Online Reputation: It is not what you have been told
The continuing concerns that many hoteliers and marketing managers have about their online reputations are more than justified. There are very few businesses today that can afford not to be seen digitally. Consumers allow themselves to be influenced by the opinions shared by anonymous users, a trend that took a long time to develop, but which is now well established in the tourism sector, particularly in the hotel industry.
Online Reputation has become a matter of life and death for many hotels
Before web queries became widespread, a customer’s traditional decision-making process to choose a hotel or accommodation to stay in was much simpler and focused mainly on 2 variables: location and price. The fact that the establishment was well-known or that guests had shared a positive experience in their circles was always desirable and sought after, but limited in scope.
However, with the technological revolution that has taken place in recent years and the emergence of huge social networks and global platforms such as Tripadvisor or Google, where guests share ratings, the reputational field has become a matter of life and death for many hotels, especially for the smaller ones that do not have a well-known brand.
Taking care of online reputation is very important in various aspects:
- It directly influences the image and the global prestige of the brand. Keep in mind that trust is something very difficult to gain and easy to lose.
- Online reputation also affects SEO positioning, as algorithms like Google’s take into account the average rating of reviews when it comes to placing the website among the top search engine rankings and more than 90% of users do not look further than the first page of Google results.
- A good review allows for subsequent loyalty actions, since guests who speak well of an establishment will be much more willing to return to it.
- Ratings and recommendations from other guests will push others to decide an option. 74% of guests do some sort of research on the internet before making a purchase and 31% of them will spend more if the reviews are excellent or very good.
- Consequently, a good reputation will influence the profitability of the hotel, attracting more direct bookings without purchased traffic, the cost of acquisition of which is at least 10 times lower than the bookings acquired by OTA commissions.
For all these reasons, many marketing departments spend much of their time and effort developing strategies that improve their online reputation. Often these strategies involve investing in external tools and reputation software that above all try to avoid the circulation of negative reviews or comments that may harm the hotel, regardless of the veracity of the experience that could have prompted such an assessment.
We must ask ourselves however, if such a course of action is really the most appropriate, and if the service that was provided to the guest was the best that it could have been.
It is not logical or reasonable to expect a good evaluation:
- Without knowing the clients, their tastes, and their preferences
- If you have not adequately communicated with them throughout the different phases of their stay
- If you do not know whether they have had any problems or whether they were satisfied at the time of leaving the establishment.
Knowing the level of customer satisfaction is crucial.
Knowing the degree of customer satisfaction is not only vital for the subsequent reputation of the hotel but also to the improvement, detection and correction of any problem that may have occurred to do with the facilities, the treatment by the team or in the auxiliary services provided.
It is also important to keep in mind that no matter how well things are done, not all incidents are totally under the hotel’s control. An issue such as the failure of the internet connection can always occur and the guest must be able to perceive that the establishment is involved and making an effort to solve the problem and that they are being kept informed at all times. Good communication is therefore as important as a job well done, and it is something that the client will take into account when sharing their opinion and evaluating the quality of their stay, as well as the attention received.
Use satisfaction questionnaires
On the other hand, we highly recommend that guests are actively encouraged to leave a positive review, otherwise you will be missing out on a valuable opportunity for an enjoyable experience to be published online and to serve as a reference for other potential guests.
One of the best ways to achieve this is through satisfaction questionnaires. Contacting the client just when at the time of their departure, whilst the experience is still fresh, is the right time to ask them. Through this, one collects extremely useful information that can be analysed, to help you to better understand both the strengths and weaknesses of the establishment.
Satisfaction increases considerably for a loyal customer who is recognised and rewarded.
As for loyalty, it is also crucial to have enough information about the guest experience. Satisfaction increases dramatically for a repeat customer just by being recognised and rewarded. Perhaps one of the most iconic examples of this fact is provided by George Clooney in “Up in the Air”, where he plays the role of a inveterate traveller proud of enjoying preferential treatment by virtue of different promotions, to the point of flaunting this in front of other clients who wait in anger at the reception queue of a well-known hotel.
Fluid communication and presence
Reputation is therefore something to work on from the moment the guest makes a reservation and throughout their stay, through fluid communication and close, sincere and empathetic treatment. It is certain that if you provide a poor, distant service, the client will not be willing to share a positive experience. It will also not be possible to remedy the problem if the hotel is not aware that there was an issue during the stay or if the guest has not felt comfortable enough in any respect. It is not particularly difficult to send an SMS or a WhatsApp to the guests to quickly let them know you are thinking about them. They can also be sent brief satisfaction questionnaires during the stay that provide hoteliers with more information about how the guests feel they are being looked after.
To conclude, prioritising resources to deal with what is said about an establishment online after the stay instead of improving the guests’ actual experience is to put the cart before the horse. It is crucial to nip the problem at the bud and give guests the proper care and attention in the first place, well before the possibility of a bad review.
Photo Credit: Alex Block- Unsplash
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