Before booking their next stay, today’s traveler simply refers to their choice of hotel review sites to browse through a handful of reviews and photos from actual travelers. Travelers of all ages now routinely rely on the rapidly evolving user-generated content (UGC) model as one of the primary drivers of their peer-driven decision-making process. With an abundance of content available, online reviews are likely to be the first stop and first impression many guests have of a hotel or resort. It is essential that hoteliers actively manage their online reputation on these hotel review sites.
How can you ensure your hotel remains competitive in the ever-expanding landscape of hotel review sites? What determines the ranking of hotels in their respective cities? Follow the four steps below — consistently — to ensure your hotel climbs the ranking ladder and stays ahead of the competition.
1. Encourage your guests to leave a review
According to a study of over 16,000 hotels published in Cornell Hospitality Quarterly, the average rating for a hotel with 11 to 20 reviews is 3.5 out of 5. The more reviews a hotel receives – 101 or more – the average rating climbs to 3.9. Properties with higher review volume receive a higher ranking than those with fewer reviews.
Also, the most recent reviews carry the most weight. About a year ago, TripAdvisor rolled out a new algorithm that changed the rankings of many hotels. They shared three main factors in their equation (quality, quantity and recency), while refining the calculation to take into account and better measure the consistency of a hotel’s performance over time.
To increase your review count and ultimately drive more bookings, consider implementing a mid-stay check-in that gauges guest sentiment. Bring satisfied customers to evaluate their stay on site. It’s best not to offer any inducement, as it can come with a severe penalty from many review sites. This not only boosts your online reputation, but also creates greater customer engagement.
If you don’t have a system in place for this, consider a smart concierge like Ivy to automatically request real-time guest feedback. You can receive alerts when a customer is upset on the spot and stop bad reviews before they’re written. In the event of a negative response, Ivy escalates the issue to the hotel, allowing the issue to be resolved in real time before a negative review is posted.
2. Emphasize exceptional service in your establishment
A recent Cornell study of more than 95,000 reviews and ratings for 99 independent upscale hotels and resorts found that, overall, hotels with the most consistent service earned the highest ratings on leading hotel review sites. It’s no surprise that service was one of the most important elements, while facilities, location and amenities were given much less consideration.
Be sure to regularly read each review for your property to uncover actionable insights and opportunities to improve the guest experience at your property. Commit to having well-trained staff who are ready to handle various issues when they arise. Some of the most common service complaints in hotels include dirty rooms, no hot water, noisy neighbors, and rude staff. All of these complaints usually resulted in an unpleasant phone call or a visit to reception.
One way to compete at a higher level of service is to use a smart concierge to communicate with customers and process requests instantly. Powered by a combination of machine learning and staff, a smartconcierge can respond to up to 60% of customer messages in less than a second. This allows reception to focus on more complex requests and provide more attentive service.
Another way is to personalize the customer experience as much as possible by tapping into previous stay preferences and using the customer’s name whenever possible.
3. Make sure your profile is up to date
Invest in the resources to build and maintain a top profile on all major online review sites to set yourself apart from your competition. Update it often with new photos and videos, important changes and news about important events. Remember that this is the first impression many potential guests have of your hotel. Showcase a variety of accurate, high-quality photos to give customers an idea of what it’s like to stay with you. Include menus for your restaurants. Detail the seasonal offers. Offer as much information to help a customer choose your hotel.
The OPUS hotel in Vancouver is currently the 14th hotel in Canada and the 5th hotel in Vancouver on TripAdvisor. They’ve been on TripAdvisor’s Top 25 Hotels in Canada list since 2015. They keep their profile up-to-date with special packages like “Pancakes or Parking!” and receive reviews almost daily thanks in part to Ivy, their smartconcierge.
4. Respond to customer feedback – both positive and negative
Although manager responses aren’t reflected in TripAdvisor rankings, responding to reviews shows travelers that you care and are committed to satisfying their customers. Research by Phocuswright found that 85% of users believe a manager’s response improves their impression of a hotel. Take this opportunity to address hotel improvements or steer the conversation in a positive direction with something exciting about the hotel, but be sure to adhere to TripAdvisor’s Management Response Guidelines before proceeding. respond on their platform.
A word of warning: hoteliers should respond to reviews, but be careful not to overdo it. A Cornell study found that after a response rate of around 40%, hotels seem to reach a point of diminishing returns. The researcher, Associate Professor Chris Anderson, reports: “It turns out that giving too many answers is worse than offering no answer at all, in terms of grades and income. Thus, managers should focus on responding constructively to negative criticism rather than simply acknowledging positive feedback.”
For negative reviews, follow this process: thank the reviewer for their feedback, acknowledge the issue, reiterate the importance of customer satisfaction, and include your contact information for follow-up if needed. All hotel responses should be courteous and truthful.
In today’s world, travelers have no shortage of user-generated content when researching their next vacation. What users say about your property and how they rate it impacts your results. To continuously improve your hotel’s online reputation: (1) encourage guests to leave reviews, (2) focus on service excellence, (3) actively manage your profile, and (4) stay informed and respond to all negative reviews.