Hotel Online  Special Report

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Online Hotel Rating Sites Driving Anxiety into
the Hearts of Many Hotel Managers

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By: Neil Salerno – December 2005

Just about every hotel franchise has some sort of guest service rating system in place to collect and measure guest service comments. For years, hotels have relied on the review of guest comments to improve service and monitor the quality of their facilities and services. 

Handling complaints has traditionally been a one-to-one communication directly with the guest making the complaint. The complaint, or sometimes compliment, is usually answered with a phone call, letter, or both. Smart general managers have a good reliable system to handle service issues. After all, for many managers, there are bonuses tied into getting good guest service scores. 

Compromises and settlements are often negotiated with the guest to the ultimate goal of retaining them as customers and to, hopefully, discourage them from sharing their bad experience with friends and family. You’ve heard it before; unsatisfied guests will tell at least seven others about their bad experience. Settling complaints, to retain customers, is an important part of the service industry.  

Now, here comes the bad news; online rating sites are growing in popularity. Gone is privacy; complaints are now published for the world population to read and read again. Once posted, they are rarely deleted or altered. Sins of the past remain sins of the present with no compromises, no dialogue, and no forgiveness. 

On these sites, disgruntled guests are free to use their own words to describe the horror of their stay; totally free to alter the facts without comment, explanation, or remedy from the hotel. Let’s face it folks, even near-perfect hotel operations stumble from time-to-time. Online travel rating sites are creating distance between hotels and their customers. 

For many years, we did our best to encourage guests to complain to the hotel directly, so hotel managers could settle any service or facility issues before action went further. As more and more people discover the wonders of the Internet, we will need a completely new strategy to deal with online travel rating sites. 

I don’t know of any online rating sites that currently offer hotels the ability to provide explanation or apology or settlement to retain customers posting on these sites. If there are, please let me know; they need to be complimented. 

There’s abuse on some of these sites already. Many hotels have discovered that these sites are a pretty good way to get complimentary remarks from guests; the hotels anonymously write and post compliments to themselves. I know that some of these sites are working feverishly to create systems to prevent fake or unauthorized ratings, but it will be difficult, indeed, to prevent abuse on either side; good and bad. 

Now don’t get me wrong, I believe online travel rating sites are a natural evolution created by the Internet’s openness and anonymity. As the popularity of rating sites increases, they are a natural supplement for the advice from “travel professionals” when travelers want recommendations and more insight into hotel information, before they book. Good hotel operations should welcome the ability of guests to post compliments, but we need a system to prevent abuse. 

An angry, Internet savvy, guest, could bury a hotel with reams of ugly comments with no way for the hotel to respond. One remedy could provide for travel rating sites to send a copy of the posted comment, with contact information, to the hotel involved. This way the hotel could react and privately respond to the comments made; good and bad. Sites could still post limited source information, but with a notation that the comments and contact information will be forwarded to the hotel involved. 

Good comments on travel rating sites can obviously boost a hotel’s popularity, but I haven’t seen any data reflecting how consumers deal with ratings on these sites. Are they a strong part of the decision-making process? If they aren’t at present, I believe they will be; it’s part of the information revolution created by the Internet. 

Internet travel rating sites, if managed by responsible people, could be a great benefit to travelers and hotels alike. Their primary responsibility is to create systems to eliminate anonymous comments. Hotels deserve an opportunity to research compliments and complaints. Anonymous postings invite abuse. 

I know this will not sit well with rating sites because anonymous postings will always draw more ratings; that’s part of the lure of the Internet. But, if the purpose of these sites is to create better travel experiences by providing travelers with good reliable information, making users register, to post a comment, is essential. 

This is a serious business, for serious business people. Guests are entitled to do and say what they feel; smart hoteliers learn from complaints and compliments. But, let’s make sure it’s done responsibly. When we stumble, just as when we provide a good travel experience, guests deserve more than simply a way to vent; they deserve a resolution. 

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Contact:

Neil Salerno, C.H.M.E., C.H.A.
The Hotel Marketing Coach
www.hotelmarketingcoach.com
NeilS@hotelmarketingcoach.com
607/331-3626

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Also See: Hotel Web Site Priorities –Some Do’s, Don’ts; Why the Heck Did You Do That? / Neil Salerno / November 2005
The Best Hotel Sales Director I Ever Met; What Do The Good Ones Have in Common? / Neil Salerno / November 2005
The Best Hotel General Manager I Ever Met / Neil Salerno / October 2005
What’s your eMarketing Proficiency? Using Electronic Marketing Tools / Neil Salerno / October 2005
When Times Get Tough…Get Tougher! Sell Harder Before You Cave-in on Rates / Neil Salerno / September 2005
The Web Site Conundrum…Are You Winning the Electronic Marketing Game? / Neil Salerno / August 2005
Lions and Tigers and Bears…Oh My; The Hotel Yellow Brick Road is Less Scary than It Used to Be / Neil Salerno / August 2005
Running Dry on Good Hotel Ideas? It’s not What You Know - It’s Who You Know / Neil Salerno / July 2005
Revenue Grabbing Tips for Independent Hotels; Start Thinking Like the Chains / Neil Salerno / July 2005
Hotel Web Basics That Really Work…Content is King / Neil Salerno / July 2005
Hotel Supplier Sites versus Online Travel Agents; The War Chronicles / Neil Salerno / June 2005
New Hotel Technology Surround Us; Yet Face-to-face Selling is Still Most Productive / Neil Salerno / June 2005
The Internet…The Great Equalizer For Independent Hotels / Neil Salerno / June 2005
Third-Party Booking Sites Still Dominate Internet Sales;  Why Do So Many Consider this Bad? / Neil Salerno / April 2005
Now That Online Hotel Booking Is Here to Stay, New Challenges Emerge / Neil Salerno / April 2005
Independent Boutique Hotels Can Compete With their Big Box Neighbors / Neil Salerno / April 2005
Who Are Your Most Important Guests? We’ve Come a Long Way, Baby! / Neil Salerno / March 2005
New Consumer Hotel Booking Preferences - They Love the Internet…Now What? / Neil Salerno / March 2005
Who Would Have Thought - Today's Hotel Marketing Necessity Is Also its Best Value / March 2005
Time For a Hotel Web Site “Make-Over”? Methods for Building a Successful Web Site Change / Neil Salerno / March 2005
Create Impact by Developing a Link Strategy For Your Hotel Web Site / Neil Salerno / February 2005
Steps to Develop Your Hotel's Presence on the Web / Neil Salerno / February 2005
Five Hotel Internet Marketing Myths - Busted!/ Neil Salerno / January 2005
How Does Your Hotel Web Site Measure-Up? 2005 Will Be the Internet’s Most Productive Year so Far / Neil Salerno / January 2005
Are You Being Out-Hustled By Your Competition? How to Dominate Your Hotel's Market Set / Neil Salerno / December 2004
Why Are Some Hotel Companies Plagued By Management Turnover? Is This Systematic of Poor Performance? / Neil Salerno / December 2004
Basic Components of a Hotel Website: Current Weather, Flash Animation, and Virtual Tours?? Plain Talk About Internet Sales / Neil Salerno / February 2004
Don’t Compromise Your Goals In 2004; Five New Year’s Resolutions You Will Want To Keep / Neil Salerno / January 2004
No More Whining About Third-Party Suppliers; You Control Your Own Fate On The Net / Neil Salerno / December 2003
Six 'Maxi’s' Guaranteed To Boost Hotel Sales / Neil Salerno / November 2003
It’s Time To Take Back Control Of Rates & Rooms - But Is The Enemy...Us? / Neil Salerno / November 2003
Booking Engines Are Like A Box of Chocolates...You Never Know What You’re Gonna Get! / Neil Salerno / October 2003
Hotel Web Site & Search Engine Optimization; Always A Work In Progress / Neil L. Salerno / October 2003
Hotel Budgets and Marketing Plans; Oh No, Is It That Time Again? / Neil L. Salerno / September 2003
Increasing Hotel Internet Sales Is Not Rocket Science...And It Doesn’t Have To Be Costly Either / Neil L. Salerno / September 2003
Are You Treating Third Party eWholesalers As Competititon Or a Valuable Marketing Partner? / Neil L. Salerno / August 2003
How Often Have You Heard, 'I could have gotten a better rate but the client saw our rates on the Internet' ? It’s Time To Get Back To Selling Location, Facilities, and Services / Neil L. Salerno / August 2003
Before You Begin that Marketing Plan Challenge Your Sales Team; Expect More and Get More / Neil L. Salerno / July 2003
Jump Up and Shout Yes - Delivering Best Online Customer Experience, Nice Job Vividence! / Neil L. Salerno / July 2003
Is The Internet Delivering On Its Promise? Well, It Depends on How you Look at It / Neil L. Salerno / June 2003
Coaching and Mentoring, Sometimes A New Paradigm Can Go A Long Way / Neil L. Salerno / June 2003
Sales Training Works Well, But Sales Mentoring Makes It More Effective; Mentoring Lasts a Lifetime / Neil L. Salerno / May 2003
Is It Time For A Sales Tune-up? How Healthy Was Your Last Forecast? / Neil L. Salerno / May 2003
Hotel Web Sites; Want it Creative or Effective? / Neil L. Salerno / May 2003
If You Always Do What You Have Always Done.... You’ll Always Get What You Always Got! Hotelier’s Mantra... Thinking Outside The Box / Neil L. Salerno / April 2003
Good Sales Planning - The Basics Still Work / Neil L. Salerno / April 2003


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