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How to Leverage Guest Reviews to your Advantage

When online travel agencies (OTAs) and other third-party booking channels empowered past guests to judge their stay experiences with a star rating, hoteliers had to pay attention. Your hotel’s online reputation depends on what is being said in these channels so how you manage your guest reviews is an important job.

Be the Best in Your Competitive Set

It’s smart to do a quick survey of how your competition is managing their reviews. Consider that they’re probably wrestling with some of the same issues in finding the time to manage this appropriately. You have a choice to either match what your competitors are doing or to beat them. My choice would be to do it better. The sooner you put a strategy in place, the sooner you’ll reap the rewards.

New Comment Cards

Online reviews are the digital equivalent of the printed comment cards that many businesses still use. However, rather than the one-way communication of leaving a comment card, online reviews give you an opportunity for a dialogue with guests about their experiences. When you respond it demonstrates that you care and that you value input.

When You Don’t Respond

Not responding to a review is actually a response, especially in the case of a negative comment. By not responding, a message is being sent that the guest’s opinion doesn’t matter. When you respond quickly in a public forum, it shows the online community that you’re the kind of business that listens to guests and wants to fix problems promptly. Customers appreciate when you take the time to respond to their online reviews which is a great step in building customer loyalty.

Best Practices for Managing Guest Reviews

So, what’s a busy General Manager to do?

  • Make sure you have enough internal or external resources to handle your reviews in a timely manner. Things happen quickly in an online world, so you need to be prepared. Every comment, good or bad, deserves a reply.
  • Think from a customer’s point of view. If you have a complaint or question, how soon would you want a response? What type of resolution would you be looking for?
  • Use information gained from reviews to make necessary operational changes and/or tweak future offerings for guests. Immediately address the specific issue with the Department or Associates responsible. If you see certain themes in reviews multiple times, it’s best to dig deep to resolve the issue to improve future guest experience.

    Anatomy of a Good Response

    Here are the top five actions to take when responding to online reviews.

    1. Always say thank you

    No matter how disappointed, angry, or downright rude a reviewer is, say thank you for the feedback. This seems simple but coming across as sincere can be challenging. The best way to do so is to vary the language you use for thanking guests in your responses. If your potential guests see that every response begins with, “Thank you for your feedback on your stay,” they will know that you are on auto-pilot with your responses.

    2. Keep it brief

    Keep your response brief and to the point. You don’t need to explain in detail the resolution that you are taking – it is more important to inspire confidence that you will take action.

    3. Proofread and proofread again

    It seems a bit obvious, but having grammatical errors or misspellings makes your response seem less credible. Ask someone else to review your response before you post it, especially if you are responding to several at one time. Your ability to see what is written versus what you intended to write is diminished the more times you see the same content.

    4. Tailor your response to details in the review

    Vary your language for each response and make sure you respond to the details of the review. Try to be as specific as possible, which lets guests know that you are paying attention. The last impression you want to give is that you have a “one size fits all” response. Each review deserves specific attention, just as each guest in your hotel deserves personal attention.

    5. Have staff alert the GM when relevant

    The GM probably does not want to know every time someone complains about the parking, but the GM should know if a guest raises a serious problem or you spot a recurring theme. If the issue relates to any of the following, alert the GM immediately: liability to the hotel, unresolved security issues, bed bugs (not other insects), or doubtful reviews.

    Responding to reviews requires consistent attention and a strategy for developing and maintaining your hotel’s personality. We have helped many clients meet the challenge, and we have learned a lot about how to be successful with your current and future guests. If you apply the action items listed above, you can meet the challenges of responding.

    For more tips, download Beekeeper’s Hospitality Industry Trends eBook.