In the hospitality industry, the importance of superior guest service is unquestionable. It is self-explanatory why the industry is focusing a lot on measuring the consequence of their guest service in the form of guest reviews and feedback. Particularly when it has a direct impact on your hotel returns.
Technology solution vendors are offering a plethora of tools and solutions to the hospitality industry for managing Guest Experience and their Online Reputation Management (ORM). Through these tools and guest feedback, hotels are empowered to identify their areas of improvement, their strength, and weaknesses Vis-a-Vis their competition.
Since ORM is extremely crucial, it has to be done with utmost care. The awareness about ORM is growing, with a large number of hotels taking it up seriously. However, there are still many hotels that are closed to this growing trend, and it would be some time until ORM becomes the topmost priority of all.
Hotels face some challenges in online reputation management. Some of the common key challenges hotels need to overcome are –
- Optimize the hotel’s online presence – One of the key challenges that many hotels face even in the current era of advancement is the lack of awareness about the power of various social media and review sites. Online presence has a wider meaning now than before. Having a website is not enough anymore. It is important to expand and ensure visibility across multiple OTAs and social media channels. When the awareness is low, it means that the hotel’s online presence is definitely weak, which in turn leads to low visibility in the eyes of the traveler and therefore lower bookings.
- Inability to respond timely and appropriately to positive, negative and neutral reviews – Hotels that respond to at least one online review experience a 17 percent boost in engagement with customers. Hotels having a response rate of 5 to 40 percent experience an average rating of 4.0 out of 5, compared to an average of only 3.8 for those that do not respond at all. Hotels with a response rate of 65 percent or above have an average overall rating of 4.15 out of 5.Responding to all reviews posted by the guests on multiple OTA in a timely manner constitutes an important part of the ORM strategy of hotels.However, do take care that different reviews require different sensitivities to respond, so extra caution must be embraced while drafting your response. Responding to negative reviews is even more critical. It should begin by extending apologies for a bad experience with a promise to rectify service immediately. If possible, offer an incentive too. How you respond to such reviews will decide if you can actually heal the blemished reputation.
A recent research reveals that 87% of travelers had an improved opinion of a hotel if they read an appropriate management response to bad reviews. However, though we see leading hotels who have appointed experts to attend to such important matters, we see others adopting a very casual way towards the same, which in most cases, upsets the guest even more. Hotels must educate their staff on the right kind of message that they would want to send out to their guests, to make sure that none gets offended.
Technology solutions also empower hoteliers to translate the guest reviews and respond to them in your preferred language. This is a very useful feature from the perspective that your guests are global and hotels are also operating from different geographies.
- Leaving the reviews unattended – A review unattended can cause more damage to the hotel than a negative review attended and apologized to since it conveys that the guest opinions are not being cared for and are not valued. It is never to be forgotten that each and every aspect of the customer has to be attended to with utmost grace. A brand image can certainly be tarnished with one single unhappy customer. A Cornell report released in May 2016 shows that when looking at an increase in revenue as a function of the percentage of review responses, bookings revenue increases in relationship to review responses up to a 40-45% response rate.
- Inefficient use of positive reviews – It is a desirable situation if a hotel has multiple guests leaving positive feedback on multiple sites. But, do all hotels know how to use these positive reviews to work in their favor? The answer is No. Incorporating them into your hotel website is a great way of showing appreciation towards the guests for writing the few glorious words. Apart from this integrating and monitoring the same on social media is another smart approach apart from requesting your guests to publish their reviews on Google. This also promotes direct bookings and can be done by the use of widgets as well.
Online Reputation Management has grown to become a necessity in the world of hospitality, rather than remaining as a choice function. Let us wait for the future to take control, when ORM would be more evolved than now, having a broader role to play. It is important for the hospitality industry to take note of the challenges in online reputation management that many hoteliers face during implementation, in order to enhance the guest experience, achieve overall operational excellence and drive more revenues.