The digital world has revolutionized the way consumers are interacting with businesses and the hospitality and tourism industry has not been left behind. The internet has made it possible for consumers to have access to a wide range of online resources to search for and compare hotels and flights to make an informed decision.
This is evident from the fact that 59% of consumers say that review sites and social media have the maximum influence on their booking decisions. In the wake of this scenario, hoteliers have to sit up and take note of online reputation management.
Earlier, hoteliers used to only worry about the ambiance, efficiency of service, professionalism of the staff, and the appeal of the hotel’s brochure. The hospitality industry has now stepped into the world of online reputation management.This has become an indispensable factor for measuring guest satisfaction, implementing improvements and attracting more patrons.
What exactly is online reputation management?
Put simply, your online reputation results from the conversations that are doing the rounds on the web about your brand. It encompasses all that is being talked about your hotel with respect to social media interactions, user-generated content on review websites, both positive and negative. The ultimate goal is to see how this impacts the image of your hotel’s brand.
What comes up when a potential customer Googles your brand will shape his or her opinion about whether to choose you or not. If you search for a hotel online, the top results are the hotel’s profiles on review websites like TripAdvisor and on social media networks like Facebook and Twitter.
Actively monitoring what is being written about your brand on these channels is necessary as it has a direct influence on a potential guest’s buying decision. Google search results and social profiles are the critical spheres where reputation has to be managed effectively. Even a single piece of negative publicity that comes up in search results can damage your reputation substantially. Hence, a proper approach has to be put in place to respond to such events.
Forums and review websites like TripAdvisor reviews, for instance, have been found to have a major influence on a hotel’s reputation. A study by Cornell Hospitality Research Center reflects that more number of people are visiting TripAdvisor to make a decision regarding their hotel search. The frequency of their visits increases within 5 days prior to booking.
Similarly, there are numerous platforms where a hotel needs to focus on so as to manage a reputation online. If a guest posts a negative review about their experience with your hotel, they expect that you listen, respond, and make them feel valued.
Why is your online reputation important?
Simply because potential guests trust personal recommendations and online reviews from customers more than other factors. In a highly competitive market, hoteliers are struggling to stay afloat by retaining guests and attracting new ones. In this scenario, why your online reputation is ever important is evident from the following finding.
Image courtesy : TripBarometer
According to a global study conducted by TripAdvisor, two of the top five factors on which hotel bookings depend are a part of online reputation. Hoteliers are aware of this phenomenon as the same study suggests that online reputation management topped the list of hotel marketing activities that experienced a growth in investment last year, with the growth percentage being 60%.
Having said that, simply being listed on these websites is not enough. Hoteliers have to actively engage with the audience on review websites to not only create a good brand image, but also to encourage more reviews with the goal to rank higher in search results.
Not only are consumers researching for trip information and the reviews by other travellers through these sources, but also more number of travellers are sharing their experiences during their trips in the form of reviews, impressions, photos and videos.
The bigger question, however, is whether there is an impact on the overall revenue that the hotel generates. Turns out, there is a direct relationship between online reputation and pricing power.
According to a study, an increase in the reputation of a hotel by one point (on a five-point scale) can lead to the hotel’s ability to increase room rates by 11.2% without compromising on the occupancy rate. Another study reveals that 76% travellers are ready to pay a higher price for a hotel with a higher review score.
This cycle continues as an increase in price generates more revenue for the hotel, which can be utilized to improve performance and deliver better services. This further enhances the reputation of the hotel as guests form a good opinion about them.
What should a smart hotelier do?
For starters, don’t shy away from online reviews or think of them as a burden. Learn how to deal with negative reviews and how to use positive reviews to boost your business.
Develop an attitude where you consider online reviews as a platform for productive exchange with potential guests. About 53% of TripAdvisor users will not book a hotel if it does not have any review. This explains how important it is to embrace traveler reviews as they come, negative or positive, and respond to them effectively.
The key is to understand that simply monitoring and responding to reviews is not going to be enough, rather you have to take additional measures. Some hotels used to have dedicated people or even entire teams to manage online reputation but now, things have become easier.
Repup does the continuous work for you by telling you exactly where and when to respond. It is not just about the prompt replies but about doing the operational changes required to meet customer expectations as well.
Guests will have expectations and it is about how you deal with them that differentiates a great hotel from the good one. A single unpleasant interaction can taint the whole experience for the guest and leave a negative image.
Hence, reputation management should not be the job of just one individual or team, rather it should be internalized within the culture. All staff members at various touch points, whether the reception, operations or sales, should be sensitized towards online reputation so that they encourage guests to share positive experiences.
Internal learning comes from responding to negative reviews by implementing action plans to resolve complaints. Also, the staff members should be appreciated and rewarded for positive reviews from guests.
How can a software solution help you?
A reputation management software helps you stay abreast with your guest’s expectations and keep up with them. A smart solution like RepUp has several features suited for the new age requirements.
- One-stop solution
RepUp collects all reviews and social media mentions about your hotel within a single dashboard. You will have access to all conversations doing the rounds about your brand at one place which helps you manage and respond to reviews, resolve issues and analyze your performance against competitors.
- Area intelligence
A comprehensive analysis of competitors in your area helps you set a yardstick for your performance and work on your business strategies.
- Problem recognition and resolution
RepUp enables you to raise tickets pertaining to complaints and issues to the concerned department. Not just that, it helps you conduct a detailed analysis of tickets raised, whether they have been resolved and if there are any pending ones.
- Direct booking solution
The widgets that RepUp offers allows guests to check your hotel prices and reviews on other platforms without leaving your website. The widgets can be integrated within your website to make it easier for potential guests to make bookings.
- Survey and feedback tool
Capturing more reviews and feedback from customers helps a hotel to achieve results faster. Guest information collected through this process makes it possible for you to personalize your guests’ experiences and stay ahead of competition.
RepUp allows you to measure and optimize guest feedback and experience. Hotels can leverage Repup’s offerings to improvise their overall service.
Though online reputation management is an intricate concept of marketing, it encompasses all the hotel’s functional areas that impact the guest experience. All departments must be working together to maintain an online reputation. Revenue management and online reputation should not be exclusive. A sound reputation management strategy should be in place which ultimately helps in better pricing decisions and better service.
A great reputation management software (like Repup) can be the one small but crucial step towards ensuring your hotel’s success.