On line reviews of hotels are always subjective. It pertains to that old premise, “beauty is in the eye of the beholder”. Many of you are of the mindset that these reviews don’t really influence guests and the generic responses you are making (IF YOU ARE EVEN MAKING THEM) do nothing to put dollars in the bank. You are saying that you can make better use of your time doing something else. I beg to differ.
In today’s world of technology, it is relatively simple, fast and efficient to respond to reviews. You no longer have to check your sites daily to see reviews. You don’t have to wait for your corporate office to call or email you and say, “did you see the review?” First of all – the technology built into these sites will “tickle” you when a review is posted and give you, with one click of the mouse, an opportunity to go right to the review and craft a response. Secondly, if you have Alerts set up for your own hotel, you will also get notification every time your hotel name is mentioned. The excuse that it is time consuming no longer holds water. The excuse that it is too hard to go into every site and respond won’t work anymore.
The perfect example I can give, comes from personal experience. Responding to EVERY review for a hotel in our portfolio reaped great rewards just this past week. I recently received an email from a potential guest who was planning a trip to one of our hotel locations. In the email he explained that because of our responses to both good and not-so-good reviews, the manner in which we responded, and the timeliness and empathy we embraced, made him feel confident that this was a hotel that genuinely cared about its customers… both the customers who said wonderful things about the hotel, and the way we handled a customer who wasn’t as happy.
He booked 4 nights at $459 per night, sight unseen. You do the math.
I will tell you that each response that I did for this hotel took less than 10 minutes. Not a bad investment of my time.
So – AGAIN, as you are building your sales and marketing plan strategies – you need to incorporate a plan to respond to all reviews. As you can read in the article below – carefully crafted responses improve SEO….. and isn’t that part of the “working smarter, not harder” plan?
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Refining SEO: What to Say to Your Guests
Jul 16, 13 | 12:08 am
By feature writer Carla Caccavale
Hoteliers are super-busy. There is no 9:00 to 5:00 in this business. It’s 24/7. There aren’t enough hours in a day. Let’s face it, the business is changing and the to-do list is growing. It’s not enough to have a good website these days, you have to have a great Facebook page, post on Instagram, make sure someone is manning Twitter… and don’t forget online reviews. Well, sometimes we just can’t get to it all, so if some reviews go unanswered so be it.
Right? Read on before you answer.
Let’s talk about SEO for a moment. Most hotels are pretty focused on it; they have a digital team or agency on top of it. It’s the way to stay ahead of the pack, come up higher in search and stand out from the crowd. An SEO strategy is a must and, of course, there’s a budget behind it and team responsible for it. Makes sense.
Then there’s online reputation management (ORM). What? Oh, right, keeping track of what past and potential guests are saying about us online. Maybe there’s a budget. Maybe not. Maybe there’s someone focused on responding to guest comments. Sometimes.
What if we told you that SEO stood for Shaping Excellent Outcomes and that you could get more guests by doing it? And repeat guests by doing it. And that paying attention to your online reputation could be the equivalent of getting you to come up first when people search “incredible hotel” in their memory bank. Tell you more? Okay.
First let’s take the not-so-happy guest. They posted a review about how the elevators were slow, their room service breakfast was late and they asked for more towels and didn’t get them. Ouch. Everyone can read this. Where’s the delete button again? This is when it’s time to turn “ouch” into an opportunity. The management response might look something like:
First, I want to thank you for your feedback. While I wish you had a better experience, it is feedback like this that we learn from and use to improve. We work hard to deliver an exceptional guest experience and it’s apparent in this case we fell short. For that I apologize. At the time you were staying with us one of our elevators were out of service for routine maintenance. For the inconvenience it caused, I am sorry. The safety of our guests is a priority and such service is an unavoidable necessity that should have been better explained. If you give us a chance to earn back your trust, I can assure you that your breakfast will be on time and your towels will be plentiful. I would be happy to make your reservation personally and see to it that you enjoy the experience that so many of our guests have grown so fond of.
This is an example of SEO before we had SEO. This is at the core of hospitality, Shaping Excellent Outcomes. You fell down on some service points, yes, it happens. It what you do after you fall that really counts. Take responsibility, apologize and ask for another chance. Most guests who complain had a legitimate issue. Don’t let your fear of guests who are chronic complainers for the sake of getting something free (this is the minority) ruin your opportunity to rebound on true service shortfalls. While this review on its own would be a negative, coupled with this response it turns into a plus in most level-headed travelers’ minds.
Now let’s take the really happy guest. They stayed at your hotel for their birthday. A good time was had by all. The staff was great and they wrote a glowing review. A response might look like this:
We’re always happy when someone chooses to stay at our hotel. And we’re downright honored when you choose to spend a day as special as your birthday with us. Making your birthday a memorable one was the least we could do. Personally, I think one birthday a year is not enough (from a celebration stand point, not an aging one). We can do this all over again for your half birthday! We look forward to welcoming you back again soon and appreciate your business and feedback, which will certainly be passed along to the team.
The guest feels great all over again. A perspective guest reads this and thinks “I want to go there for my birthday!” and again, you have a leading SEO, Shaping Excellent Outcomes, example. You might not be on page one of online search, but you certainly are top of mind for the people who wrote the review and those who read the response.
So the next time you think there should only be one SEO budget, think again. You need a two-pronged SEO approach. Go back to the core of hospitality and invest (not just funds, but time as well) in your online reputation. SEO in our sense of the acronym can be quite powerful for WOM (word of mouth). Positive WOM translates into more guests and right there you have your ROI for SEO investment (which revolves around ORM).
Acronym-Free Take Away:
Improving your responses to reviews enhances your reputation. A better reputation translates into more guests. More guests equals more revenue.