Social networking and review sites have become prominent features in the hospitality industry. Guest experiences on sites such as TripAdvisor have the power to sway a potential customer’s purchase decision, ultimately affecting a hotel’s revenue opportunities. In today’s marketplace, these sites can not be left unmanaged. Given their impact on a hotel’s profitability, General Managers of Boutique and Lifestyle Hotels must understand not only how these sites works but, more importantly, take a vested interest in the reviews themselves, as well as the responses to guests’ comments, using them as their powerful weapon to improve guest care.
General Managers must have a basic knowledge of how third party review sites operate and how each site impacts the bottom line. Boutique Hotels that rely heavily on direct booking may deem sites such as TripAdvisor and Yelp to be more influential, therefore they may mandate that all reviews on these sites require a response, but not others. Posts on an OTA which allows reviews, like Expedia.com or Bookings.com, which deliver a smaller business share, may have different requirements. It’s not just about the share of business mix these sites deliver that is important, it’s the level of distribution power and ‘eyes’ on these sites have which are major factors. Just because someone is reading about you on an OTA, doesn’t it necessarily mean they plan to book there? The correct answer is no! General Managers should know that any major site that features their hotel should be monitored as people research as many as up to 12 websites when deciding to make a booking. Not all Boutique, Luxury and Lifestyle Hotels can dedicate full time resources to respond to each review, but they should outline key benchmarks to ensure those reviews that fall below par on any site are addressed.
General Managers should also know the criteria in developing standard operating procedures to manage responses and ensure reviews are communicated internally. Each review should be a lesson to the operation, and comments should be shared with all key department heads to help them improve their service levels.
General Managers who take the time to given direction and feedback to the ways in which these reviews are handled, are the ones who will come out on top of their competitive set. Clearly, General Managers have complex operations to run and will not respond personally, but they do need to ensure that standards and maintained . After all, social media is the new way for customers to see the “face behind the business”, and General Managers must always be mindful of how their hotel is portrayed online. If it’s unacceptable for a Guest Relations Manager to address a guest informally, the online tone should be equally respectful and professional.
The General Manager’s approach should ensure the message comes from the top. There’s nothing more important to a guest than having a complaint addressed by the boss. A proactive approach that provides recognition and acknowledges positive reviews, rather than just addressing the negative ones, has much greater impact. According to statistics from TripAdvisor How to Guides, “71% of customers agree that seeing a management response to reviews is important to them, 79% agree that a management response to a bad review reassures them, 78% feel a management response to a good review makes them think more highly of the hotel and 60% say that when comparing two properties, seeing management responses could sway them in its favor over those without a manager’s presence.”
Identifying a General Manager who understands how crucial this environment is and who uses customer reviews as a way to improve the hotel’s service standards is essential. Quality of service delivery in the Boutique and Lifestyle Hotel industry is essential. A General Manager who is truly service oriented will want to ensure these sites are monitored to assist them to enhance guests’ experiences. Negative and positive commentary influences purchase behavior. This affects perception of the brand from a customer service standpoint which can be detrimental to the hotel’s online reputation and to revenue generation. A positive remark can covert a prospective customer in to guest and cultivate loyalty. A successful social media third-party review site strategy succeeds when a General Manager cultivates a culture where guest reviews on these sites receive the same respectful attention as they would when the guest is on property.