By Richard Drummond, experienced hotelier and COO of Hop Software (www.hopsoftware.com)
Online reviews are crucial to ensure that your hotel is visible and help you to gain the trust of prospective customers.The number of online reviews your hotel has directly impacts key performance measures including ranking on review sites, third party distribution websites (OTAs), search engines, online reputation and overall sales and conversion rates. So, with so much at stake, how can hoteliers legitimately increase the number of reviews given by guests?
LEAVING A GOOD IMPRESSION
In our recent research of over 2,000 UK consumers, we found that more than one in three holidaymakers always read reviews before making a holiday booking, while an additional quarter said that they sometimes do. So, with over half of all holidaymakers being influenced by online reviews, it’s worth paying attention to the finer details that will boost your hotel’s reputation.
Firstly, you must create an experience worth talking about. Customer service and excellent communication were top of the list when holiday makers were asked what would make them leave a positive review, with half saying that this would encourage them to write one.We know that customer service is always key, but the trick to providing this is having the right team in place. Hotels that earn the best reviews tend to place a strong emphasis on recruiting the right people and encouraging them to work to exceptional standards. So, ensure your staff are driven by an expectation of success, rather than a fear of failure.
CLOSING THE GAP
Unfulfilled expectations are the number one cause of dissatisfied guests. In fact, nearly half (45%) said that bad customer service would be the top reason for leaving a negative review, while a further 40% said that the accommodation not being as described would impact their decision. So, close the gap between expectations and reality to ensure your guest’s expectations are met.
The best advice is to avoid setting unrealistic expectations in advertising. Marketing communications should always provide a true representation of your hotel. Use flattering photos, and even switch up the brightness and lighting, but don’t edit images until rooms are barely recognisable as you could risk disappointing guests on arrival. It’s important to promote why their stay will be special, but make sure you aren’t overpromising.
ASKING FOR A REVIEW
With only 7% of holidaymakers saying that they’d usually leave a review, hoteliers need to be proactive in encouraging guests to leave one. But it’s important to consider their experience first. If the guest has had a fantastic, trouble-free stay then go ahead and ask for a review.
However, if a guest has had a negative experience, management must ask themselves if they have done everything possible to rectify the issue before considering a review request. Guests may still maintain a positive impression if staff have gone above and beyond to rectify problems.
Hoteliers can ask for reviews via guest surveys, comment forms and follow-up email links, which are subtle yet direct methods that make quick and easy for customers. I’d also recommend that follow up emails come from a person instead of a faceless entity as this tends to increase response rates and gives your brand a human touch.
GAINING GUEST’S TRUST
Reviews and testimonials are incredibly important for gaining guests’ trust, particularly as over one in three always use them when booking accommodation. However, just 16% of people trust reviews on third-party booking sites and only 8% trust them on an accommodation provider’s own site, so think about the placement of reviews to achieve maximum impact. As well as adding testimonials to your website, encourage guests to leave their reviews on third-party booking sites or social media channels, as this way prospective guests are more likely to trust their legitimacy.
Always avoid incentivizing reviews. Offering guests a reward in exchange for a review is unethical and encourages fake responses, generating reviews that fail to reflect the hotel authentically. Giving away incentives in exchange for reviews also gives the impression that you have offered incentives for all reviewers, negating authenticity and discouraging trust in the long-term.
WHAT CAN HOTELIERS DO?
The number of reviews your hotel receives online can directly affect revenue. So, gaining a higher volume of guest ratings will improve your competitive online position and visibility but most importantly, encourage potential guests to stay with you over the competition.
We all like to feel special every now and then so great customer service is essential. Small personal touches and rectifying problems quickly are the best ways to make sure that guests are talking about their stay positively.