Review and other social media sites are essential tools for many travellers who are increasingly using them to share their customer experiences online and to research future trips.
Travellers are keen to find something special, a unique experience they will remember fondly and tend to seek out reviews from other travellers like them to ensure they choose the right property for their trip. While travellers tend to know what they’re getting when they choose a branded hotel, with independent hotels there is more of an unknown factor. For that reason, reviews are essential for independent and boutique hotels – they give potential guests an idea of what they can expect before they book.
While the average rating on TripAdvisor is positive (just over four out of five), as with other sites, opinions can range from glowing reviews to less-than-favourable accounts.
So, should hoteliers and other business owners respond to these comments: the good, the bad and the ugly? The unequivocal answer is yes, and a property’s engagement can make all the difference in how customers perceive a business.
We know travellers seek out independent opinions and reviews. According to a recent Phocuswright study commissioned by TripAdvisor, 96% percent of respondents said reviews were important when planning and booking hotels, and over half said they wouldn’t book a hotel unless it had reviews (54%).
What’s more, the results also indicated that 80% percent of TripAdvisor users believe that a hotel which responds to reviews cares more about their guests. In fact, 65% percent said that if they were considering two comparable properties, the presence of management responses on one would sway them in its favour.
According to the survey, businesses who respond to negative reviews can also significantly influence how a TripAdvisor user perceives a particular property. While 69 percent of respondents agree that a defensive or aggressive response to a bad review will make them less likely to book that hotel, an astonishing 85 percent agree that a thoughtful management response to a bad review will actually improve their impression of a hotel.
The takeaway is that not only do the vast majority of travellers expect a property to have a presence online, they will also gain a better overall impression of a business that demonstrates they are invested in the feedback of their guests, whether that feedback is positive or less than positive.
A lot of travellers want to find a hotel that will provide them with great service, a great customer experience and a personal touch. What better way to demonstrate this than to engage with reviews from previous guests in a public forum, showing potential customers the level of dedication and customer service on offer?
This interaction not only helps maintain a positive reputation, but it also cultivates long-term brand loyalists and shows potential customers that the property they are considering is actively involved.
So, how can a property make the best impact with online engagement? Many review sites allow businesses to respond to reviews.
Here are a few things to keep in mind when responding:
1. Respond quickly.
A timely response is expected and appreciated. It shows you are attentive and receptive to feedback, and it leaves a lasting impression.
2. Keep the tone professional, whatever the concern.
Whether the review is critical or glowing, your reply should always be polite and professional, just as you would handle any other customer service reply.
It can be tempting to respond harshly to criticism, but it is best not to lose sight of the fact that millions of people visit these sites each month and all would have access to view your response. The vast majority of people recognize that not all customers raise reasonable concerns, and that it’s almost impossible to please everyone all of the time.
They will give you a lot of credit for offering a courteous and thoughtful explanation, especially when the criticism is unwarranted. This is your chance to set the record straight.
3. Avoid jargon.
Don’t be tempted into using online jargon. The use of ALL CAPS, HTML tags or excessive typographic symbols can appear abrasive or result in miscommunication.
4. Highlight positive changes and updates.
Use the opportunity to communicate new improvements you’ve made to your business. If you’ve addressed a situation that has generated comments from customers, this is your chance to state that you’ve taken their feedback seriously and made positive changes.
5. Be careful of individual privacy.
Your responses should never contain the personal information of any person, including names, addresses, phone numbers or other information that may be used to identify an individual.
6. Be original.
Customers don’t respond well to stock answers. They appreciate an individually tailored response, because they will realize that you are addressing their particular situation.
It is tempting to post material from other sources that support your point of view, but customers prefer direct and unique comments from you. It’s especially important to avoid posting correspondence from another guest.
7. Show gratitude.
Gratitude builds goodwill. Management responses are great opportunities to tell guests and customers that you are thankful for their positive comments, as well as their constructive feedback.
Don’t hesitate to let people know you appreciate them. It goes a long way.
Following these steps can help you maintain a positive reputation online. Remember that, while you may be responding to one reviewer, thousands of others may read your comments and form opinions about you and your property.
Make sure they know you run a respectful, attentive and thoughtful business.
Your guests will appreciate your interest.