With hundreds of hoteliers attending our Reputation Management Essentials for Hotels webinar last week, we didn’t have time to answer everyone’s questions. So Daniel Edward Craig and I decided to address a few more in this article. Here we go…
Question: Do most hotels have in-house reputation managers or do they hire contractors?
Daniel Craig: I think the reputation management function is most typically handled in-house. To have a third party responding to guest reviews and feedback runs counter to the spirit of social media, which is about getting closer to your guests.
I’m not aware of a hotel with a dedicated reputation manager, although I’ve heard of hotels with a reputation coordinator. It’s typically managed as a team function, with several departments involved, including operations, administration, sales and marketing and human resources. So it’s important to define roles and responsibilities. Appoint a senior manager to champion the effort and a gatekeeper to monitor and disseminate feedback. Who takes on these roles will depend on skill set and available resources.
We’re going to address this topic in our next webinar, so stay tuned.
Question: What traits would you look for when selecting someone to manage review responses?
DC: Above all you need someone who has strong written communication skills, is diplomatic, and understands service excellence. Your response should reflect the professionalism and attention to detail provided by your hotel.
The general manager or a senior manager is ideal, and it will show how seriously you take guest feedback. But not every senior manager is a strong writer. A mid-level manager or admin assistant can draft the response on behalf of the GM as long as the GM approves it prior to posting. In any scenario, responses should be carefully proofread before posting.
Question: How can we encourage more reviews?
DC: The most effective way to generate positive reviews is to do so organically: by running a great hotel. Travelers aren’t looking for perfection, they’re looking for quality and value, and that can come from any caliber of hotel.
Many hotels actively solicit reviews from guests. If you do this I recommend coaching staff on how to ask to ensure guests don’t feel awkward or pressured. Other hotels send an email after departure with a link to the review site. I find post-stay emails the most effective method.
Josiah Mackenzie: Avoiding making guests feel awkward or pressured is key – especially at many of the luxury hotels and resorts we work with. It can sabotage an opportunity that could have resulted in a positive review.
Several times over the past month, I experienced excellent service from local businesses here in New York. I was about to share very positive feedback through Twitter, Foursquare, and local review sites – but in each of these cases, I was asked to go to a specific review site and leave a specific rating (5/5 stars). For some reason, this request turned me off, and I didn’t leave any feedback … on any site. That would not have been the case if the staff simply asked me to share my experience online. Could the same be happening to your guests if your staff is too pushy in asking for positive feedback?
The difference between expectations and reality drives both positive and negative reviews. It’s critical to coordinate with your sales and marketing teams to make sure they are promoting your properties in a way that is in line with reality – and highlights the features of the property that your happy guests seem to appreciate most. This will attract more guests that are more likely to leave positive reviews.
Also, be intentional about creating moments of “WOW” – what will be remarkable about your guests’ stay? They may have stayed at hundreds of hotels around the world, so what makes you different? How can you design and deliver something unique that raises your “talkability quotient”?
Question: How do you reply on a review site that does not permit management responses?
DC: If a site doesn’t allow responses there’s not much you can do other than try to determine who the guest is and contact them directly.
But responding to reviews is just one part of reputation management. Ensuring that the feedback is shared with relevant staff and that issues are addressed and resolved is even more important.
Question: Can we incentivize people to write reviews?
Question: Are the demographics and satisfaction levels usually different on the various review sites?
JM: One of the things we do at ReviewPro is benchmark guest satisfaction levels by source – and it almost always varies by source. It’s important to understand what your level of satisfaction is on each of the 90+ leading review sites globally, and then identify which sources are important for you to improve on to reach valuable new audiences.
This is a key part of planning how to maximize revenue growth. For example, one of the top inbound markets for New York City is Brazil. Hotel marketers and revenue managers in this city need to be thinking about which sites and social networks people in Brazil are using. What does their presence look like there? How can they improve that?
Question: You say to respond quickly to reviews. How quickly is “quick” – one day? A week? Is there a time limit?
JM: According to a recent research project presented in a Harvard Business Review article, speed of issue resolution is directly tied to customer retention and loyalty. This makes the value of responding quickly to reviews and social media feedback very clear.
“Quick” depends on the platform you’re interacting with. On real-time social networks like Twitter, the time to response needs to be faster, because the opportunity window is smaller. As a guest, I might be tweeting to your hotel from my mobile device on the way from the airport, or while I’m out in the city – asking for recommendations. Responding 6, 12, 24 hours later isn’t going to help me.
Some airlines are really good at this. According to research from Simpliflying and Unmetric, Delta’s average time to response is 11 minutes. They do this with a team of 12 customer service people. That’s not unreasonable for most medium-sized hotel groups – but even individual properties can take advantage of the fact that they are 24-hour operations. Could you provide basic levels of social media training to your front office staff and concierge team to provide around-the-clock responsiveness?
Obviously, some operational and service issues require a little investigation – but aim to at least acknowledge a person’s issue as quickly as possible, and then follow up as quickly as possible.
“We set up strict guidelines in our social strategy to try our best to respond to all customers within an hour – whether it is to solve the issue then and there, or if it is to let them know that we’re working on the issue.” – Jason Potter, Corinthia Hotels
DC: I think hotels should endeavor to respond to negative reviews within 48 hours. Otherwise you risk scaring other potential guests away. But don’t respond until you’ve investigated and understand exactly what happened. As we know, there are often two sides to the story.