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Your Guests are Working for You Online

The Fundamentals of Effective Online Reputation Management Revisited

By Willem van Rossem
July 2010

The proliferation of web 2.0 or user generates content (UGC) websites like Trip Advisor, Facebook, Twitter, YouTube etc. have empowered your guests to share their opinion about your hotel at the speed of thought and in front of millions of prospective guests. Travel review websites and social media platforms are also becoming more credible sources of research for potential guests. It’s not only your guests who are sharing their opinion online. Travel bloggers and self-proclaimed travel experts are writing about your hotel without you even knowing about it. Travelers trust other travelers. Online reviews are immediate, in real time and considered to be truthful.

According to the OTX study done on behalf of Google, 41% of people surveyed make leisure travel plans and 50% make business travel plans according to the reviews they read. Netizens also consult friends on Facebook and Twitter before making reservations.  The overall rating of your hotel in the various review sites and reservation portals has a direct impact on your sales. According to Expedia, a high guest satisfaction rating doubles the conversion rate of guest inquiries.

Here’s a checklist of how you need to listen in on all that’s being written about your hotel online and how to react to it. This is what online reputation management (ORM) is all about and it will make or break your hotel’s presence on the web. This will directly impact sales and guest loyalty.
  • Monitor: It is imperative to monitor the web to know what’s being said about your hotel, as quickly as possible. With advanced search tools and specialist ORM companies,  this is possible. Just as your guests have been empowered to broadcast their opinion online, you have also got the capability to listen in to what they are saying. Constant monitoring of the entire web including websites, blogs, video & photo sharing sites and social media platforms is required.
  • Analyze: The online mentions which are found while monitoring the web must be analyzed according to pre-defined criterion which makes it possible to derive the hotels online reputation status. The mentions must be classified according to key parameters such as sentiment, demographics of the guest, area of operations (Rooms, F&B etc.), reputation of the source website etc.
  • Act: Take your guest feedback seriously and take action. If you get consistently comments on bad coffee, you want to consider changing brands. If your front desk staff is complemented various times, show the reviews to your team and thank them for a job well done. It´s a great instrument for employee recognition. Your guest might be giving you great opportunities to increase sales with extra services, menu features etc. And use positive guest feedback as a marketing piece, by putting it on your website and other promotional literature.
  • Respond: Now that you have listened, analyzed what has been said about your hotel on the web, it’s time to take set things right. A response strategy is critical to managing your reputation online. According to Trip Advisor 85% hotels do not have a review response strategy in place. Review sites and social media sites have given your guests an online megaphone to air their feedback about your hotel. If you don’t engage and respond, it a matter of time before your business starts taking a nose dive. However, responding for the sake of responding is not effective. There needs to be a clear cut response strategy which takes into account what should be responded to, by whom and in what manner. Your response shows that you are proactive about managing your online reputation and strive to answer guest grievances even when they are not put directly to you. It shows you care about your guests. The responses also pose as influencers for future visitors who would have otherwise been influenced solely by the guest or media review/opinion. Responding to guest concerns puts your hotel in a favorable light. And it improves the likelihood for guests to return and to recommend by 20%, according to a study of MetroMix. Specialist ORM agencies can help hotels in defining their response strategy and also managing it on their behalf. However, critical responses to negative reviews and feedback must come directly from the hotel staff. Many a times we come across inaccurate media reviews and articles which need to be promptly responded to as they inadvertently spread wrong information to a high quality audience. And most importantly, these new technologies allow you to engage with your guests in a very personal way.
Online reputation management is a great instrument for you to better understand your guest and their needs and perceptions. It also allows you to engage and connect with them in new and exciting ways. Online reviews form a vast source of market research and mystery guest reports that you can use freely to improve your services, guest satisfaction and sales. Your guests are working for you online. Take advantage of it.  However, it makes your hotel, it´s service level and your actions and responses more transparent to current and potential guests. With the recent World Cup Soccer in mind, the ball is in your court now. It´s up to you to make the winning goal that makes both guests and the hotel true winners.


About the author:
Willem van Rossem is Managing Director of GUESTCONNECTION, a consulting company dedicated to boosting service excellence and online reputation for the hospitality industry.  Solutions provided include guest generated content analysis, SEO, social media engagement strategies, training and on-site consulting. With over ten years of international experience in hotel operations with Disney and Leading Hotels of the World, training, quality assurance and consulting, Mr. van Rossem has become a specialist in service excellence,  guest loyalty and employee performance.   If you would like to optimize your hotel operations and income, please contact Willem at willem.vanrossem@guest-connection.com.
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Contact:

Willem van Rossem
GUESTCONNECTION
E-mail: willem.vanrossem@guest-connection.com
Website: www.guest-connection.com
Telephone: (+34) 647 67 8362
Skype: willem.vanrossem

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