By Larry and Adam Mogelonsky
The long tail of the pandemic is what it is. Still in the throes of this ‘Great Reset’ as we slide in 2022, travelers’ booking behaviors are also resetting. And as guests change the ways in which they find accommodations, you can get ahead by focusing on this one key task.
Specifically, as exemplified by the latest omicron variant, fears of the virus are still very much top of mind among large swaths of the world. People want to travel but brand trust is paramount. According to the linked study, this has led to hotel reviews now being considered as the third most important booking driver after location and price. Hence, a good project to handle early in 2022 would be to develop a strong process, as supported by automation and monitoring technologies, to curate better reviews and improve your scores on third-party websites so that guests are more inclined to choose you over one of your competitors.
Combined with the labor shortages, what’s needed is speed – both in responses as well as in identifying disgruntled guests so that you can recover before any umbrage goes online. To this end, we’re bullish on the deployment of hotel review platforms that can work to drive fresh, positive reviews so that other guests can see that you are taking service seriously in the post-pandemic era. To learn about the latest and greatest, we interviewed Michael Kessler, CEO of ReviewPro, to demo five key tools that these platforms have that can help you optimize your hotel’s third-party reviews.
1. All in one platform. A property that’s short-staffed also means that no one has time to learn and regularly check a slew of different software. Teams have to be uber-time-efficient, with the ability to see all reviews as well as quickly execute follow-up actions from one central hub.
2. Guest survey integrations. The best way to improve a hotel’s online reputation is to first look at guest satisfaction scores. For this, having an automated system to help with error recovery via in-stay surveys and to generate analytical reports from post-stay surveys will respectively prevent negative reviews from reaching third-party websites and give you actionable insights on how to improve the product in a way that’s meaningful to the guest.
3. Improved third-party reviews. Besides the in-house automation, the next step is to build APIs to the hotel’s outward-facing review sites, namely TripAdvisor and the OTAs. First and foremost, this aids in catching negative reviews and responding to those criticisms (which guests also evaluate when booking). An important second is the data accumulation whereby an API feeds more information back to the hotel for analysis and, similar to GSS, actionable insights to improve the guest experience and help move the property up the online rankings.
4. Chatbots. Again, the labor shortage means that teams are overloaded with tasks, and yet at the same time customers want answers immediately lest they opt for the competitor that does in fact respond right away. Having some machine-learning bots to reply to repetitive questions in the nick of time ensures that you don’t suffer from a mass of abandoned inquiries. One case study Kessler cited showed that, for a chain of over 800 hotels, 91% of emails and messages constituted the same 18 questions, while at the same time over 50% of prearrival and in-stay requests on OTA platforms went unanswered, presenting a clear opportunity for automation to help with guest satisfaction.
5. Social media (SM) and text (SMS) integrations. Millennials and Gen Z prefer communicating via these channels over phone or email. While your team may be trained and better suited for the latter, you nevertheless have to meet the customers where they want. This applies to reservation inquiries (such as through Instagram’s DM), but it also means integrating SM and SMS so that your team can reply faster and from that aggregated platform in order to track conversations and SM reviews.
“While the pandemic continues to hamper global travel, we are hopeful for a ‘great reopening’ in 2022,” noted Kessler. “Guests tend to prioritize recent reviews, and this is especially more so since the pandemic; they need to be reassured as things are changing weekly. For example, how the property has responded to the pandemic in terms of health and safety and whether or not the current reality at the hotel lives up to what’s stated on the website. Now is the time for hotels to set themselves up to get as many fresh, and good, reviews.”
Hotel reviews are but one aspect of a successful property. Nevertheless, outlets like TripAdvisor can be a make or break for some brands, so start looking at how you can deploy technology to solve any issues related to reviews while also freeing up your team’s time to focus on other matters.
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Editor’s note: To discuss business challenges or speaking engagements please contact Larry or Adam directly.