Part 2 of 3
Managing Hotel Guest Sentiment and your Online Presence
In part 1 of this blog series, we discussed ways to get your entire staff empowered and involved in Revenue Generating activities. In part 2 of the series, Creating a Revenue Centric Culture for you Hotel, we will explore the subject of Hotel Guest Sentiment and your Online Presence.
I think by now most hoteliers understand that higher hotel guest sentiment leads to power in pricing. In addition, having a solid amount of reviews gives consumers confidence in making their decision. Taking that one step further, interacting with your guests via social media and review sites allows you to further show engagement and empathy with guests. Let´s look at some recent research around the above:
I think most are familiar with the study by Chris Anderson of Cornell which indicates that online reputation (review scores) and the number of reviews are positively related to hotel performance as measured by price, occupancy, and total revenue.
In a very recent study by Cornell we look a bit deeper into how responding to reviews has an impact on the actual review scores. The study indicates that “while responding to reviews is positively related to online reputation, hotels are better off responding to negative reviews than to positive reviews, adding that responding to all positive reviews may become detrimental.” This has become an interesting study as in the recent past, hotels were encouraged to respond to all reviews, regardless the connotation….that might be changing. The study goes on to say “Our data don’t tell us why this is so, but we could infer that consumers potentially become annoyed by all the review responses or the responses crowd out the reviews. We caution hoteliers regarding how they respond, as our analysis indicates that responding to all reviews is unnecessary and potentially detrimental on both review scores and revenues.” So the question here is how to we continue to engage with guests on review sites without being overly “annoying”?
This can be something interesting to study at your individual hotels to understand the impact. Perhaps consider a different approach by sending the guest that left a positive review a personal email of thanks rather than replying via the review site. This could also be a good way to invite them back, or ask them to refer the hotel to a friend. Try sending them a discount code as part of this email so they are enticed to book again or share with their networks.
According to a recent survey, 93% of prospect travelers refer to online reviews when booking a hotel. Furthermore, 53% of the traveler would not even book a hotel that does not have online reviews. I do not think these facts are surprising to anybody, however, still a good reminder of the importance of your online reputation.
Ensure that your hotel has a dependable ORM in place which allows you to manage your online hotel guest sentiment in one easy to use solution. Furthermore, involve your entire staff in tracking and improving hotel guest sentiment.
As mentioned in part 1 of the blog series around revenue generating activities, there should also be goals set per department in terms of hotel guest sentiment and these goals should be tracked, measured and celebrated when achieved! Be sure to also measure each area of hotel vs the competitive set and see how you can strive to make improvements in weak areas and continue to highlight the areas where you excel. Get creative in finding ways to improve. It does not always have to be the obvious. I will share a couple of examples.
While working with a boutique hotel on revenue improvement strategies, we understood that there were a handful of rooms in the hotel that were inferior in terms of size and view however these were included as part of the standard room category. The guests that usually stayed in these particular room had a more negative experience and left poor reviews. So we decided to create a new room category, called Small Room, which included these rooms. The description was much more accurate in terms of size and photos. That combined with offering this room for -10€ off the price of the standard category we were better managing the expectations of the customers. This lead to a huge boost in the review scores from guests in this particular room type and of course improved the overall score of the hotel.
Another example from the same hotel was negative feedback around the breakfast. Guests often complained that the breakfast area was too small, sometimes lacking places to sit and that they found the price of breakfast to be too expensive. From our side, our hands were a bit tied in regards to the price as it was a rather extensive buffet and our costs were somewhat high. We had little room to decrease the price of the breakfast. What we did do however was come up with a breakfast box to-go plan where the guests had to pay 5€ (instead of 14€) and they received a modified version of breakfast in a to-go container. By doing this, it also took care of the problem of seating as many of the guests went back to their rooms to eat or left the hotels to start the day with breakfast on the road. We also saw breakfast costs rise as more people bought the to-go option while previously they were opting out of breakfast all-together. In only 6 months we saw the breakfast revenues rise 12% and equally as important, saw the guest scores climb!
So the lesson learned in the above examples is creating opportunities via innovation while improving guest satisfaction and creating new revenue streams. It´s not that difficult, think outside the box and involve your staff in coming up with innovative ideas.
Another important area to focus on while creating a Revenue Culture for your hotel is optimizing your online presence in order to correctly showcase and sell your hotel. Although it can be cumbersome, I suggest doing a content audit at least 1 time each year. This includes going over your hotel with a fine tooth comb on each and every site where you have an online presence. Ensure that all details, small and large, of your hotel are correctly portrayed. You would be surprised to find some small details missing or incorrect, however these details can be very important for the conversion. If you do not agree with or do not like the descriptions that the OTAs have come up with, chat with your Market Managers, sometimes they can consider making changes for you so that you feel more comfortable with how your hotel is displayed.
Do not stop with the OTAs, ensure that you have also claimed your profile on the Metasearch sites as well. Nowadays this is critical to ensuring good online conversion and market share. In a recent study from Koddi, MetaSearch traffic has grown over 3x´s from 2014-2017 and is projected to drive 33€ billion in bookings in 2017. Optimize your profile on these sites by improving the photos, descriptions and features. Ensure that all of your amenities are well listed and actively manage your reviews. Make sure that you have high quality photos of all room types and areas of the hotel. Your main image is the first point of contact between the potential guest and your hotel. Be sure to put your best representation as your main image. Trivago research shows that 86% of clicks goes to profiles with a high-quality main image. The research goes on to say that Profiles with high-quality photos receive 63% more clicks than profiles with low-quality or no photos. It´s an important part of revenue generation and hotels must take an active role in creating and managing quality content for better sales and conversion.
I hope the above suggestions have given you some new ideas to consider. The most important takeaways from the above:
*Know what your guests are saying and take an active role in managing your hotel guest sentiment
*Constantly strive for excellence and positive change via innovation
*Ensure your online presence is optimized in order to drive more sales and better conversion
Implementing the above to further expand your mindset of creating a Revenue Culture and take, you one-step closer to becoming a better run and more profitable hotel. We can all learn from each other. For a 30 days free trial of our Online Reputation Management Tool, click here.
Karen Pawlikowski has spent over 15 years working with global hospitality brands such as Starwood Hotels and Resorts, The Ritz-Carlton Hotel Company and Xotels in key Revenue Management roles. With her vast domain experience, Karen is currently working with RateGain in leading hotels through revenue and distribution optimization strategies to achieve more profitable business. Karen also acts as a liason between RateGain customer needs and the product development team to ensure that RateGain continues to exceed client expectations and remains leaders in hospitality technology.