Posted on 03 Dec 2013 by | Filed under News
The importance of TripAdvisor in the hospitality industry cannot be overstated. TripAdvisor has approximately 62 million unique monthly visitors, who have access to more than 75 million customer reviews. With these types of engagement metrics, it could be extremely costly for a hotelier to ignore this online review site.
TripAdvisor has a ranking system known as the Popularity Index. This index is based on quality, quantity and recency of customers reviews — all of which determine the rank of a hotel. Hoteliers around the world have implored endless tactics, gimmicks and strategies to generate high volume and high quality customer reviews in an effort to increase their rankings on Tripadvisor’s’ Popularity Index.
One shining example is the Four Seasons in Austin. Within two years, the Four Seasons Austin managed to jump more than 20 spots on TripAdvisor’s Popularity Index to become the highest ranked hotel in the city. This jump undoubtedly was due to a well-executed marketing and promotion plan.
The team at Software Advice, a firm that reviews hotel management software, decided to investigate how the Four Seasons was able to accomplish this feat in such a short amount of time. During their investigation, they sat down with the Four Seasons Austin General Manager Ron Hagelberg to find out how his team was able to have such great success. Here is a quick breakdown of what Hagelberg shared:
Enforce a Deadline for Responses
Creating a deadline to respond to any online negative customer reviews is essential to making sure your hotel appears as though it values the opinion of its customers. The Four Seasons recommends implementing a 24 hour deadline, because it is more likely that the customer will see your response, and also it limits the amount of people who see a negative review without a response from hotel management.
This strategy is not only a form of damage control, but it is extending the idea of quality customer service outside of the hotel. If hotel management respectfully responds to a complaint and offers concrete examples of how they plan to address the problem, this can go a long way in winning back the confidence of that customer and any other potential visitors.
Develop a Content Structure for Responses
Hotels have been dealing with customer reviews since before the age of the Internet, and responding to negative online reviews is no different. The only difference is these reviews are not hand written and placed in a comment box, they are shared publicly for all to see. This makes responding to these comments more important than ever.
Hagelberg of the Four Seasons Austin recommends creating a distinct structure that simultaneously apologizes to the customer and provides specific actions the management is taking to fix the problem. Standardizing responses to negative reviews ensures that there is consistency across review sites and social media platforms. Hagelberg recommends the following structure:
1. Recognize any positive reviews and comments
2. Thank the customer for writing a review
3. Apologize for any specific issues or complaints
4. Provide concrete examples of how the hotel management is addressing the issue
5. Invite the customer to return back to the hotel
Keep Your Responses Personalized
Personalizing responses to customer reviews can make a significant difference. According to TripAdvisor study, if a hotel manager takes the time to personally respond to a negative review it has more of an impact on potential customers than the review itself. In short, travelers notice when management is attentive and take this extra effort seriously.
Utilize Listening Technology
In order for a hotelier to maintain strong rankings on review sites it is critical to know know when and where their brand has been reviewed. With hundreds of travel blogs and dozens of social media networks and review sites, it is a nearly impossible task for one individual to monitor the Web for activity. For this reason, hoteliers like Hagelberg of the Four Seasons Austin have looked to online reputation management software to monitor Web mentions.
For an independent hotelier a software might be a little too much, so we recommend to set email notifications of all services (TripAdvisor, Expedia, Google+, Facebook, Twitter …). These notifications will help hotels keep track of what is being said on the Web but make sure the person in charge at the time has a minimal training to respond to customers and make them aware of the response protocol you’ve designed.
Keep Your Customers Happy
Responding to negative reviews is a critical element to maintaining a high rating on review sites like TripAdvisor. However, responding to positive reviews is equally as important. Positive reviews come from making a comfortable and memorable experience for every customer. Hagelberg mentioned that most positive reviews about his hotel mention an emotional connection with the staff that was formed through being responsive and considerate to the needs of the customer. In Clerk we think that in the hospitality industry, the customer relationship is a vocation…”A smiles means everything” would say Lidia Colombo, Monterilla’s Hotel owner.
This post was written in byline with Robert Bellovin from Software advice and Claudia Carranza from Clerk
Posted on 27 Sep 2013 by | Filed under News
Sorry, this entry is only available in Español.
Posted on 17 Sep 2013 by | Filed under News, Tutorials
Hotelier’s Life is a section of this blog where Jorge Barahona, Clerk CEO, tells us how implement strategies to sale and promote his hotel on the Internet.
When someone searches mi Hotel in Google with the following query “Viña del Mar hotel monterilla” the result is headed by the OTAs AdWords ads they buy from Google – and charged me through commissions – with the intended idea to get ahead of my website’s offer.
My Hotel has been ranked in search engines with the right keywords and that is why the competition between my hotel and OTAs is tough as they promote ads with messages like “Exclusive Discounts” or “price guaranteed” to what my business is disadvantaged.
Plus those ads are false, since the best prices are always the ones marketed by the Hotel or at least equally cheaper (although OTAs try to avoid it with their contracts and clauses).
The OTAs are one of the sales channel from my pricing and marketing strategy, but not the only one. We need to be very careful with this because if we fail to certify our independency with intermediaries, we lose control of our business and worst we cut the contact with direct sales in the digital sphere.
Follow the next 3 tactics to sell more at a lower cost without OTAs and improve your profits :
1.- Intellectual property of your brand and image
If you notice, the word “Hotel Monterilla” is widely paid by the OTAs to offer THEIR website as the place where you should buy MY hotel. This violates the law of intellectual property and trademarks in most countries since “Hotel Monterilla” is trademarked by the company from which we exploit the hotel. Never in any contract we have given the permission to use our brand to anyone.
To avoid this violation of the property I wrote to Google and claimed my intellectual property and explicitly request to withdraw all unauthorized advertising of my brand.
You can claim yours through the “Claim Trademarks Form” .
2.- Your own sales strategy
Travel agents are like businesses that sell bread without ovens, or bakers, or recipes, etc… What OTAs need are “rooms” and that is what we have – without them there is no business! With this position clarified, you have to revert the domain that OTAs have on your business.
Why? Because it is our obligation to sell the best and most advantageous way our rooms (and with no fees!). Investing time and money in digital media is not an option among several, it is an obligation which needs devoted time of study and strategy planning.
Do you have to use intermediaries? Yeah sure, it’s always good to have them, but under bounded and clear conditions, because losing control of how, when, who, how much and under what conditions your rooms are sold is suicide. Because every business has ups and downs, but when there are downs we need to decrease costs, and commissions paid to OTAs are costs.
The problem is that they rang from 12% to 20% and even 25 %. If at the time you want to lower those costs or any time soon in the difficult but predictable future scenario… What will you do if your sales where based on such intermediaries? You’ll have to lower your prices and give them away at a loss.
Why should you do that if the owner of the room is you!
If you want to sell to limit prices to save costs momentarily is part of a strategy that includes over sold on good dates or use all the tools of revenue you want, but can not do it because you drown OTAs with their pricing policies where only earn them is the worst thing you can do.
3. – Distribution
Online travel agencies are part of my sell strategy. These channels allow me to act fast, try promotions, stimulate buyers, support branding actions and many other goals. Among the options we have as independent hotels the digital medias should come first for costs, market penetration, ubiquity of our customers, coverage and self-management of content.
Therefore and without neglecting other channels :
- The web is where most of the communication is conveyed. Without a well build and coded website search engines won’t be able to find you on the internet, nor on mobile phones, tablets and Google, Bing or Yahoo!
- Keep fresh and up dated offers to promote them. Having good rates with attractive offers is vital (everybody is looking for the best price/value)
- A website without a personalized booking engine, no commission charges and connected with your PMS is useless as it is the basic tool to execute Room auction, crossed promotions , etc. .
- Social networks broadcast occupy are central for the strategy as they are free, effective, fast and profitable. The problem is that you must have something to communicate. Content must have the arguments to convince the potential clients that they have to stay in your hotel and not another one.
- Send emails without cause and without being given the authorization is spam , spam and annoy a lot. For this reason you should have a policy for your customers you deliver that address. With the contents not only facts you can send special offers , so you’ve done to improve the hotel , events, partnerships , etc. .
Posted on 11 Sep 2013 by | Filed under News, Tutorials
TripAdvisor declared earlier this year that he registered 50 000 users for its service “Business listing” (This number gathers hotels, restaurants, rentals…) so this service most work right?
Well the answer is Yes. Now you must evaluate whether this tool is necessary for your accommodation facing the investment required as the fee rises over a thousand dollars for independent hoteliers with relatively few rooms (when launched this tool cost was over $ 500).
The first thing you need to have before contracting this service is a website that encourages reservations, a phone line functioning and good quality pictures. Indeed it is very important to have these material to complete successfully TripAdvisor’s strategy: Direct sales.
Because every time one of the 260 million monthly users who visit this site either from a desktop or a smartphone will be able to contact you easily. In the picture below you can see how the contact info of the Hotel are exposed:
In a survey run by TripAdvisor in the United States showed that the return on investment for every dollar spend on a “Business listing profile”is $ 64 dollars. We do not know how much is the ROI in Latin America or in other continents but if your website isn’t well ranked it might be a good idea to put your contact info on TripAdvisor so more people contacts you directly.
Another functionality of TripAdvisor’s paid profiles is the ability to promote deals. Those deals are the ones appearing on your own website so the promotions aren’t rooms that you allocated with TripAdvisor. We know that over 60% of travelers are encouraged by interest rates *, the different shopping calls appearing on this reviews site will encourage more sales without commissions.
You can see on the previous image that there aren’t availability for online travel agencies so our promotions are even more encouraging! You may also notice in the picture below that promotions for Hotel Monterilla appear on the first results page for “Hotels in Viña del Mar”.
Another functionality worth to be presented is the “Business Board” where you will find statistics and interesting information about your potential customers. To do this you must enter your account prorietario and search for it in the left tab as you can see in the following image:
While the paid profile is a powerful tool we wonder why after paying an imortant sum TripAdvisor places Ads promoting online travel agencies when people clicks on the hotel profile’s pictures.
We recommend hiring this option especially if your hotel is not well known or if you want to follow an aggressive promotion strategy… in any case a lot of people goes to TripAdvisor so you should try and see if it improves your rentability. What do you think ?
*TripAdvisor Global Barometer
Posted on 06 Sep 2013 by | Filed under News
Know more details about TripAdvisor’s new tool, TripConnect : Advantages, disadvantages?
With the constant changes of the hotel industry on the web and the various services available to sell more and better their rooms we’ve been offering and spreading some criticism and advices about it. Previously, we posted a note where we stated to be carefull with Online travel agencies (OTA ) even when they are an important sale channel.
This time we’ve studied the next release of TripAdvisor and its promise to give Plus Clients a more profitable business, here are some explanations and examples to understand more about it.
The first thing to understand is that the purpose of TripConnect tool is to get travelers to book directly with you through your website, saving commissions and ensuring a closer relation with your client. Three dynamics where designed to succed:
- The PPC (pay per click) works the same way as Google Adwords does. Indeed, you will be able to set a campaign in TripAdvisor to appear in the search results of the price comparator, your business will have promoting impressions and be highlighted versus your competition. You are charged every time the person click and go straight to your TripAdvisor profile (cost per click are undisclosed for now).
- Once the traveler clicks the ad or search by the normal process, your TripAdvisor’s Hotel profile will put him in contact with your Hotel website to book directly – no commission fee.
- The website should have a booking engine TripAdvisor certified. So each time a reservation is made you will have a report of the ROI you get from the PPC you’ve invested.
The advantages are clear, this is a channel that promotes your business with a big community potential clients (260 million visitors) and drives you direct sales and ranks your hotel before your competition.
But, there are certain nuances that should be explored :
- You should analyze if your current TripAdvisor’s ranking as a Plus Customer is enough to get direct direct bookings throught your website without paying a PPC campaign.
- You should analyze if its better being ranked in this travelers community versus being ranked on Google. What brings you more business? Which one has a cheaper PPC ?
- Make a comparison between the investment you can make in TripAdvisor PPC versus the commission you would have paid to Booking.com, Expedia and other online travel agencies.
In any case, here in Clerk we favor tools that allow you to sell your rooms directly that is why we’ll be offering TripConnect to our users very soon – you are the one who will decide if you want to subscribe to this service.