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