Handling Customer Reviews - Best Practice

Posted on Oct 20th 2009

I recently wrote a post on Hotelier’s embracing customer reviews. The post included a report by Market Metrix on what hoteliers thought of reviews and if they were important to their business. The report found that 85% of hotels and resorts did not have any guidelines in place for monitoring or responding to reviews. In this day and age, it’s inevitable that people will talk about your property, good or bad; you cannot hide from these sorts of conversations. The goal of this post is to help hotel and resort managers implement the necessary guidelines to monitor, respond and action reviews. The first step to dealing with these reviews is to Monitor what is being said.
 

 

Monitor

One person within the organisation should be made responsible for monitoring the web for reviews. This person should set aside time each day, maybe 10mins, depending on the size and popularity of the property to search for reviews and go over what is being said. Most of the popular sites provide tools to help you monitor reviews such as email, Google Alerts, Yahoo Alerts and client management websites. Some sites to look out for are:

  • www.tripadvisor.com
  • www.expedia.com 
  • www.etourismholidays.com.au


The second step to dealing with reviews, good or bad is how to Respond to them.

 

Respond

 

Guests have always been talking about you to their friends, coworkers, family members and even strangers however, only now, because of the Internet do you have the opportunity to be involved in these conversations.


It is important that you develop a strategic response policy. This policy should provide guidelines on which reviews to respond to in a particular manner. In our experience with hotels and resorts, most managers don't have the time, knowledge or motivation to interact with guests once they've departed. Interacting with your guests is an important step to building a community that is nurtured through a sales cycle.
 

We suggest that all reviews, good and bad are responded to as quickly as possible. The response time will differ per property; depending on the size of the property and the numbers of reviews being posted. Responding to postivie and negative reviews will demonstrate the importance of the guests feedback and a commitment to act on feedback.

 

How do I handle a negative review?
Replying to negative reviews should be made priority over responding to positive reviews. Negative reviews need to be dealt with quickly and positively. Before responding ensure the appropriate people within the organisation are notified of the problem. Be sure to be in the right frame of mind when responding and DO NOT take the review personally; make sure you and your team receive the review as constructive criticism. Then define the necessary steps to rectify the issue - this is a guidline that should be set by Management.

When responding to the negative review be curtious; start off by thanking the guest for the review and then apologise for their experience and any inconvience that may have been experienced. Enforce that they are important and that their feedback will be used to make the property a better experience. If you have made change to ensure this will not happen again, advise the guest of the relevant changes. This will show that you are being proactive and more importantly will show any potential guests that it is unlikely they will experience the same problem.

Do not argue with the guest, you cannot win a battle, they will most likely have more time and energy than you. Arguing with your guests will not only destroy any chance of generating repeat business from that guest but will surely damage the possibility of building a relationshiop with any potential guests.

Positive reviews!
Receiving postive feedback or customer reviews is great and should be dealt with appropriately. Reply quickly to the guest thanking them for their feedback,  not forgetting to invite them to return proposing an incentive for booking directly.

Celebrate positive reviews! Appropriate team members should be congratulated as this is a great opportunity to build moral with your team. If possible, copyright and IP laws permitting, post the positive reviews to your own website. Use this feedback as a sales tool.  

 

Action = better guest experience!

Use each review as an opportunity to learn and become a better experience for your guests. If your attitude is right and you are focused on delivering a great experience, then actioning feedback will be easy! If you are consistently receiving negative reviews about cleanliness then maybe it’s time to change cleaning contractors. If your room furniture is out of date and your guests are complaining, partition the owners to upgrade. If your front office lady is rude... well you know the answer to that.

A report by www.marketmetrix.com includes some other suggestions for actioning reviews -

Each review should be thoroughly evaluated. Ideally, results from all reviews should be stored in a database with a reporting package available for analysis.  Analyse guest reviews to understand trends versus prior periods, identify performance gaps versus relevant competitors, uncover scoring differences among key customer groups and provide an input for investment decisions.  Review site feedback should be combined with your regular guest feedback program to get a full 360.

Based on this analysis, action plans, preferably done at the department level, should be created to address issues, gaps and unfavorable trends.  We would also recommend that you:

  • Share issues, gaps and trends with appropriate managers
  • Set goals that are measurable
  • Consider tying employee compensation to appropriate guest feedback measures, as long as they are fair and unbiased.

 

Invite your guests to leave feedback, the more feedback you receive the better the experience you can offer your guests.

 

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