One General Managers Story: How a High Trip Advisor Ranking Creates a Cycle of Success for Hoteliers
August 1, 2013 5:06pm
by Glenn Eleiter, B.Comm.
When I started my career, opening a behemoth resort in Whistler, BC, we would receive guest feedback. It came in the form of Guest Comment Cards. After a guest checked out of the property, some lucky soul in the Executive Office was tasked with stuffing a Comment Card into an envelope; slapping a stamp on it and sending it out in the post. Hundreds would be sent out. A few would be returned.
The card would then begin a circumnavigation around the hotel. From the GM office to the number two. Then to the directors of the property and eventually, maybe a month after it was received, it would make its way down to the lowly Department Head - people like myself. There would be various scrawls, scratches, coffee stains and sometimes my name written on it in with a bright red marker. Glenn!!!! Please investigate!! A red arrow would lead me to a circled comment under the heading of the restaurant I managed. The guest commented there was, "No one at the door when I arrived for breakfast at 7:45am on Thursday, December 12th." I need to find out why and respond back up the chain. Great. No problem. Except now it's January.
I work as a GM now. We receive guest comments. It's a little different though. Guest comments and feedback are instantaneous. And you are not the only one reading them.
I remember receiving an email from Trip Advisor stating that my hotel review listing on TA had received 2,500 page views the previous week. I called my Business Listing's manager, "You mean last MONTH, right, not just last WEEK?" No, just one week. 2,500 views. Holy. Who's reading these reviews? Who's writing them? Why?
I became obsessed with Trip Advisor reviews. So obsessed that I would check my smart phone 3 or 4 times a night. Sleeping patterns were wrecked. A good review and I was in heaven. A poor review and I would toss and turn, reviewing in my mind the steps I would take the next morning to rectify. I studied and analyzed each review carefully. I studied my competitors' reviews. Guests were posting reviews on Trip Advisor while they checked-in - using the mobile app, "Just arrived…so far, so good!" This is immediate feedback. Immediate validation. Immediate dread. Either way, this is powerful. No other tool plays such an influential role in the travelers' decision making process.
This is the new era of guest feedback and much has been written on the topic. But, have all hoteliers really accepted this new order? I don't see guests picking up the latest copy of Conde Naste to select a hotel property, but I do see them in the business center pouring over the latest reviews of the next property they are visiting. What's more powerful?
Is your property rated as a 4-star or 5-star property? Bragging about it on your site? Forget it. Rating systems are worthless in this new age. User-generated social media platforms such as Trip Advisor will decide the fate of your property. Post pictures on your web site that are photo-shopped, have an orchid placed strictly for the photo shoot or only show the five rooms you recently renovated? Your property will be persecuted on-line. There cannot be a single disconnect between the content on your web site and what the guest experiences. And no detail of product or element of service is too small for comment or dissection. Everything is on the table.
By the time many of us have had our first cup of coffee in the morning, hundreds of your potential guests may have already read about your latest service blunder.
But, by paying close attention to reviews, my previous hotel moved from the #22 position for the city it resided in, to the #1 position for all of Canada - and held it for several years. We would receive over 25,000 page views on TA per month as we moved closer to the number 1 position. As we climbed up the TA ranks, so did occupancy, rate, RevPar, employee pride & owner satisfaction.
This also meant that our marketing budget could be drastically reduced. Let's say, to zero. We did not need to do a thing. The guest did it all for us.
Wandering the corridors of the hotel and chatting with guests in the breakfast room and lobby, I would casually ask, "Are you enjoying your visit to Vancouver? May I ask how you found us?" Inevitably, the guest would say they read about us on Trip Advisor. Whether they were from Forssa, Finland or a town outside Lincoln, Nebraska.
Trip Advisor, when managed and leveraged properly, creates what I refer to as a 'Cycle of Success'. The staff at my previous property became just as obsessed as I. They wanted their name in lights. And they got it! They were motivated. They were engaged. Reviews often mentioned specific employees by name. And no one wanted to drop the ball. No staff member wanted to be responsible for the hotel ranking dropping from the coveted #1 to the #2 position. So they went over the top. Using their empowerment and an arsenal of weapons at their disposal to prevent or solve challenges. Ownership was proud and happy to chip in for new planters out front or other non-budgeted items if it meant staying #1. Everyone was on board. Employees were proud and enthusiastic. Owners were delighted. Even guests wanted to be a part of the success, the mystique. Number 1 in Canada on Trip Advisor? Ooooooh! What are they doing?!
Leverage Trip Advisor. Take it seriously. The benefits are enormous.
Suffering from a low comp set Rev Par ranking? Want to know why? Read your reviews. Then read your competitors reviews. All you need to know is right there.
Here are some key points to remember about Trip Advisor and creating a Cycle of Success.
Trip Advisor is a powerful tool. No other user generated social media platform has the power or will ever come close to influencing a potential hotel guest in the manner TA does. Not with over 100 million reviews. Not Yelp! Not Google places. Not Expedia reviews. Nothing.
Embrace this new world and create your own Cycle of Success.
Contact: Glenn Eleiter
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