In 2014, two studies made by TripAdvisor and PhoCusWright reflected the following similar results-
- 77% of travelers reference reviews before choosing a hotel.
- 80% travelers read around 6-12 online guest reviews; and
- 73% look at photos put up by other travelers before booking a room.
Online travel reviews have always played an increasing role in the guests’ decisions to stay at hotels. But, hoteliers have only recently begun to understand its significance.
Hotel guests and travelers who share their positive and negative hotel experiences through Internet review sites like TripAdvisor are growing each day. That is why it becomes more important to understand the significance of these reviews on hotel guests and the hospitality industry as a whole.
Most hoteliers are concerned about their Online Hotel Reputation Management, but the prime question is, “Do hoteliers today know how to exactly respond to online guest reviews?” This question becomes all the more relevant when it’s about negative reviews.
The importance of online review sites and reviews
Why are online review sites playing an ever-increasing role in hotel bookings?
According to TripAdvisor’s TripBarometer study, the world’s largest survey for traveler and accommodation, conducted by StrategyOne in 2013, more than half of their 15000 respondents had left a review for the accommodation they had been staying in during their trip. The study also reflected that around 40% of the respondents also shared their personal reviews by means of social networks or email.
In the present day, online reviews spread the news of customer satisfaction two times faster than the offline means of the word-of-mouth (WOM). This was a major issue that was faced by the hospitality industry especially when new customers considered word-of-mouth the most trusted form of information.
“1 out of 3 travelers are planning to spend more in travelling in 2016, than they did in 2015. “
In 2016, the annual TripBarometer study has predicted that online presence would still remain important. In fact, the year will see businesses on alert about what people have to say about them on the web. In the study, almost 93% of hoteliers admitted to the fact that online traveler reviews are crucial for the future of their business.
Today, in 2016, online reputation management is still one of the biggest arenas of investment for people who own properties for accommodation. Almost 59% of accommodation owners are investing more in the hospitality sector than they had done in 2015.
These factors make reviews all the more important for hotels to maintain, promote, and repair their image. With the number of reviews and their accessibility to reach everyone worldwide, the influence that travel sites have, is consistently growing.
The study also states that-
“More than 90% of business spokespersons rated online traveler reviews, repeat business, and increased direct bookings as the three most important factors to the future of their business.”
Should hotels respond to negative online reviews?
“64% of online review site users agree that an aggressive or defensive management response to a bad review “makes them less likely to book that hotel.”
Customers are guaranteed to at some point write a negative review about a hotel or attraction that they visited. In such cases, hoteliers are left wondering whether they should respond to these negative review. The thought of simply ignoring the complaint becomes a temptation.
However, according to most experts responding to negative online guest reviews correctly can aid in minimizing damage to future travelers and guests. Additionally, the reviewer, upon seeing your positive and accepting attitude, might possibly even give your business another chance.
Prompt replies and responses to negative online reviews will show future guests and travelers that you and your hotel staff care about your clientele and that you are actively working towards improvement of the business.
So, it is a definite yes to answer negative online reviews. Now, here are some points to keep in mind when responding to these kind of reviews.
How to respond to negative online reviews
Bad negative reviews can surely feel like a personal insult. However, no matter what the review sounds like, the most crucial point for a hotelier to remember is to keep aside their ego and pride when responding to these reviews. Other than that, here are a few other points to assist you in improving your hotel’s reputation.
- When you say sorry to a scorned guest online, even though they are unable to see you, ensure that your response is sincere and not defensive. Often, apologizing and thanking the customer for sharing their issues and insights can go a long way for the hotel.
- After responding to a negative review and apologizing for the inconvenience, find whether the issue is an ongoing one or a one-time occurrence. If upon research it is found that guests have been facing the same problems and uploading the same feedback everywhere, then prompt action should be taken to fix the situation as soon as possible.
- Hoteliers can take advantage of answering to online reviews by framing a story of their experience as a hotel while also making the guest feel heard and acknowledged.
- Monitor your hotel’s online reputation regularly with the help of free online monitoring tools like “Google Alerts” so that you can keep track of people talking about you in other online spaces. Here is an example of a google alert page below-
First of all, you require to set-up your email and then choose the frequency of notifications that you would like to receive like, once a day or once a week. Type in the name and location of your hotel as a keyword in the box at the top of the page. Google will then send an alert to the registered email address every time the keyword is mentioned anywhere on the web. It’s pretty handy, because it can assist you to reply in a timely manner.
- Don’t panic upon seeing negative reviews. For you a negative review will be a negative review, but try thinking from a customer’s perspective. For some customers a negative review might be a benefit. For instance, if a newly wed couple are looking for a romantic getaway, then the fact that a hotel is not child proof comes as a plus point for them. They would gladly fact. What is seen as a negative in one customer’s eyes can in fact be a positive for another. Always remember that travel organisations that really want to make the most of their customer reviews now and in the future, will be the ones that believe in making them relevant for each online visitor.
Online hotel reviews are important. That is it. Full-stop.
The message is clear. Hoteliers do not only need to respond to negative reviews. They need to respond and nurture their relationship with a dissatisfied customer in a personable way, such that other guests are drawn in too.
Undoubtedly, having a bad review on TripAdvisor hurts a hotel’s reputation. But, if the next time a negative feedback is received, as a hotelier, we need to think about how the situation can be turned around and be used instead to help future guests in having the best possible stay at our hotel.
A proper response to a bad review can do two things for a hotel. It can minimize the damage to its reputation by making prospective guests think more highly of you, and it can repair your relationship with the unhappy reviewer.