This article first appeared at 4Hoteliers.com.
As more ways of rating hotel experiences are popping up online it can be tough to know exactly what people are saying about your business and what that means.
Our CEO, RJ Friedlander, spoke with 4Hoteliers and shared some insights from recent industry developments.
What are the recent changes you have seen in the industry in the area of guest experience improvement?
For seven or eight years industry focus has been on online reputation management and measuring guest feedback. At the same time, there has been a growing movement over the last two to three years focusing on experiences. Previously people only talked about experiences with luxury properties, but the hotel industry realized that for every hotel stay, no matter what segment you are in, the battle is lost or won depending on whether you underperform, meet or exceed expectations about the experience.
Savvy hoteliers use online reputation and other guest feedback to identify shortcomings and prioritize improvements. The recent changes are connecting variables that have been floating around and consolidating them into something meaningful.
Do certain types of reviews count more than others?
We aggregate Guest Intelligence from 175 sites in 45 languages. Part of the review is just ratings on things like the spa or location. Then you have people writing reviews on Facebook or posting pictures on Instagram.
A photo can be a review. If I put a picture of a rat running across a hotel lobby, it is perceived as a bad review. A photo of a beautiful sunset on the other hand is a great review. Hoteliers need to be tracking and monitoring all this, but most important is the classical review, because it gives more detail.
TripAdvisor definitely has the mindshare from a perception standpoint, but Google and Facebook reviews have grown significantly faster in recent years. The fastest growing review site is Booking.com; they have the advantage that they are verified reviews.
It also depends on what region you are in. Germans don’t tend to read TripAdvisor that much; they would be more inclined to read HolidayCheck or Hotel.de.
How, in your opinion, should hoteliers be adapting to this change?
Guest feedback can be directly related to driving revenue. You have to be listening to what happens across all online channels, but you also need to be soliciting direct feedback to compliment it. You can send out surveys before the stay, during the stay and especially post-stay. These sound old-school, but it turns out that these surveys give tremendous insight into the experience. Depending on the hotel segment, 15-20% of people fill these out, so there is a lot of volume in these things.
These surveys are now dynamic, depending on what you answer, the follow-up questions change. As long as everything is great you don’t need to ask so many questions, but as soon as something is wrong, it asks what area did not meet your expectations.
If I say there was a problem with slow check-in, you can get that information in real time and an automatic case management system can route that problem to the person who can fix it.
Do you see a lot more engagement with smart surveys?
They are all mobile-based and in fewer questions you get more detailed and juicy answers. When this process is implemented a hotel sees significant spikes in conversion rates and they gain more actionable data, which allows them to better prioritize their operational and service improvements and cut down reaction time. You don’t want to wait until the guest posts a problem on TripAdvisor and seven other guests have had a similar experience.
How can hoteliers use this data to improve the guest experience?
You have to have an automated way to get the information to the right person in the hotel. This is the big difference with ReviewPro. Most systems have reports that you have to manually sift through and redirect. We combine the online data, the reputation with the guest survey data and have automated filters, reports and alerts that can distribute the information and automatically generate cases.
What are you doing at ReviewPro to enhance the guest experience?
We are improving existing products like our online reputation management and guest survey solutions. We are also adding new functions and incorporating feedback from our more than 30,000 clients around the world.
We have three new products that are rolling out right now and some that will come later in the year. The first is the automatic case management system. For larger organizations we have an advanced workflow option allowing hotels to establish service level agreements for operations. We are also rolling out a messaging system so that the staff can communicate with guests and each other to solve problems more efficiently.
For more information, or to talk to one of our Guest Intelligence experts click here.