Be a Star Online: A 5 Step Guide to Reputation Management

Building a good reputation has always been important for business. Like almost everything else, the internet hasn’t changed that fact; it’s just adjusted how the game is played. Consumers are more empowered to voice their opinion than ever before, and they use it. Depending on how you respond to and manage the online dialogue surrounding your property, the ubiquity of reviews can be a powerful asset or an overwhelming obstacle for your business.  Because the truth is, your online reputation directly affects bookings in a significant way. In fact, a study from Boston University and Microsoft concluded that a 1-star increase online can boost demand by 26%. That’s no small effect. And not at all surprising considering 92% of people use reviews to inform booking decisions when researching hotels.

The things guests are saying about you online matter in a big way. If dealt with correctly, you can not only mitigate the potential damage of reviews but actually make them work for you. Here are five steps for managing your reputation online.

Step 1: Monitor online content

If you want to deal with your online reputation, you need to know what people are saying about you. To this end, you should be regularly monitoring the reviews (and other content) that are being posted across the web. The internet is a big place, so this probably sounds daunting.  But, thankfully, there a number of tech options out there to bear the bulk of that burden. Setting up a simple Google Alert (for free!) can send you updates whenever posts are made, anywhere on the web, using the term of your choosing (your hotel’s name is a good place to start). You can also choose to partner with providers like Hootsuite or Revinate. These solutions automatically monitor multiple platforms, aggregating and organizing review data so you can analyze and act upon it.

Step 2: Respond appropriately

Now that you have your finger on the pulse of your online mentions, the next step is to respond. Obviously, you shouldn’t reply to every single review, but it’s a good idea to offer a few kind words for the occasional positive review (think “we’re so glad you enjoyed your stay!”) and then prioritize the negative ones. And don’t be hostile or defensive. Express your sincere apologies for their unsatisfactory experience and offer an opportunity for further communication to address their concerns. Remain professional, and you have the power to seriously mitigate the fall-out from a bad review.  87%  of users on TripAdvisor indicated that an appropriate response to a negative review improves their opinion of the business.

Step 3: Leverage good reviews

As previously mentioned, the growing trend of guests sharing their opinions online can be a huge benefit to your business. The experiences of customers are much more trusted than traditional advertising material, making glowing reviews marketing gold. So use them! Whether you choose to include testimonials on your webpage or make a point of liking, sharing, and retweeting positive mentions, make sure you’re not missing out on the potential of quality user-generated content.

Step 4: Learn from bad reviews

You work hard to give your customers the best possible experience, so it definitely hurts to get a bad review. But if you choose to look ‘em in the eye and learn from it, they can make your business stronger. Of course, some guest complaints are isolated incidents (or totally unreasonable) and, in that case, you can politely apologize and move on. But other negative reviews can alert you to real weaknesses that would be wise to address. So keep tabs on the nature of your negative reviews. Are there any illuminating patterns? Once you’ve highlighted areas for improvement, take action. Your business will be the better for it.

Step 5: Encourage feedback

The final step to building a strong reputation online is to generate more content. The more reviews published online, the more legitimate and trustworthy your business appears (assuming you’re responding appropriately). So do what you can to encourage guests to post about their time at your property. This can be done in a number of ways, but you should certainly be inviting feedback in your post-stay emails.

 

A good reputation is critical to the success of any business. And in this day and age, the majority of that battle is being fought online. Follow these five steps to keep gaining ground. Good luck!

 

A Busy Hotelier’s Guide to Maintaining Online Reputation

In our digital world, online reputation has never been more critical to a hotel’s success. Online reviews and ratings give consumers more confidence in their booking decisions than ever before; in fact, BrightLocal’s latest Local Consumer Review Survey found that 74 percent of consumers say positive reviews make them trust a business more.

Nurturing a positive online reputation is one of the most powerful marketing strategies any business can employ and most hotel operators consider online reviews important to the success of their business. During the peak season rush, however, it can be easy to lose focus on managing online reputation amid increased urgent demands brought on by high occupancy. But it’s during busy times — when service is prone to slip a little — that it is especially important to maintain a grip on what customers are saying about your property online.

For busy hoteliers, here’s our guide to maintaining online reputation at any time of the year.

Manage Guest Expectations

Avoid negative reviews (and time-consuming and potentially costly reputation repair efforts) by managing guest expectations from the outset. Property descriptions and images on your website, OTA listings, Google My Business listing and tourism association listings, etc. should paint an accurate picture of the stay experience you offer; overpromising only leads to disappointed guests and bad reviews.

Assess your property’s existing reviews and guest feedback to identify what guests love about your hotel and what disappoints them — and, if necessary, adjust your narrative accordingly. For example, if guests consistently complain about the size of your guestrooms, ensure that descriptions clearly state that your rooms are small (but cozy!). When your guests know what to expect they are much less likely to be disappointed.

Automate Monitoring

Keeping track of what people are saying about your property in such a boundless space as the Internet can be a time-consuming and inefficient task. Manually checking various review sites, OTA sites and social networking sites on a regular (ideally daily) basis is difficult to fit into a busy hotelier’s hectic schedule.

But this critically important task can be made quick and easy by setting up automated monitoring and reputation management tools to track all mentions of your property across the Internet. Google Alerts (a free service) allows you to set up an alert for any search term (for example, your property’s name), and then informs you whenever new content featuring the search term is published on a webpage. Social media management tools such as Hootsuite (free and paid versions) provide a single platform from which to monitor numerous social media channels for messages and mentions, as well as schedule posts, engage with followers and access analytics. Then there are powerful reputation management solutions like Revinate, which captures and brings together all your online reviews and social media mentions, and provides a single platform from which to manage your social media accounts, as well as access sentiment analytics.

Simple Surprises Delight

With the push toward personalized service across all hotel segments (not just luxury) to keep up with rising guest expectations, properties are striving to surprise and delight guests to increase customer loyalty and generate positive guest feedback on social media and review sites.

Personalizing the guest experience might seem like a complicated undertaking, but it doesn’t have to be. Modern hotel technology, including property management systems (PMS), customer relationship management (CRM) software and guest engagement solutions, makes it easy to track and use guest data to identify high-value guests and to personalize every guest’s stay with automated tools, from reservation pop-up notes to automated communications and request tracking.

Surprising and delighting guests doesn’t have to be expensive either. Think of simple gestures your property can implement to make guests feel valued. From handwritten welcome notes or welcome cookies placed in guestrooms, to free room upgrades or late check-out when possible, giving guests a little extra can go a long way with earning their loyalty and advocacy.

Automate Requests for Feedback

Every guest should be given the opportunity to provide feedback about their experience during and after their stay. Even negative comments are valuable to any property when they are warranted and highlight areas that can be improved.

While it’s important to check on guest satisfaction personally during a guest’s stay, the opportunity might not always present itself, for example, if a guest is away from the property for much of the time. Consider in-room tent cards encouraging the guest to let you know if anything can be done to improve their stay. Automated guest engagement solutions can help staff check in with in-house guests via messaging, and track and manage requests and complaints.

According to BrightLocal research, 50 percent of consumers will leave an online review if asked. A couple of days after a guest checks out they should be sent a post-stay email thanking them for staying and inviting them to leave a review online if they enjoyed their stay (providing a direct link from the email helps). Property management systems like WebRezPro allow you to set up automated customized emails or integrate with CRM solutions to streamline guest communications. PMS integrations with online reputation management systems automate the process of emailing guests post-stay surveys that can be published directly to TripAdvisor and Google at the property’s discretion.

Respond to Feedback

Apparently 87 percent of TripAdvisor users say that an appropriate management response to a negative review improves their impression of a property. Done right, management responses have the power to recover disappointed guests and your property’s reputation.

Genuine responses to reviews do take time (canned responses should be avoided) but it’s a critical part of online reputation management. Developing set guidelines on how to handle negative reviews — like Revinate’s Positive “Sandwich” Formula — can help focus and streamline this process.

While your property should aim to respond to all negative reviews (and in a timely manner), it’s not necessary to respond to all positive reviews. In fact, recent research from Cornell University implies that responding to more than 40 percent of reviews (repeating simple thank yous for positive reviews) has a detrimental effect — likely annoying review readers by distracting from the reviews themselves.

Analyze and Act on Feedback

Analyzing reviews and complaints for actionable opportunities for improvement — and implementing those improvements — are also time-consuming but necessary steps in reputation management. Online reputation management solutions like Revinate, however, can make this process much more efficient through sentiment analysis tools that analyze reviews and social media mentions to uncover specific areas of operation that need attention.

Actions speak louder than words. Nothing shows customers that you are listening to them and that you care about their experience more than acting on feedback by making operational improvements where warranted.

 

Maintaining a positive online reputation is key to a property’s success in our digital age. It’s so important not to drop the ball, especially during busy times. Managing guest expectations from the outset, implementing procedures for dealing with complaints and negative reviews, and utilizing modern software to automate processes — such as monitoring online mentions, service personalization, post-stay surveys and analytics — all helps to streamline this critical task on a daily basis, continuously strengthening your online reputation and bringing in more bookings.

 

The Dos and Don’ts of Handling Negative Reviews

So you’ve used your social listening tools and come across some stellar reviews for your hotel. But just as you are mid back pat, there it is: the negative review, looming like a dark shadow. For those of us who pour our soul into our work, this can be as painful as a dagger in the heart. But how much do online reviews matter? According to research, nearly half of travelers use online hotel reviews to decide where to stay.

It’s essential that you manage your hotel’s online reputation by learning how to react to negative online reviews. But as with all criticism, use this as an opportunity to grow. And as you will see, this can even be an opportunity to promote your hotel. So take a deep breath and read on for the dos and don’ts of negative reviews.

The DON’Ts of Negative Reviews

Don’t Take It Personally – The first rule of criticism is to not take anything personally. That doesn’t mean shrugging off the criticism with an air of superiority. It just means taking a deep breath and looking at the criticism objectively.

Don’t React Right Away – Probably the worst thing to do is to reply to a review in the heat of the moment, especially if you are feeling emotional as that could lead to review rage. Every public move you make is a reflection of your hotel, leaving a negative or positive impression on potential guests reading your review. You have probably seen reactive responses from management on reviews and it never looks good even if the hotel is in the right.

Don’t Fine or Sue Your Guests – Have you heard about the New York hotel that, on their website, threatened to fine guests $500 for negative online reviews? Well, that back fired. When the press got a hold of this, Union Street Guest House faced the fury of dozens of negative Yelp reviews leading to a low rating. But what if a review is particularly slanderous, should you sue? If a review is in no way truthful, then the burden of proof is upon you but you may have a case. However, your guest will not be liable for expressing their opinion, as long as what they say is true. There are many other ways to resolve the issue.

The DOs of Negative Reviews

Analyze the Complaint – When you come across a negative online review, research the incident or the complaints. Talk to staff and find out their side of the situation in order to create a whole picture. You may even want to contact the guest, privately, to fill in any holes of the story and to express your concern. Then you are prepared to take action to rectify the situation and respond to the review. If you resolve the complaint offline, be sure to also provide an update on the online negative review on how the matter was resolved.

Ask for False Reviews to be Removed – If you feel the review is slanderous, untrue or fraudulent, you may have a case for requesting to have the review removed. Some review sites, however, have a no-removal policy but it doesn’t hurt to ask, especially if you have reason to believe that the review came from a competitor and not an actual guest.

Understand Your Guest – As you are in customer service, you already know how far understanding your guest goes when addressing a complaint. When someone is upset, they want to feel like they are being heard, respected and understood. Saying things like “That sounds really upsetting,” or “I can understand how you must feel,” is enough to acknowledge to your guest that how they feel is valid and valued. And when you try to see the problem from their perspective, it makes you ready to resolve the issue.

Respond by Flipping the Script and Turn it into a Positive – After you have cooled off, analyzed the situation and understood your guest, you are ready to respond online to the review. We have all read reviews where the hotel responds in a defensive or arrogant way and we know as the reader how that makes us view the hotelier. So take time to craft a response that not only addresses the concerns of the reviewer but actually spins the situation to make you come out on top while still looking like the good guy.

This Forbes article about negative reviews explains that each response is the opportunity to highlight your business’s positive qualities, while maintaining genuine concern for the incident, for example, “We are very sorry to hear about your unfortunate experience. We are so proud to be in the top three most popular boutique hotels in the county and we continue to strive to maintain that position. Reviews like yours help us to continue to exceed guest expectations.” In this way, the reviewer can feel heard and valued and leaves a positive impression on others reading the review.

Bring the Customer Back – This point seems so obvious and yet not widely done. Assure your guest that there are no hard feelings and invite them back to give your hotel a second chance. Offering a discount, an in-room bottle of wine, a free night, or a complimentary spa service can turn a disgruntled ex-guest into a satisfied repeat customer who is all too happy to share their positive experience.

Get Positive Reviews – Your best defense against negative reviews are positive reviews. Using post-stay surveys and emails, ask your guests to rate their stay and to share their experience. People are most often motivated to write negative reviews, so take the opportunity to ask your happy guests to write reviews as they just may need a little prompting.

At the end of the day, responding to negative online reviews is like putting out fires. If you are having to put out a lot of fires, it’s perhaps time you take a harder look. Here are our 8 Ways to Improve Guest Satisfaction and 6 Tips for Doing Social Customer Service Right that can point you in the right direction.

Online reviews should not be your only form of receiving guest feedback. Use reputation management platforms like Revinate for gathering post-stay surveys, which may reduce negative reviews on social media if issues are resolved within a short period of time. Better yet, diffuse negative experiences by checking in with your guests during their stay to ensure their expectations are being met.