Online Hotel Reviews: How to manage both negative and positive feedback effectively
By Scott Nadel Chief Operating Officer, DMC Hotels/Dhillon Management | June 19, 2011
Online booking agent, Trip Advisor conducted research that indicates hotel operators respond to 4% of negative reviews on their site. This low response percentage, may be attributed to the fact that most online reviews are anonymous. The reviews, directed toward fellow travelers, often go unnoticed by hotel management staff. Trip Advisor acknowledges that more and more travelers use these reviews, as well as, the hotel responses to make their travel plans. The low response percentage may show that many hotel operators do not know how to respond to online reviews.
When a guest registers a complaint through internal surveys or in person, do you as a hotel manager: a) look busy; b) skulk out the back door; or c) handle the matter personally? Regardless of how a hotel operator chooses to respond to a face to face confrontation with a disgruntle guest, it is vital to the success of a hotel that online reviews receive responses. The response should come from the hotel management staff in timely matter with clear and sincere verbiage. Online reviews deserve even more time than internal surveys, as the feedback is just as, if not more, valuable, and the impact is instant and very public.
Currently, Trip Advisor along with Expedia and Hotels.com allow hotel responses. These sites permit hoteliers the opportunity to provide travelers with assurances that any and all issues are resolved to ensure guest satisfaction. If hotel operators play the online booking game, they must take advantage of the redeeming power afforded them with the response. According to Trip Advisor, a response from the property to criticism has more influence on a traveler's decision to stay with them than the criticism itself. If hotel operators fail to take advantage of this, their business will see a significant drop in online bookings. Online travel agencies posted three times as many hotel reviews than traveler review sites last year. Unfortunately, not all review sites allow hotel responses; Priceline and Travelocity do not, effectively shutting hotels out of the conversation.
Given their influence on booking decisions, it's a safe bet that soon all OTAs will allow hotel responses. It's time for hoteliers to make more time for monitoring and responding to public feedback. Here are some tips for responding to reviews to minimize damage and cast your hotel in a more positive light. Each property will have a different approach, I recommend answering these questions for your individual property and compile results into a brief strategic plan:
Carefully consider which reviews deserve a response
Hotel operators should respond to all reviews that have the potential to damage the hotel reputation. Respond to acknowledge the issue and to apologize. An unanswered complaint leaves travelers to draw their own conclusions, as in "I guess it's true" or "the hotel doesn't care."