Popular with both business and leisure travelers, THE FOREST by WANGZ is a boutique serviced apartment complex located in the heart of Singapore. The property has three different types of serviced apartments (all of which include a fully-equipped kitchenette, complimentary Internet, local calls, breakfast and parking) available for both short- and long-term stays. Impressively, THE FOREST has earned and kept the coveted number one spot on TripAdvisor since shortly after opening more than three years ago.
ReviewPro CEO, RJ Friedlander, sat down with Zhiling Wang, Marketing & Communications Manager, to discuss how the property’s blend of personalized service and proactive online reputation management for hotels has kept them ahead of the competition in a highly competitive market and what is their secret of success on TripAdvisor.
RJ: Hi Zhiling, it’s a pleasure to meet you! Let’s get straight to the question that most hoteliers are probably anxious to have answered: How was your property able to reach number one on TripAdvisor, especially so soon after launching?
ZW: We never imagined that we’d reach number one, to be honest! The team worked very hard to deliver excellent service, and we were fortunate enough to receive rave reviews almost immediately, which propelled us to the top at a time when hotels in Singapore were still realizing the importance of online reputation management. We’ve always known that extending very personalized service to all our guests would lead to positive reviews and that would be the key to our success, which is why we have monitored all guest reviews closely since the beginning (and acted on the insights that we discovered) to stay at the top.
RJ: So does that mean service is a top priority at WANGZ?
ZW: Yes, service is our absolute priority! It’s important for our brand to continue receiving positive reviews to maintain a high level of online visibility and excellent service is the best way to encourage guests to compliment us online. Both of our properties are boutique establishments, so we aim to provide personalized service wherever possible. We’re also constantly trying to improve, which is why we have to make sure service is consistent; if we deliver mediocre service, we’d quickly lose our number one spot.
To prevent this, we regularly hold internal meetings to train employees on new procedures and service standards and address any specific issues that may arise. We also discuss specific guest comments in bi-monthly meetings with the heads of each department. This helps to keep WANGZ’s guest satisfaction goals high on the list of priorities in every team.
We also use a custom alert system to monitor how often guests mention employees by name in online reviews. Every quarter, we give Service Excellence Awards to the top three employees with the highest number of positive mentions and this has been a great way for us to motivate staff to provide the best service possible.
RJ: How do you personalize your service?
ZW: We use guest profiles. Once their preferences are in our system and guests come back to stay with us, we’ll inform the team about them – be it in the ROOM or during breakfast. In addition, one of WANGZ’s service standards is to remember and greet guests by name, which adds a warm and friendly touch to their stay. Whenever possible, we offer specialized service to meet or exceed guests’ expectations.
RJ: Tracking guest reviews can be very time-consuming work. How do you monitor/manage online reviews at THE FOREST?
ZW: It is becoming more important than ever to understand what guests are saying about us, because the majority of travelers do read reviews online before booking. We use ReviewPro’s Online Reputation Management solution (ORM) to collect review data onto a single dashboard, rather than manually searching hundreds of review sites (which takes much longer and doesn’t provide accurate results).
We have to keep a close eye on our competitive set but (as with monitoring reviews) it is time-consuming work. ReviewPro’s ORM solution enables us to create a competitive set in order to track our direct competitors’ review results as well. ReviewPro’s Global Review Index™ (GRI) also provides a simple, numerical benchmark for our overall ORM progress over time – both independently and in comparison to the competition. This info helps us to more effectively compare, at a glance, how our property is performing.
RJ: How should hoteliers respond to guest reviews?
ZW: It’s important to respond quickly and, ideally, hoteliers should respond to both positive and negative reviews. However, if you have limited resources, hotels must at least respond to all negative reviews (as they are most damaging to a hotel’s reputation), as well as any that require a specific response – either positive or negative.
In the case of negative feedback, respond by thanking the guest for taking the time to write their review, apologize for the issue and inform them of the appropriate measures (if any) that have been taken to prevent it from happening again. Be specific as to the measures you have taken because it will make future customers more trusting that the issue has, in fact, been resolved. In many cases, we’ve turned negative comments around completely by reacting courteously to our guests.
Here’s an example… Several months ago, a few guests began commenting that the service level had dropped, which we discovered through semantic analysis in our ORM tool. One negative review specifically mentioned that a housekeeping employee had spoken rudely to the guest as they rushed to prepare a room.
This was a terrible incident for us because we pride ourselves on excellent service as our unique selling point. We responded to the guest directly and apologized for the issue. We reassured them that this was not our standard of customer service and let them know that we would be working with the housekeeping staff to ensure that the issue would never happen again. We then organized a meeting with the staff to discuss the incident, using it as an example to provide better training to prevent a reoccurrence of the issue in the future.
In this case, we were able to address the previous guest’s concerns and ensure that it would not happen to another future guest. Although the information came from a negative review posted on a review site, it’s no longer damaging to our property because potential guests can read [in our response] that we are listening to our guests, that we take their feedback seriously and have taken measures to prevent it from happening again.
THE FOREST’s tips for successful service:
- Monitor guest reviews effectively
- Respond to guest reviews efficiently
a) Respond quickly – thank the guest for their review, apologize for upset caused and reassure that appropriate measures have been taken
b) Relay details to staff and engage in further training if necessary
c) Implement change to avoid recurring issues
- Provide incentives to motivate staff and ensure the best customer service
To motivate staff to reach your service goals, track how often guests mention specific staff members positively in reviews, and provide recognition for the person with the most positive feedback – as with Wangz’s Service Excellence Award. Alternatively, tailor your KPIs to your service goals by using your ORM to gauge guest satisfaction.
Use CRM and ORM solutions to save time and record guest preferences for more meaningful guest experiences