influx of all these reviews, be sure to respond – maybe not to every review if you are getting a lot, but definitely to the standout ones in order to remain personable. How you respond to reviews is just as important as the reviews themselves as this leaves an impression on the Web visitor.

 

Are you worried about receiving negative reviews? Don’t worry, they happen. How you respond to the negative review is an art form in itself. Read our blog post on the Dos and Don’ts of Handling Negative Reviews to find how you can turn it into an opportunity to further promote your hotel and its positive aspects.