The Ultimate Guide to Hotel Reputation Management
What is Hotel Reputation Management?
Hotels, no matter what size, operate on a global level. Your guests might come to you locally, but they could also be visiting from the furthest reaches of the planet.
With so many choices available from direct hotel competitors to alternative accommodation such as that offered by Airbnb, understanding what customers are looking for and how they’re making their booking decisions is essential to attract visitors and convert them into paying guests.
What people see and read as they do their research determines their opinion of you before they’ve even made an initial connection. Their decisions are influenced by the content you create and share online, but it’s also massively impacted by what previous guests, influencers and reviewers are saying on social media, blogs and hotel review sites.
The importance of a good reputation is crucial to attracting and retaining customers in an industry that is continually expanding and always offering new and different choices.
Hotel Reputation Management is more than checking in every now and again and superficially interacting with customers, it’s a strategic set of processes designed to work with your marketing, advertising, customer service and business development plans to position your brand as an industry leader and a place customers absolutely want to visit.
Your reputation is a vital component in determining your hotel’s value and is a key measure of performance which functions to decrease uncertainty for customers, increase marketing effectiveness, customer satisfaction and growing your customer base.
What Are the Benefits of Having a Good Reputation for Your Hotel?
Your reputation means more to your business than just appearing to be successful and highly rated – it is one of the fundamental building blocks for success.
Some of the major benefits include:
- Higher Levels of Consumer Trust
Businesses which have a good reputation are more trusted by people because they’re making their decisions based on the experiences of others; when more people speak positively about your brand, it encourages others to do the same.
- Increased Profits
Positive reviews, engagement and interaction from guests will draw in more visitors and naturally increase the number of bookings to your hotel.
- Better Employee Talent
Having a glowing reputation and being seen as an incredible venue also attracts a higher quality of staff, who are motivated and committed because they are genuinely invested in the success of the business.
- Industry Authority
Building trust with your audience and having an outstanding reputation makes it easier for others to remember and recommend your brand. As they do so, your business becomes known for these values and this cultivates authority.
- Higher Levels of Brand Recognition
The more people see good things about you, the more likely they are to look at what you’re doing and share your content with their friends, family and peers. This could be done digitally through social media, review sites, blogs, vlogs, etc – or it could be word of mouth.
The end result is that people recognise your brand and associate it with what they’ve heard.
- Reduced Negativity Towards Problems or Scandals
No one wants to have problems or scandals associated with them, but when you’ve had a longstanding reputation for being reputable and trustworthy, people are more likely to have a milder reaction to damaging issues when your brand is open, honest and transparent about them.
- Increased Confidence with Stakeholders
31% of investors believe hotels will be the most attractive asset class for investment in 2020 due to their positive demand fundamentals (71%) and yield profile (46%) – Source: Deloitte, 2019
A decision to support a venue or not can depend on a variety of factors, and this includes your reputation. A good reputation can be an indicator of growth and future profits, which will appeal to investors.
What Happens When You Have No Reviews?
When people are deciding on where to stay, they inevitably research a number of different venues in the area they’re planning on visiting. This research is generally done through:
- Recommendations from Family and Friends
- Social Media
- Review Sites
- Google Search
If your venue doesn’t have any reviews it will directly influence a potential customer’s opinion of your establishment. People want to feel secure and confident when they’re spending their money, and reviews offer an insight into what others have experienced and what they recommend.
Without reviews a potential customer could feel unsure and wary about making a booking, they want a good experience and although some people enjoy trying something new and unknown, the vast majority of people are driven by core human drivers to acquire, bond, learn and feel. They want the sense of security which comes from knowing and understanding a brand and feeling a level of trust and reciprocity.
A lack of reviews can be especially damaging if your venue has been established and operating for some time, visitors are likely to assume you have no reviews because previous customers have found your offerings mediocre or negative.
How you appear online, how many people are reviewing and what they are saying are all factors that directly influence the potential customer and their decision to book with you or not.
The Role of Reviews in the Decision-Making Process
96% of travellers believe reviews are an important part of researching a hotel.
Source: SiteMinder, 2019
To connect with the largest portion of your audience, it’s essential that you have a presence on hotel review sites, and that your online reputation management processes and team are capable of coping with responding appropriately.
Establishments with few reviews or a low star rating are not as appealing to customers, they are looking to spend their money on a guaranteed experience – not risk having a nightmare trip because the hotel has failed to deliver to their expectations.
88% of Travellers filter out hotels with an average star rating below three, 32% eliminate those with a rating below four.
The Influence of Peer Reviews on Hotels
Peer reviews are seen as an essential source of information, when they’re positive they inspire feelings of trust and confidence, but when they’re negative the potential customer can be turned away not just from the singular location, but from the brand as well. This can be especially damaging for franchises or chain locations where the power of the brand is considered to be the drawing point.
First time customers are the most likely to seek out peer reviews because they’ve not had an experience with the brand or the location and are looking to make an informed decision before, they spend their money.
The Buyer Journey covers five stages:
Peer reviews influence not only the Sharing stage (where existing customers leave their feedback) but also the Dreaming and Planning stages of both new and returning guests.
When a potential customer is thinking about where they want to go, they will likely look at locations and venues in a general sense, but even at this stage if the venue has a poor reputation or feedback rating, they will dismiss it before they ever get to planning.
When the customer does get to the planning stage, this is where reviews and user generated content becomes extremely important – for many people this forms the core of their research and massively influences their opinions.
Trip Advisor conducted a survey of its users and found that an average of nine reviews were read before the person made their booking decision for a hotel or restaurant, and that 81% of people frequently or always read reviews before booking a hotel.
During these initial phases of the buyer journey, the customer is heavily influenced by what other people have experienced, and when it comes to leaving their own reviews they will be influenced by the expectations these reviews created and how well it matched with their own experiences.
The Influence of User Generated Content (UGC)
When customers create user generated content (UGC) they are effectively marketing your property for you. Whether this is a blog, images, video content, reviews, social media posts, or something else this content will then be available for potential guests to see and inform their decisions.
UGC can be positive, neutral or negative – and it’s essential that you are aware of what is being said or shown, and how people are reacting to it.
When UGC is created for your venue it is giving the audience validation on the claims you’re making about your venue and brand. They can see from a non-related 3rd Party what to expect if they book with you and this will directly influence their decision to book.
It’s important that you engage in social listening, social selling and promoting UGC so that your customer experience reaches a higher standard that engenders trust, good will and a willingness to book or upgrade.
The more your hotel is seen, the more likely it is to be remembered and returned to when a customer is looking to book their stay, providing of course that the content generated is of a positive nature or has been appropriately responded to if otherwise.
Customers Trust Reviews More Than Your Website
Review culture is not a phenomenon constrained to one location, people across the world make use of and create reviews.
91% of 18-34-year olds trust online reviews as much as personal recommendations.
Source: BrightLocal, 2019
Because people are interested in knowing about a business before they deal with them, reviews provide an important source of information – no matter what industry you operate in, customer reviews play an influential role.
Out of all industries, it was found that Bars, Restaurants and Hotels receive the most reviews, with 98% of hotels having Google reviews.
When a customer is assessing your venue, they’re going to look at a lot of different information. When they visit your website and social media channels, they can find out the basics: where you are, what rooms you have available, how much the rooms cost, etc.
By making use of social media you can showcase your rooms and services, highlight your unique selling points (USPs) and more, but all this information is biased in the consumers eyes because it comes directly from the source – you.
Reviews offer a 3rd person perspective that is unrelated to the running of a venue. When customers look at reviews, they can discover what someone removed from the workings of the hotel has to say, whether it matches with the experiences and expectations that are being promised on official channels, and if it’s worth their time and money.
The Link Between Hotel Reputation Management and Revenue Management
Your online reputation directly affects your sales volume. When you effectively manage your hotel reputation you secure a competitive advantage, by failing to do so you can suffer serious losses. When you disregard negative reviews and comments that appear on the first page of search engines, the loss in revenue can be significantly more than it would cost to put proper reputation management into place to begin with.
When deciding between two similar properties, 79% of consumers are more likely to reserve a room at the hotel with a higher rating.
Source: Hotel Business, 2019
Measuring the impact of your reputation will help you:
- Determine what channels to use
- What channels and strategies are working for you
- Which areas need improvement
- Which areas are not working and need removing
It also gives you useful, usable information on your processes, situations and the structure within your business. When applied correctly, this analytical data will help you improve, highlight, change or market directly as appropriate.
To calculate your reputation investment, you need to look at:
- Customer Service Training
- Competitor Benchmarking
- Recording Metrics
When advertising your business or responding to comments on social channels, it’s essential that you conduct yourself to a set standard and always maintain your brand voice. Before you make any sort of post, you need to ask yourself:
- Does this information build our trust levels?
- Does it increase the number of people looking to us for advice?
- Does it provide value?
To measure your reputation here, you need to look at the number of comments and queries you’ve received in connection to your adverts and site traffic.
Your online reputation management needs to mitigate risk and enable opportunity, it needs to work for you so that you’re capable of dealing with the positives and negatives.
It is estimated that for every single person who leaves a negative review, there are 26 others that simply leave and never come back. If your hotel is receiving 10 negative reviews a month for example, that would be an additional 260 customers churned. But it doesn’t stop at that figure – each person who has had a negative experience will likely tell their friends, family and social peers, and their opinion of your brand will be negatively influenced as well.
Benchmarking Your Performance Against Competitors
Determining how well you’re succeeding in hospitality reputation management can be complex, there are of course your own figures and internal findings which are important, but this information doesn’t tell you whether you’re operating at an industry standard, or whether your competitors have a better strategy than you.
By benchmarking your performance against your competitors, you can determine the areas you’re excelling in, which areas need improvement and which areas (if any) require immediate action. It also allows you to see performance gaps and identify weaknesses in your competitors that you can use to your own benefit.
When looking to benchmark yourself against others, you need to look at your average review rating, review response rate and review frequencies. A study performed by Cornell University indicates that a larger volume of positive reviews correlates with increased bookings and the ability to raise rates.
Review Distribution by Channel
Knowing where your reviews are coming from and what channels you should be monitoring is an important part of hospitality reputation management. You need to spend your time and budget effectively, which means knowing where your customers are and how to discover what they’ve been saying.
Your individual status on the different channels will vary depending on where your customers like to share their content, but in general the distribution of reviews across the different channels is:
Average Response Rate by Hotel Class
In a recent study conducted by Revinate, it was discovered that different classes of hotel, from Economy to Luxury, had quite different response rates to reviews.
The global average review rating rate for hotels was found to be 4.2. Almost every class of hotel either hit this rate or was below it, with only the Deluxe and Luxury brands exceeding this, with a rate of 4.3 and 4.5 respectively.
However, when it came to responding to these reviews, it was discovered that Budget Hotels were responding to the greatest number (39.8% of reviews) and Economy locations the least (26.1%)
How to Manage Your Online Reputation
There are a number of different things you need to do to ensure that your reputation is not only protected and maintained but improved upon as well.
- Monitor and Maintain a Presence on Review Sites
Customers make their choices based on what they read.
Claim and fill in your profile on the major review sites so that you can easily respond and act in an official manner.
Take the time to report any reviews that are not from genuine customers to ensure you maintain your integrity and your rating is a clear reflection of your venue.
- Respond to Your Reviews
By responding to positive reviews you give your guests more reasons to be happy and you’re giving search engines twice as much content to index and show in search results.If a customer has left a neutral or negative review, there is the potential to change their opinion of your brand and their experience by engaging with them and attempting to solve their problem. Just make sure that if you promise to do something, it must be done – when people hear “lessons have been learned” they frequently assume it actually means “we’re ignoring you now”.Even if you can’t resolve an issue, or the negative reviewer has no intention of being assisted, by responding in a timely, courteous manner you are putting your side of the story across. When people come to read the reviews, they will see your response and it can temper their reaction.85% of individuals say a hotel’s thoughtful response to an online review improves their impression of it.
Source: SiteMinder, 2019
- Reply as Soon as Possible
Time is of the essence when it comes to responding – especially if you’ve got an irate customer on your hands. The longer you leave a response the more likely it is that their bad opinion of you has set, and they’ll have told all their friends, family and peers about it.When you show that you care about your customers and their experience, it can elevate a negative to a positive and in some cases even create a Brand Ambassador, who’ll be so impressed by your commitment to the customer experience that they recommend you to others.
- Ask Your Guests to Leave Reviews
80% of customers who get asked to leave a review will do so
22% of people who write an online review will do so without being askedTo maximise your review offerings it’s important that you ask your customers to give you feedback. The more content you have available, the more search engines can index (improving your SEO) and the more options you give for your customers when they’re doing their research.
- Create Branded Hashtags and Encourage Tagging
Most social media channels allow users to tag other individuals and brands, by doing this you are made aware of the content and can respond appropriately.
The same principle applies with hashtags, as well as giving you a function to see what people are saying and monitor how many people are engaging, it provides your customer with another easy point of reference and remembrance that they can come back to when they’re making their own purchasing decisions.
- Make Use of Social Listening
Setting up channels to monitor use of your brand name, hotel name, location and any branded hashtags will help you understand what customers are saying about you. It also allows you to respond to comments where the user has not necessarily tagged your official account and provide another level of superior customer experience.Social Listening also allows you to monitor sentiment – if there is a problem or potential scandal brewing, you may have the opportunity to learn about it before it hits a wider audience and put your Crisis Management strategies into place, minimising the impact and protecting your reputation.
Is It Worth Investing in a Professional Hotel Reputation Management Company?
For most hotels, finding the time to manage digital channels and online customer expectations is difficult. There are a lot of different areas which need consideration, and Reputation Management informs marketing, advertising, strategies and the development of the business. If there is a disconnect between these areas, then the full usefulness and function cannot be achieved.
When it comes to doing Reputation Management in-house, it’s important to ask yourself:
- Do you have the time to dedicate to monitoring, managing and maintain the channels on a daily basis?
- Do your team have the skills, up-to-date tools and industry knowledge to know what changes are coming in on social media or with search engines and review sites, and can they adapt quickly enough to provide a seamless service?
- Have you purchased the licenses required to operate the different tools and platforms you need to be able to accurately collect vital analytical data and manage the day to day functions of the strategy?
For many it is not cost effective to create an in-house marketing team, between the overheads, staffing costs, licenses, and other associated outgoings, and the need for constant training and industry awareness. It is far more effective to hire an agency who already have access to the tools they need and are able to perform their duties without taking personnel away from the operation of the hotel.
Instead of having to train individual staff members from scratch, an agency operative already knows the hospitality sector, its trends and customer expectations.
The right agency will work with you to determine your tone of voice, visions and values – and not only protect and maintain your reputation but will help you grow and expand as well.
why you need hotel reputation management
Your reputation and your bottom line are firmly linked – the better your reputation, the more people you’ll attract and the more bookings you’ll make.
700 million people will be booking their hotel rooms online by 2023.
Source: Condor Ferries, 2019
Hotel reputation management isn’t an optional extra, it’s an essential and you must have a strategy with clearly defined processes, goals, benchmarks and measurable analytics to create your own.
As more people turn to online booking and review sites, social media and peers for advice on booking, you absolutely have to take ownership of your online presence and respond to comments, questions and reviews with your brand voice, showcasing your values and encouraging customers to trust that you are the location for them.