A recent article in USA Today reports that hotel guest satisfaction has dropped to its lowest level in seven years, noting that check-in and check-out, guestrooms, food, Internet/WiFi fees, and facilities such as pools and business centers top the list of travelers' dislikes. ABC News also reported that how a person books their hotel stay may also be related to their satisfaction. In Hotels with Highest, Lowest Guest Satisfaction, Travel & Lifestyle Editor Genevieve Shaw Brown wrote that "guests who book their hotel stay with online travel agencies (Orbitz, Expedia and competitors) tend to be less satisfied with their stay then those who book directly with the hotel web site or over the phone. These travelers tend to be more price-sensitive, have lower levels of satisfaction with their stay, are less loyal to hotel brands and tend to report more problems."
The underlying message for hoteliers is twofold: 1) If you don't take direct control of your guest reviews NOW, chances are the comments they post will not only turn travelers off, it could keep them away. 2) It's time to refresh your websites because enticing travelers to book directly on your website will improve your chances of having satisfied customers, thereby increasing your chances of receiving positive reviews.
"It only takes one unhappy guest to post a bad review, then the company's reputation is damaged, which in turn effects their sales," said DJ Vallauri, Founder and President of Lodging Interactive, an award-winning, interactive and social media marketing agency exclusively servicing the hospitality industry. "Today travelers have no problem telling the world what they like — and more importantly, don't like — about their hotel experience. Knowing how easy the Web and social media has made it for consumers to find their voices, hoteliers should be fearful to create an atmosphere whereby a negative review can even occur. Those hotel companies that have been identified in recent reports by travelers as providing below average service need to act — and quickly — to salvage their reputations and restore faith in their patrons."
Lodging Interactive has established a Guest Review System for hotels that alerts management in real time when reviews are posted to their web sites. This ensures there are no delays in communication, and the appropriate staff can immediately fix any pending problems before the customer leaves the property or has the opportunity to post negative reviews on third-party websites. Additionally, consumers can share their guest reviews on their Facebook wall and to their network of friends. Hotels are notified in real-time of new guest reviews and have the ability to validate guest stay information before reviews are posted on their website.
"Negative reviews will happen; no matter how stellar the hotel's reputation, someone will find something to complain about — even if it's a competitor posting a fraudulent review," Vallauri said. "The key to containment comes with responding immediately to the post and flipping the negative experience into a positive — preferably before the guest has even left the property. Equally important is responding in an appropriate manner. Be thankful, polite, and respectful of guests, even if the complaint is not warranted. Remain calm and always be courteous. Tell the guest how the situation will be addressed and what the next steps are. Tell the guest that you deem the complaint to be serious, and that there is a plan in place to resolve the matter. More importantly, give him or her a way to stay in touch with management, and invite further feedback."
Hotels can quickly and cost-effectively add Lodging Interactive's low-cost, turn-key Guest Review System in about 10 minutes. All that is required for a hotel to get up-and-running is a snippet of code inserted on the hotel's Website. Once initiated, managers can immediately begin collecting real-time reviews on their own websites and respond to customer concerns in real time. In addition, the company is staffed to reply on the hotel's behalf if staffing is an issue.
But wait, there's more . . .
Hotels needing to update their websites to provide fresh content and simplify the direct booking process can actually receive the Guest Review System absolutely FREE!
"Adding guest reviews to a hotel's website is critical for business success today, but if the website isn't fresh — featuring new, visually appealing photos and links to social media channels to ensure more chatter — owners and operators are just compounding the problem," Vallauri said. "Lodging Interactive's Hotel Website Solutions program enables hoteliers to refresh their web site every two years, at no additional cost, and we'll throw the Guest Review System in at no additional cost."
Included in the Hotel Website Solutions package is:
• RFPLink group lead capture and reporting
• Online analytical reporting
• Homepage call-to-action tile images
• Website Hosting and Server Management
• Robust Content Management, and
• Guest Review System at no additional cost.
"It's important for hoteliers to know that they can easily and affordably take control of their reputations by simply and affordably updating their Web sites and adding a Guest Review through Lodging Interactive," Vallauri said. "Hotel companies that have been ranked as providing below average satisfaction to guests can easily boost their credibility, restore consumer confidence, and regain lost business from third-party review sites."
Lodging Interactive has identified the following five ways for hoteliers to interact with their guests and prospects and better grow and manage their use of online marketing and social media channels for 2013 and beyond:
1. Keep Your Hotel’s Website "Fresh" by updating websites at least every two years
2. Take Control Of Your Hotel’s Guest Reviews by adding review functionality to your web site
3. Invest in Mobile Marketing
4. Enhance your presence on all social media channels
5. Manage our online reputation by monitoring chatter