The Online Impacts of Offline Customer Service
By Tema Frank CEO, Frank Reactions | February 01, 2015
It used to be that a bad customer experience would be shared with 10 people, on average. Now, thanks to social media and online review sites, it is quickly and easily shared with tens of thousands. It can make or break your hotel. What you do in the real world is the main influence on what people say about your hotel in the online world. And what they say online can either help or hurt your sales and profits. Get it wrong and it can send your hotel into a death spin.
In the early days of online review sites it was relatively easy to ignore online comments about off-line experiences because it was mostly people at the extremes who commented, and there were fewer people who consulted online review sites. There were also fewer people discussing hotels on social media.
Now there is a growing middle ground of people who consistently write reviews of the hotels they visit. This is especially true on some of the most heavily read sites like TripAdvisor, which reward frequent reviewers with stars, prestige titles such as "Senior Contributor" and by giving their reviews higher prominence. Many people like the feeling of helping others through detailed reviews and enjoy the public recognition. According to research by PhoCusWright, 74% of travelers said they write TripAdvisor reviews because they want to share good travel experiences.
It is natural to get upset about the damning reviews, especially if you feel they are unfair. Fortunately, 59% of travelers surveyed by PhoCusWright in 2012 said they ignore extreme comments and only 5% said they focus on negative reviews.
That said, reviews overall do matter. Cornell University's Center for Hospitality Research found that a one-point increase in a hotel's average user rating on a 5-point scale makes potential customers 13.5% more likely to book that hotel. And almost everybody looks at online reviews before making hotel bookings now, especially if they are going to a hotel they've never been to before.
What this means is that delivering consistently excellent service and quality is more important than ever before. You dare not focus on just your top dollar customers, giving less-than-ideal service to the rest. The rest may not be paying you as much on their one visit, but since there are more of them than of your highest value customers they can have a much bigger impact on future bookings.