A company’s success has always depended on its reputation. And when it comes to reputation, word of mouth has always been the coin of the realm. But in the digital age, word of mouth is virtual. This presents hotels and other businesses in the service industry with both a problem and a solution.
Winds of Change
The problem is that customer reviews circulate instantly and pile up in mind-boggling quantities. This makes it challenging for the brands being reviewed to get out in front of the tidal wave of mixed opinions about their services.
But the very same tools that make it easy for customers to get the word out about your brand make it possible for you to shape the conversation in ways that boost your visibility and value.
Here are some quick and dirty tips for taking the bull by the horns.
Virtually all industries these days are impacted by web chatter, and therefore need to take steps to manage their reputation. This is especially true of the hospitality industry.
Hospitality customers make their views about brands and properties known across a wide range of review sites like Yelp and TripAdvisor, search engines, and social channels.
TripAdvisor reports that more than 9 in 10 hotel customers use online reviews in making their selection, and over half of those they surveyed would not stay in a hotel for which there are no online user reviews. Crucially, TripAdvisor also finds that travelers rank reviews second only to price in the list of factors that affect their decision about where to stay.
As for social platforms, every month over 8 in 10 customers discover more new brands and services via social channels than from other sources.
And research into Google search activity shows that this activity has a measurable impact on revenue. Nearly 7 in 10 customers report that half or more of their local searches result in a visit to a business. And sales result from at least half of the searches done by most customers.
Manage Your Reputation
Given this data, there’s little doubt that online reviews can powerfully drive business success. Here are a few tips for managing the online reputation of your hotel.
Own the optics. Your business probably already has a listing on review sites like Yelp or TripAdvisor. That’s a key promotional resource you can manage to your advantage, but you’ve got to take ownership of it first.
Claim your listing and exercise more control over the narrative. Stock the page with useful information to help drive web traffic to your site and social pages.
Tighten up the image. Make sure the photos of your property that travelers are seeing are high-quality and present your facilities and services in the best possible light.
And remember that the mere fact of having any photos at all improves your chances of receiving booking inquiries by a whopping 225%.
Gather data. It pays to use management tools like the Net Promoter Score and System (NPS) to measure customer loyalty and satisfaction. A simple survey question that asks a customer to rate their satisfaction and likelihood of recommending your hotel can help you take the temperature.
Folks who give you high marks can be asked to provide a review and those who express dissatisfaction can be asked to elaborate on their concerns. Following up in this way can itself help boost trust and promote your reputation for caring about how well you’re doing.
Be responsive. Perhaps the most direct and impactful way to demonstrate that your business cares about how well it’s doing is to reach out where folks gather online and do precisely that. That means following-up and engaging around feedback shared by customers on social platforms and review sites.
Yet another TripAdvisor study shows a clear connection between responsiveness and business performance, with a business’s overall ratings improving in proportion to its rate of response to reviews and online user feedback.
Hotel reputation management is no longer a “nice to have,” but a “need to have.” Once a helpful accessory to traditional advertising, it’s now a key ingredient in any competitive hotel’s successful revenue strategy. “Power to the people” is today’s marketing mantra. Armed with some of the facts and tips we’ve reviewed here, your hotel can ally with the people you rely upon and launch a win-win campaign.