By Jessica Kaiser
Good, bad, and unusual, managing your online reviews can seem daunting, but with the right knowledge of what customers and critics online respond to, it doesn’t have to be. Getting reviews by encouraging customers to share their experiences has some clear-cut benefits. If someone had a positive experience and shares it online, your brand gets a public-facing declaration of a content customer. There are also some other benefits that may even seem like a negative at first glance, such as your hotel receiving a bad online review (more on this below!). From Facebook to TripAdvisor –anywhere your organization can receive reviews – you should be encouraging guests to share the most memorable moments from their visit.
Ratings and Written Reviews
According to a TripAdvisor survey, dangerously close to 100% of users consider reading reviews important when planning a trip or booking an event. So, if you need more encouragement to ask visitors early and often for online reviews, there you go!
A few factors contribute to ranking on review forums (in no particular order):
- Your satisfaction score: With Google reviews it’s a 5-star rating and with TripAdvisor it’s a 5-circle rating, but no matter the geometric form it comes in, it is crucial.
- The quantity of customer reviews on the forums that matter most to your customers.
- Recency of reviews: Maintaining efforts to accumulate reviews is important, as the older a review is, the less helpful it is to you.
Take our advice: ask people to rate and review their visit. The effort will have a big impact on getting those who depend highly on online reviews into your hotel or venue.
Why You Shouldn’t Ignore Bad Reviews
You’re probably thinking, “why would I want a bad review?!” We’re not suggesting you seek out negative reviews, but don’t shy away from them either! You must respond to negative reviews, not just ignore or delete them. In fact, some online directories like Google and Yelp have strict policies on what you can and cannot remove from your profile anyway. Once you get over the initial sting, getting a negative review can even be an opportunity to improve your business, for a few important reasons:
- Bad reviews help identify systemic weaknesses that you can mend with additional training for your team, new personnel, or some other solution.
- A negative review can enable you to repair a customer relationship – and possibly even win back a return visitor who might have never returned if you hadn’t responded with a solution to their concern. More often than not, an unhappy customer will return if an issue is resolved to their liking.
- You can’t fool consumers, so don’t try. A surprising 52% of consumers say that some negative reviews increase their trust with a brand. Beyond that, many platform algorithms will penalize you for deleting unflattering reviews. No resort or event venue is going to delight every single customer, and those reading your reviews know that.
How to Ask for A Review
Now that you know the importance of both a positive and negative review, the natural next question is, “how do we ask for reviews without making people feel like we’re pestering them?” There are so many simple ways to ask for a review. The golden rule is to make it easy for people. Don’t make someone work for it because that is a sure-fire way to make sure they won’t bother. It’s also important to know that not everyone is going to review you on every forum – and that’s okay.
Link to all your review forum profiles – your Google My Business, Yelp, TripAdvisor, Facebook, etc. Basically, link it if you’ve got it. Feature the links prominently in your follow-up email after a stay or an event and have a direct call-to-action prompting reviews. Put them on your website and in your social media profiles. This is not a scavenger hunt – your links should be easy to find. You could always take the old-fashioned route too, for example, asking for a review while checking out a guest or breaking down an event. When asking someone for a review in person, you probably want to provide some physical collateral that points them exactly where their review should go, as a reminder and a way to make their lives easier. For instance, consider providing a business card that lists the forums on which customers may review your business.
Who’s Doing It Well
While there are plenty of hotels that struggle with managing online reviews, there are some that exemplify all the customer review best practices. No one bats 1,000, but these hotels have succeeded in attracting customer reviews and do a good job of handling the influx of reviews they receive.
- Sofitel Chicago Magnificent Mile: Part of Sofitel’s success in Chicago’s competitive landscape of fine hotels can certainly be attributed to customer service – including their attention to customer reviews. A scan of their customer reviews on a variety of platforms paints a picture of exemplary responsiveness, ability to address concerns, and gracious appreciation for positive feedback. In one customer review response, Sofitel’s general manager even took the time to make a restaurant recommendation for a future visit to Chicago, which illustrates that the hotel takes the time and attention to individually respond to customer reviews, rather than relying on an automated response system.
- The Verb Hotel: As a boutique hotel, sans a high-powered marketing outfit, The Verb does a great job of responding to every single review. It appears that the hotel also gets in touch privately with customers who express concerns, as evidenced by one guest who updated their review shortly after it was posted to commend The Verb Hotel for immediately rectifying their issue, thus, enabling the guest to fully enjoy the remainder of their stay.