An effective reputation management program includes doing everything possible to encourage guests to leave positive reviews, but it also involves creating an internal culture of reputation management. Here, we explore how this process works at citizenM.
Cultivating positive online guest reviews
Encouraging more online guest reviews is a challenge for many hotels, but citizenM uses a system that works very well with their clientele. Each of their three properties receives many more guest reviews than the average hotel.
The company has developed a standardized procedure for use during the checkout process. Like many hotels, citizenM staff, called Ambassadors, ask guests how they enjoyed their stay as they are checking out. If there was any issue, direct communication with a manager is encouraged for prompt resolution. But if the person had a good experience, they are asked to share their thoughts on TripAdvisor.
Unlike many hotels, the invoice is sent automatically by email, providing one more touchpoint and opportunity to ask for a review. This followup reminder significantly increases the reviews received, since many travelers forget to post a review immediately after the stay.
According to Diego Sartori, citizenM’s Social Media and Internet Strategist, the number of the reviews is a result of everything else. “You have to deliver good service and create clear expectations of what people can expect. This is what encourages more reviews. We get people saying, ‘I usually don’t write a review, but my stay at citizenM was so special because you did this specific thing that made me think WOW.’ So that’s why we always try to set the right expectations, deliver excellent service and then surprise guests with something unique.”
Responding to reviews
“We don’t respond every single review” said Diego. “If a guest wants to communicate with you, they will contact you directly.” At the same time, if something is posted that is negative or that requires explanation, the citizenM team makes sure to respond and tell their side of the story. “If someone complains that something doesn’t work – alarm, WiFi, etc – it is important to recognize that, apologize, and give an explanation for what happened. Just as things break in your own house, things will break at a hotel, even though we work hard to prevent from happening.” Effective reputation management requires an understanding of this reality, and the knowledge of how to respond in a satisfactory manner.
Since the citizenM concept is so revolutionary, it is inevitable that sometimes guests arrive that immediately dislike the design. Perhaps they might think the room is too small. Or since the hotel does not offer room service, a guest that wants this may complain when they cannot get it. “We respond and say we created a specific hotel concept that is not for everyone. We are honest with what we offer. Other people will read about our amenities and say, ‘Wow – this is really special!’”
What ultimately happens is that these online reviews act as a self-selecting mechanism that, in the end, only attracts guests that are interested in the brand’s concept. People who are looking for a traditional hotel or with full-service may read reviews and decide citizenM isn’t for them, but it would be good for someone they know. “It happens that many guests who do not choose us still end up ultimately referring our hotels to others.”
Involving the whole team
Building awareness about reputation management with everyone in the organization is an essential part of a reputation program. CitizenM takes some unique approaches to achieve this. It begins with posting printed copies of ReviewPro reputation reports in the staff break room:
Each team briefing is used to raise awareness of their online reputation. “Whenever we get specific feedback, we discuss it at our team briefings – both the negative and positive – so everyone is always aware of it.”
CitizenM goes a step further. Right now, the company is planning to use the Global Review Indextm (GRI) from ReviewPro to run an internal competition among their three hotels. “We try to keep the GRI above 90% at all times. So this new program will be like a game among the staff at our properties: who can deliver the best service?” Constant innovation is a critical component of citizenM, and these internal competitions will help them continuously improve.
Perhaps the most remarkable indicator that citizenM takes online reputation seriously is that reputation scoring affects employee pay. A percentage of the salary citizenM hotel staff receive is tied to guest satisfaction. The way an organization configures its compensation scheme reflects what is important to them, and it’s clear citizenM is making online reputation a top priority.
It’s interesting to watch how the citizenM team involves everyone within the organization, since this is how I see social media participation evolving with time. In the final installment of this case study, we’ll look at why citizenM chose ReviewPro to manage their online reputation….
[Photo credit:citizenM on Flickr]