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 Power of Post-Stay Emails: Top Tips for Independent Hoteliers

Nowadays, most lodging operators send confirmation emails to customers upon booking. Many properties also capitalize on their customers’ growing anticipation of their stay by sending pre-arrival emails… But how about after the guest checks out? As a lodging operator, are you sending post-stay emails to your guests?

Many of our WebRezPro customers have found that sending post-stay emails generates engagement with previous guests, whether it’s a quick reply directly to the hotel, a review, or a new Facebook fan.

Post-stay emails are an effective tool for keeping your hotel top of your guest’s mind; properties that aren’t sending post-stay emails are missing out on a great opportunity for turning customers into repeat guests and brand ambassadors.

It’s not hard to do, especially with a property management system that offers automated guest email functionality. Here are our tips for a successful post-stay email campaign.

Get Their Email Address!

You’re thinking, thank you, Captain Obvious, aren’t you? But this is just a wee reminder that if for some reason you didn’t get the guest’s email address at the time of booking — perhaps they booked through an OTA — don’t hesitate to politely ask them for it upon check-out. Telling them you would like to email them a coupon code for a discount on their next stay, or for a friend, is an offer most guests can’t refuse.

The Thank-You / Feedback-Request Email

Send a timely thank-you email to your guest, ideally within three days of the guest’s departure, saying that you enjoyed having them stay and that you hope they had a great time. Inject some personality into the message so that it doesn’t sound canned.

In the same email, mention that you would love to hear their feedback on their stay experience and invite them to write an online review. Make it easy and quick for them to do so by including a direct link to your TripAdvisor review page, for example.

In case a guest did not have a good experience, ask them to contact you directly with any negative feedback so that you can attend to it immediately, and provide a specific (eg. manager@yourhotel.com) rather than generic (eg. info@yourhotel.com) email address, if possible.

Some properties use an automated post-stay survey tool like that from Revinate, which makes collecting feedback a breeze. Revinate offers some great tips on writing post-stay surveys.

You can also encourage guests to share their photos on social media, and let them know your social media handles or any hashtags for tagging. Or simply invite them to follow you on social media for opportunities to access special offers.

If you have a loyalty program, invite customers to join by including a link to your loyalty program information page.

Maintaining the Relationship

A successful post-stay email campaign doesn’t end after the thank-you / feedback-request email. As time goes on, targeted post-stay marketing emails are key to reminding your guests of the great experience they had at your property. However, there are some very important tips to consider if you don’t want your customers to hit “unsubscribe.”

Offer real value. Keep customers engaged by offering something of value, be it a discount for a future stay, informing them of current or upcoming promotions or events that may be of interest, sharing a recipe from your restaurant, or reminding them of their experience with a webcam shot of the fresh powder on the slopes outside your door.

Target your offers. Targeting the right offers to the right customers is key to offering real value. The information that you collect about a guest in order to personalize their experience — from the moment they make a booking and throughout their stay — should also be used to target your email campaigns. Even simple segmentation, like targeting corporate offers to business travellers, romantic packages to couples, and kids’ activities to families, results in more effective campaigns. A property management system like WebRezPro also offers the ability to set up customized email templates tied to certain rates and room types.

The data in your property management system is the foundation of personalized service and targeted communications, and can be integrated with your CRM or email marketing system to automate highly targeted email campaigns.

Time it right. There are no set rules when it comes to timing future post-stay emails; it may take some time to figure out what works best for your property. While you don’t want to annoy customers (and lose subscribers) by emailing too often, you don’t want them to forget about you either.

As a start, one or two months after check-out, you could send guests a discount code for a future stay. You could even promote different seasonal experiences by highlighting your location’s best winter attributes and packages to guests who stayed in summer, and vice versa.

Six months post-stay, you might want to check in with them again, to make sure your property remains top of mind as they plan future getaways. Remind them of their previous stay (and offer value) with a cocktail recipe from your bar, or a photo of a stunning sunset from your ocean-view pool deck. Offer that discount code again or let them know of any relevant special deals. Tell them you’d love to see them again.

A few weeks before the guest’s booking anniversary, trigger another email reminding them of their last stay and inviting them back with a special discount or free upgrade.

General Tips

Personalize. As mentioned above (and mentioned here again because it’s very important), inject your brand’s personality into your emails. If you want to engage your customers, make the message personal and friendly; canned or generic emails are a big turn off.

Address the guest by name, rather than “Dear Guest.” This process can be automated through your property management system by using template keywords. Sign off from an actual staff member.

Optimize for mobile. With more than half of all emails opened on mobile devices, it’s now more important than ever before to make sure all of your email communications are mobile friendly. Constant Contact offers some good tips for creating mobile-friendly emails, like keeping it simple, using easy-to-read text, and limiting images. If you use an email marketing service like Guestfolio or Constant Contact, you’re in great hands.

Social media buttons. Social media buttons that link directly to your Facebook, Twitter or Instagram pages make it easy for your customers to connect with and follow your property on social channels. They should be included in every email template.

“Unsubscribe” option. Always include an “unsubscribe” link in all emails. This is required by spam law.

Automate. It’s just not possible for busy hoteliers to take the time to personally write to each and every guest. That’s why property management systems like WebRezPro offer customizable email templates and automated delivery.  While standard template wording is included, we recommend you take the time to word your own emails to reflect the personality of your brand, as mentioned above.

Property management systems can also be integrated with CRM and email marketing programs that take your email campaigns to the next level through automation of email list management, targeting based on guest data, and scheduling, as well as professionally designed and fully customizable templates, and results tracking.

To sum it all up, post-stay emails are a powerful customer retention tool — as long as they are relevant to the customer. To be relevant, they should be targeted to your guest and offer something of value. Remind your guests why they love your property and they’ll come back for more.

How a Cloud Property Management System Can Help Your Hotel Stand Out

Battling inefficient hotel management systems and processes takes time and focus away from guest service. Without the right technology, your property could stand out for all the wrong reasons — like long check-in lines, generic service and archaic amenities — or, at best, be just another run-of-the-mill hotel.

To be something special and stand out for all the right reasons, a property needs smart technology at the heart of operations. We’re talking about technology that streamlines processes, allows you to reach your customers online, and empowers you to personalize guest service and make smarter decisions.

A cloud property management system (PMS) can help a property stand out in all the ways mentioned above. Let’s look more closely at how:

Streamlines Operations for Smoother Service

From automating guest email communications to integrations with online distribution channels and other core systems, a cloud PMS makes daily processes more efficient by removing manual steps that take up too much of your time.

But perhaps the most impactful characteristic of a cloud PMS when it comes to productivity and guest service is mobility. Cloud PMS are optimized for mobile devices, meaning the system can be seamlessly accessed from a desktop, tablet PC or even a smartphone. Such mobility frees staff from the bounds of the front desk so that they can attend to guests and operational issues more efficiently.

Take, for example, WebRezPro PMS’ paperless check-in feature, which allows guests to sign registration cards digitally on a tablet, streamlining the check-in process (and saving paper!) and impressing guests. The Mobile Housekeeping Report is another popular cloud PMS application that improves productivity and inter-staff communication by enabling housekeepers to view and update room status from their mobile device as they work, and providing front desk staff with real-time information about which rooms are ready for guests.

Working with inefficient systems causes hotel staff frustration and stress and takes focus away from guests. Staff are much happier working with modern, efficient technology that supports them with the tools they need to deliver great guest service. By automating processes and being accessible on the go, a cloud PMS helps to bring the best out of your staff — and it’s that friendly, efficient service that makes a property stand out.

Expands Online Reach

Cloud PMS offer direct online booking engines that can be incorporated into any (and every) page of a property’s own website, greatly increasing booking accessibility; customers shopping online from anywhere in the world can easily make a reservation as soon as they are ready.

The simple convenience of an easy online booking process is appreciated by customers, and the better the engine, the more you stand out. Consider booking options or add-ons, such as cots, wine, roses and tours, which can be added to reservations with a single click during the room booking process, allowing customers to effortlessly personalize their stay. Even if a customer doesn’t opt for extras, they’ll take a mental note of the ability to do so.

Through direct integration with third-party distribution channels (like Expedia and Booking.com), cloud PMS centralize and automate management of channel inventory, rates and reservations data through the PMS, making effective online distribution more accessible to small properties — and, therefore, expanding online visibility.

Even guest email communications, which can be automated via a PMS to ensure no guest is missed, can help to expand online visibility. WebRezPro PMS’ integrations with Revinate Post-Stay Surveys and guest communications system Guestfolio provide automated delivery of post-stay guest surveys, which can be submitted directly to TripAdvisor to boost online visibility and reputation. Simply including links (or social icons) to your social media pages in email templates can also help boost your online presence by increasing customer engagement online.

Through direct online bookings, seamless integrations with online distribution channels, and automated guest email communications, cloud PMS help your property stand out online.

Powers Personalization for Stand-Out Service

Cloud PMS offer numerous features that help hoteliers personalize and enhance the guest experience.

Detailed guest profiles and integrations with other hotel systems (such as CRM, POS, in-room entertainment systems and concierge apps) enable cloud PMS to break down the data silos of yore, to provide hoteliers with centralized, more accessible guest data that can be more effectively used to inform smarter marketing decisions and more personalized guest service.

In addition to empowering staff to provide personalized service during a guest’s stay, easy access to rich guest data allows lodging operators to target guest email communications more effectively, design packages that are truly relevant to their customers, and to implement loyalty programs that offer their guests real value — all of which enhance guest service… and all of which can be managed through a cloud PMS like WebRezPro.

And then there are features like booking options (mentioned above) — which provide customers with an instant and easy way to customize their own stay experience at the time of booking — and paperless check-in (also mentioned above) that impress guests by facilitating efficient yet personalized service.

Going back to mobility; with the PMS in the palm of their hands, hotel staff have instant access to guest data as well as housekeeping, maintenance and guest requests logged in the system, enabling them to tend to service issues in a much more timely and informed manner.

It’s that kind of personalized, attentive service that gives a property the “wow” factor.

Informs Business Strategy to Stand Out in the Market

One of the advantages of a cloud PMS is accessibility to data, and the breadth of reports that can be generated at the click of a button. When PMS data is used as the foundation of operational and marketing strategies, it has the power to drive reservations and boost revenue.

Look for a PMS that provides all the necessary reporting for your property — revenue and occupancy reports, reservation reports, ADR and RevPAR, booking sources, rate/pricing reports, accounting reports, etc. — and includes a custom reporting feature that allows you to pull very specific data as required.

The rich data contained within a PMS can be used to inform overall business strategy in many ways. Guest data can tell you who spends the most and who keeps coming back so that you can design marketing efforts and packages to better target the demographic of your best customers. Reservation reports will show you things like which rooms and rates are selling fastest. Online booking engine analytics will reveal conversions through your website, providing insight on the effectiveness of your website and booking widget. Review booking sources to discover your most profitable channels and optimize distribution spend. Rate reports expose pricing patterns used to make revenue management decisions (PMS with revenue management system integration offer more advanced, automated yield management). The list goes on.

Centralizing data, cloud PMS make analysing the numbers easier. Comprehensive reporting functionality arms lodging operators with the information they need to gain a clear view of operations, marketing and finances, and to implement smarter strategies for more effective results that can really make a property stand out in the market.

Best Practices for Managing Your Online Hotel Reviews

Most lodging operators agree that hotel reviews play an important part in turning lookers into bookers — and there’s plenty of research to support that. A recent TripAdvisor® study revealed that more than half of travelers don’t want to book a hotel until they have read reviews, and 80 percent of travelers read at least six to 12 reviews before making a decision.

An even more recent survey by market research company GfK for the UK government’s Competition & Markets Authority shows that 54 percent of adults used online reviews to get product or service information. If you take the less-digitally-engaged over-55 age group out of the equation, that number is 61 percent. The survey also showed that consumers are most influenced by reviews in the travel and hotels sector, when it comes to making a purchase.

It’s clear that online reviews are an important part of the decision-making process for travelers choosing accommodation and, therefore, lodging operators should be accumulating reviews and making them readily available to travelers online.

Because lodging operators are extremely busy people, we’ve put together a quick guide to the best practices for managing online reviews.

1. ASK guests for online reviews

Amassing reviews is not only great for boosting online visibility, but TripAdvisor says that the quantity and frequency of your TripAdvisor reviews influences your TripAdvisor Popularity Index ranking — in part because the more reviews your property has, the more the good reviews will outweigh the bad.

Whether your front desk staff invite guests to review your property upon check-out, or post-stay surveys are emailed to guests, every single guest should be asked to share feedback about their stay. Be genuine, not pushy, with a simple request like, “We hope you enjoyed your stay with us and welcome you to share your experience by completing this short survey / reviewing us on TripAdvisor. Your feedback is much appreciated!”

TripAdvisor’s Review Express — a free review collection tool for all types of properties — apparently boosts a hotel’s review volume on TripAdvisor by an average of 33 percent. Other automated solutions include guest relationship management systems like Cendyn and Revinate that integrate with property management systems to power targeted guest communications, including customized post-stay surveys that can be submitted directly to TripAdvisor. Revinate found that participating properties increased review volume by an average of 409% and saw an average 15% increase in TripAdvisor popularity ranking in just three months.

For more tips on getting online reviews, check out our post that focuses on just that.

2. MONITOR review sites

Monitoring online reviews and social media mentions is fundamental to managing your online reputation, giving you the chance to make good with dissatisfied customers and, therefore, improving your rating on review sites and OTAs.

You can check in with the most influential review sites and your social media accounts manually on a regular basis, but employing a social listening tool like Google Alerts or Hootsuite, or an online reputation management system like Revinate, will save you a lot of time and ensure you don’t miss a word of what people are saying about your property.

3. RESPOND appropriately 

According to TripAdvisor, 87 percent of TripAdvisor users agree that an appropriate management response to a negative review improves their impression of the property, and 62 percent agree that seeing hotel management responses to reviews generally “makes me more likely to book it (versus a comparable hotel that didn’t respond to travelers).”

The message is clear: properties that respond to reviews engage travelers more than properties that don’t. Management responses provide the opportunity to recover unhappy guests and your reputation as well as show travelers that you care about your guests.

The trick is responding to negative reviews in the right way; 70 percent of TripAdvisor users agree that an aggressive/defensive management response to a bad review makes them less likely to book that hotel. Accept feedback graciously. For some guidance, check out our post on how to handle negative reviews. Most reviews contain a mix of positive and negative comments and Revinate’s Positive “Sandwich” Formula is a great method for responding to those.

4. ACT on feedback

A sure-fire way to increase positive reviews is to listen to your guests. What complaints keep coming up? Analyse constructive criticism and make improvements where warranted.

Making hoteliers’ lives easier, online reputation management software provides a complete view of guest feedback through reporting and data analysis of private surveys, online reviews and social media mentions to help identify consistent issues and improve service and operations.

In summary, hotels should enthusiastically encourage public, online reviews because most travelers won’t book a stay without reading them. Don’t be afraid of negative feedback going public; guests are just as inclined to write reviews about great experiences as they are about the not so great. Ultimately, your property’s reputation depends on how you deal with a negative comment, rather than the comment itself.

Once those reviews are coming in, you can help spread the word of your guests by including a TripAdvisor widget on your website, and by sharing positive reviews on social media. Be transparent and watch your occupancy soar!