Reposition your mindset towards reviews

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Keep these guidelines in mind when you’re responding to reviews to get the highest return for your property.

by AMBER WOJCEK

Long ago, businesses saw online reviews as something they couldn’t control. Angry customers would go online to vent about bad experiences, and businesses were at the mercy of reviews. However, reviews today are less of a witch hunt and more like a mini travel blog, with reviewers recounting experiences in detail.

Today’s travelers rely heavily on reviews. In fact, 89 percent of travelers say reviews are influential in the booking decision. Reviewers like to help each other by leaving accurate and vivid accounts of their hotel stays, because they appreciate it when other travelers do the same.

Luckily for business managers, online reviews are no longer a one-way street. All review platforms allow managers to leave responses to reviews. Some, like Yelp and Facebook, provide the option of even privately messaging a reviewer to further resolve any issues. Reviews can now act as an extension of customer service.

Responding to reviews isn’t just a courtesy anymore – it’s good business. According to PhoCusWright, 65 percent of travelers are more likely to book a hotel that responds to online reviews. Plus, many hotel brands are requiring that their brand hotels respond to reviews in 72 hours or less.

Online reviews go further than just TripAdvisor. When travelers book on OTAs, they are prompted to leave feedback. Facebook and Google prompt people to leave reviews of local businesses based on their current location. Even your brand website will place your hotel in competition with other properties in your area by aggregating reviews.

Ready to take control of your hotel’s perception online? Make managing guest feedback a booking tool for your hotel by improving the quality of your review responses. Keep these guidelines in mind when you’re responding to reviews to get the highest return for your property.

Review Response Best Practices

Respond in a timely manner

If you respond weeks or even months after a review was posted, it shows that you’re just checking a requirement off of your to-do list. The longer you neglect a review, the more potential guests will think you haven’t dealt with underlying problems in the review. There are many advantages to responding to reviews within 72 hours of receiving them:

  •  The guest’s experience will be fresh in your mind, allowing you to provide a genuine response.
  •  Future guests will see that hotel employees are quick to address concerns during a stay.
  •  Hotel management is seen as receptive to criticism and willing to make improvements.

Keep search results in mind

Reviews can be found in search results pages, so it’s important to be mindful of phrases that will become keywords when you respond. Remember these simple rules:

  • Do not specifically repeat negative points – say “we’re sorry you didn’t enjoy your time” rather than “we’re sorry you thought the beds were uncomfortable.”
  • Use the word “feedback” rather than “review” in responses to negative reviews. Then, when people search for “[your hotel]reviews,” the responses to negative reviews aren’t a key phrase.
  • Keep a positive attitude. If the first impression you’re giving a person is a review response they found in a search, you want it to be a great one.

Think of the future travelers

While a review response is directly responding to one person’s experience, remember that the response will be read by all the future travelers currently researching your hotel. As they say, you catch more flies with honey than vinegar. Here’s how to put that into practice:

  • Don’t point fingers. Even if you are positive the guest is in the wrong, you can still sincerely apologize that the guest didn’t enjoy their experience, or that their expectations weren’t met.
  • Specifically share the actions you’re taking to further improve the hotel or fix any problems that were mentioned in a negative review.
  •  Always make your response positive, professional and personalized. Reiterate good things the reviewer mentioned, and tell happy guests that you look forward to their return.

Using Reviews to Earn More Bookings

The most important aspect of managing online reviews is to actually invest in improving the experience future guests will have at your hotel. If you’re responding to every negative review with a canned “thanks, we’ll look into this” phrase, people will see that change is not really coming. Even worse, you’ll start seeing reviewers referencing that they should have listened to older bad reviews. When you avoid addressing underlying problems, it can snowball into a real reputation nightmare.

Instead, hoteliers’ perceptions of online reviews should be shifted. Online reviews are essentially free consumer research waiting to be harnessed. Your customers are telling you exactly what they would like to see changed in order to enjoy their stay more and, by proxy, give you better reviews.

Use a sentiment analysis report to find out what issues are being repeatedly mentioned. This analytical reporting can help you identify trends in guest feedback and enable you to prioritize improvements based on what guests think is important. Be sure to tell reviewers in your responses what updates and renovations are in progress so that future travelers can look forward to the property improvements. Maintain what your property is doing right, and pay attention to reviews to identify problems you may not have known about.

Through elevating the perception of your hotel online and investing in property improvements for future guests, hotel reviews provide a significant opportunity to turn reputation management into increased revenue. ■

Amber Wojcek is the marketing coordinator for Travel Media Group, which provides innovative digital marketing solutions for hotels. Contact her at amber.wojcek@travelmediagroup.com and follow her on Twitter at @TravelMediaGrp.

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