What’s reputation management really about?

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How are you engaging with your guests online? Write to our editor at todayshotelier@naylor.com.

5 engagement strategies for every hotelier’s operational mix.

by DJ Vallauri

Every hotelier knows what reputation management is all about, right? I mean, it’s all about responding to guest reviews on sites like TripAdvisor and Yelp.

What’s the big deal?

A guest provides great praise for his/her stay at your hotel, or they go on a never-ending rant about how miserable their stay was and how they will never stay at your hotel again. The challenge, of course, is having enough resources to be able to address guest reviews in a timely fashion.

Engaging with reviews impacts your bottom line
And managing responses for both negative and positive reviews is increasingly becoming a challenge for hotels that have limited staff. Year after year, guest reviews continue to increase in volume as consumers continue to get comfortable in communicating their likes and dislikes.

Responding to all guest reviews on the major review sites will help increase your rankings on those sites. Consider that review sites are nothing without customer reviews; they need more reviews and more businesses to engage with their site (by writing responses) to keep growing their own website visitors, which in turn enables them to capture more advertising revenue.

So it’s no surprise that these same sites have created sophisticated algorithms (mathematical formulas) that determine the level of engagement vendors have with their consumer review content. And, you guessed it: The more involved a hotel is, by answering all positive and all negative customer reviews, the greater likelihood that its ranking on the review site will improve.

Reputation management opportunities are a knockin’
But I’d like to discuss the different aspects of guest review management – other angles that will hopefully get you thinking in a different direction.

Consider this: When consumers take to social media platforms, such as Facebook or Twitter, and begin to engage with your social media content… is that a reputation management opportunity? Or when a guest posts a picture of themselves enjoying a margarita at your property… is that a reputation management opportunity?

Of course these are reputation management opportunities for your property. We cannot think that reputation management is only about guest reviews posted on OTA sites and review sites. Hoteliers should consider reputation management as being “any time a customer provides an engagement opportunity wherever they are.”

Reputation management is all about engagement. It’s all about having a conversation, a dialogue and engaging with customers on whatever platform on which they choose to engage. It’s about them, not you. And when you engage with customers, you create opportunities for loyalty to build. And when you have loyal customers, then you have created potential evangelists. And evangelists convert into revenue. Proactive reputation management equals revenue booked.

Mastering ongoing reputation management
So here are my top five straightforward ways to engage in ongoing reputation management that every hotelier should consider in their operational mix.

1. Focus on the low-hanging fruit in guest reviews.
We consistently see many hotels not taking the time to respond to all negative and all positive reviews on TripAdvisor. Not only does it make sense to reply to all negative reviews, but by responding to all the positive reviews, as well, your property may potentially benefit from a boost in the TripAdvisor hotel listing ranking algorithm.

As such, we recommend that hoteliers respond to all negative and positive reviews on TripAdvisor. And remember, when responding to a negative review, never ever mention your hotel name in the review as the review response may be picked up by Google. And there’s no sense in highlighting negative reviews.

Additionally, consider this when responding to positive reviews: Always address the issue(s) in the review, but write your response in a way that future readers who come along see you in a positive light.

TIP: Write guest responses with an eye for the next guest, not the one who had the issue.

2. Don’t forget Facebook’s ability to capture guest reviews and engagement opportunities.
With over 1.5 billion active users on Facebook, it makes perfect sense to be vigilant and on the lookout for guest reviews. Facebook reviews enable your guests to take to your Facebook page to leave a review. As such, it’s important that you continually monitor your Facebook reviews page and respond accordingly, and always in a timely fashion.

In 2015, Facebook increased the stakes for hoteliers when it introduced its messenger app to enable SMS texting like communications between consumers and companies. With Facebook messenger for business, communications becomes closer to real-time engagement between guests and hoteliers.

Hyatt Hotels rolled out a test program to gauge the effectiveness of the Facebook messenger for business app. In recent tests conducted by our firm, it’s clear that Hyatt Hotels is fully embracing the Facebook messenger for business app. Our tests show their customer team responded in merely minutes to our requests.

TIP: Utilize the tools available to you. Facebook’s pages messaging functionality allows businesses to communicate with customers on a real-time basis.

3. Identify other social media networks that may have customer reviews.
It’s always important that you know where your hotel’s customers are online. Which social media platforms do they frequent the most, and which platforms have the most engagement opportunities for your hotel? No hotel can afford to be “omnipresent,” meaning being everywhere all the time. It’s just cost-prohibitive and not recommended. We recommend your property check for guest reviews and engagement opportunities on the following additional social media sites: Twitter, Instagram and Google+.

TIP: Don’t attempt to be everywhere at once. Research and find out where your customers are, and follow them there.

4. Live chat on your website – did someone say déjà vu’?
Live chat via your website also affords your hotel opportunities to manage your reputation and to engage with customers. While live chat is not new and the technology is widely used by all major ecommerce shopping sites, the hospitality industry has been slow to adapt this powerful technology and customer service vehicle. By offering live chat functionality on your hotel’s website, you will be in a position to immediately address any issues that could very well escalate to negative TripAdvisor reviews. The key for live chat to work as intended is to make sure your hotel has the resources to “man” the live chat conversations.

TIP: Beat them to the punch. Offer guests many ways to connect with you before things escalate and end up on a review site.

5. It takes a village.
Managing live chat, review sites, OTA reviews, brand site reviews and social media chatter requires a group effort. Designate an internal team to manage all the various questions and coordination to post, or consider hiring an external team with an internal point person to manage it all.

TIP: Designate a point person in charge of monitoring your hotel’s reputation, and know that it will likely take a team of people to make it all happen.

The savvy hotelier knows that guest review management is not only about TripAdvisor but has become increasingly broad and includes social media platforms and live engagement opportunities. Reputation management needs to be approached as a property team effort and shouldn’t only be managed by the front office manager. A property’s call center operations or social media team needs to increasingly be proactive in their roles to manage guest reputation management and ­engagement.             ■

DJ Vallauri is the founder and president of Lodging Interactive, a full-service digital marketing agency exclusively servicing the hospitality industry. Lodging Interactive has been recognized as a leader by the International Academy of Visual Arts, Web Marketing Association, Travel Weekly’s Magellan Awards and is an HSMAI Adrian Award Winner. 

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