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Toss That Script Aside: Tips for Generating Positive Hotel Reviews

 
By Daniel Edward Craig, July 7, 2010

So your hotel went through a rough patch Ė a bad hire, a small fire, an apoplectic bride with singed hair and a scorched wedding dress. Thatís all behind you now, but thereís a problem. A spate of nasty reviews has toppled your ranking on TripAdvisorís Popularity Index to just below a by-the-hour motel on the outskirts of town. Meanwhile, your closest competitor has soared to the top, buoyed by a series of glowing (and suspect) reviews. Itís like high school all over again. 

What can you do? Well, you can wait for guests you didnít set on fire to post positive reviews, pushing the incriminating ones down the list. But that might take a while, and in the meantime, those bad reviews are frightening travelers away like a foul odor in your front lobby. 

Sometimes our guests need a little nudge to remind them to tell the world how fabulous we are. To that end, here are some tips for generating positive reviews.

Be remarkable. In the age of social media, remarkable means worth remarking about. Set realistic expectations of your property and empower employees to exceed them in creative and memorable ways. Itís the little details guests remember: the birthday cupcakes sent by the front desk; the extra bath amenities to replace the stash in the guestís suitcase; the emergency tracheotomy performed by the concierge. Independent boutique hotels rank high on review sites because they provide unscripted, intuitive service. Toss that script aside and be spontaneous. 

Donít be shy. Recently, the Roger Smith Hotel in New York reported in the Wall Street Journal that its TripAdvisor ranking has jumped 100 places since last year, in part because front desk staff now mention TripAdvisor at checkout. Encourage happy guests to write reviews by handing them a card with a link to review sites or placing one in their room. Or send a text message or email a few minutes after departure, while theyíre still basking in the afterglow of their stay and have extra time during travel. But donít overdo it; badgering, groveling and holding guests at gunpoint may have the opposite effect. 

Be scrupulous. After resigning from a hotel a few years ago, I asked my manager for a reference letter, and he told me to write the letter and he would sign it. No argument there. If only hotels could do the same on behalf of guests. Problem is, artificially stacking the deck may set expectations your property canít meet, leading to more bad reviews. Moreover, any attempt to game the system, like offering incentives and rewards in exchange for reviews, jeopardizes the integrity and spirit of social media. You risk penalties from review sites and a backlash from travelers. Better to channel that devious thinking toward fine-tuning the guest experience. 

Monitor and engage. TripAdvisor is the largest travel review site, but far from the only place travelers are talking about your hotel. You might be missing out on business from online travel agencies like Expedia and Travelocity because of low rankings and lackluster reviews. Strive for consistency in reputation on all platforms. Use a social media monitoring tool to track and consolidate mentions across the web and compare performance with competitors. By interacting with guests before, during, and after their stay via sites like Facebook, Twitter and Foursquare, youíll encourage them to spread the word.

Recognize and reward. As a front desk agent I used to live in constant fear that every difficult guest I encountered was a silent shopper who would recommend I be fired. In the age of social media, everyoneís a critic and should be treated accordingly. Fear can be a strong motivator, but a carrot is more effective than a stick. Encourage staff to go that extra mile by sharing feedback throughout the hotel and recognizing and rewarding individuals and departments for high ratings and favorable mentions. 

Convert upset guests into advocates. Travelers tend to judge hotels less on problems that occur than on how well theyíre handled. Anyone who uses social media to voice displeasure is also likely to be vocal when an issue is expertly handled. Empower your employees to resolve complaints with ingenuity and flair. Check in with guests at various touch points during their stay to catch issues in real-time, and never let a guest leave dissatisfied. Who knows, with proper handling that apoplectic bride might have become your hotelís best advocate. 

Comments or more tips to share? Post them at www.blog.danieledwardcraig.com or email me at dec@danieledwardcraig.com


About Daniel Edward Craig.  The former vice president and general manager of OPUS Hotels, Daniel Edward Craig is a hotel consultant and the author of the hotel-based Five-Star Mystery Series. Email: dec@danieledwardcraig.com. Twitter: dcraig. Website: www.danieledwardcraig.com.
 

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Contact: 

Daniel Edward Craig
dec@danieledwardcraig.com
 

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Also See: Tips for Managing Online Hotel Reviews: An Interview With TripAdvisor / Daniel Craig / March 2010
Does Social Media Make Your Head Hurt? Here Are a Few Helpful Resources for Hotels / Daniel Craig / January 2010
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