Just how important are hotel reviews? If you have to ask the question, you may already be seeing a decline in bookings.
Ninety-three percent of travelers read online reviews before booking a hotel. For those with fewer than three stars, 88% of potential guests immediately cross them off the list. Even establishments with “only” four stars won’t be considered by 32% of travelers.
In a world where almost any customer can become an online “influencer” and define your brand in millions of minds, it’s important for hoteliers to know how to handle bad reviews and cultivate good ones.
Respond to feedback
There’s a temptation to ignore negative online reviews. In fact, social media marketing expert Jay Baer, in researching his book Hug Your Haters, found that a third of all customer complaints go ignored. That is, however, a very dangerous posture to take, and it’s best to pursue a positive approach:
- Respond in a timely fashion
- Address the customer by name and thank them for their input
- Apologize if necessary, but always sympathize that expectations weren’t met
- Highlight the changes you’ve made or will make, if that applies
Do so and you’re likely to save much more than one customer. Some 84% of people say that an appropriate response to a bad review actually improves their image of a hotel.
Don’t get angry or defensive
Even though some reviews will inevitably be unfair or inaccurate, it never pays to strike back.
Research also shows that 64% of people searching for a room say that reading an aggressive response to a negative review makes them less likely to book a room. So, keep your cool – and keep your customers.
Make changes when needed
Bad reviews, painful as they may be, can also be good customer research. Look especially for comments on cleanliness and customer experience, examine their claims, and use that input to make corrections you may have overlooked.
Harness the positive power of reviews
Finally, don’t forget that there’s a fortunate flip-side here – positive reviews are an incredibly valuable asset that you can cultivate. Incentivize good reviews. Share them online and in marketing materials. Create easy opportunities for positive social sharing, like fun, put-yourself-in-the-picture photo frames that guests will want to share on social media. Get your own employees engaged in the social promotion of your property. The more positive “reviews, news and views” you have out there, the more your overall online reputation improves.
The internet, social media and review sites are neither inherently good or bad for the hotel business. It all depends on what you do with them. As the CEO of TripAdvisor put it, “I am a firm believer in the old adage that there are always two sides to a story, and a hotel manager should absolutely put their perspective out in front of prospective customers.” In other words, it’s your success story to shape and tell – and for today’s hotels that often happens one review at a time.