Respond to Guest Reviews or Not: That is the Question

With the advent of social media, the need for a hotel’s timely response to guest reviews or inquiries has increased ten-fold in recent years. When guests or potential guests reach out to a hotel through one of the many social media platforms and review sites in search of answers or solutions to a particular situation, they expect to receive a response from brands in a relatively short time. This means that a hotel should be johnny-on-the-spot offering a reasonable turn-around time to their responses.

Four hours is the average response time people have come to expect but brands have kept people waiting for as much as 10 hours before giving their response. The reasons for a brand’s delay are many: Treating responses as secondary to promotional offerings, having personnel shortages and, of course, budgeting concerns to just name a few.

But recent studies have shown that guests will not think twice about publicly shaming you. The price a hotel pays for this negative publicity is that it prompts consumers to think twice before booking at your hotel. With this in mind, hotels really don’t want to also face the risk that people will change loyalties to a competitor.

Instead, hotels want to build relationships with guests, establishing dialogue that sparks interest in the hotel. The only way a hotelier can do this is to ensure they are on top of responding to their audience.  After all, a hotel’s aim is to keep a guest and, with the good publicity, gain a new guest’s loyalty.

TripAdvisor and PhoCusWright did a study in 2014 that showed 77% of travelers reference reviews before choosing a hotel and 62% are more likely to book a stay at a hotel based on management review responses. Two years later a Cornell University’s School of Hotel Administration study shows that answering reviews at least 40% of the time is effective but more than that could be just as bad as no responses at all. The key is not only acknowledging a positive comment but to constructively respond to negative reviews.  Consumers are suspicious if they only and always see good reviews. Nothing in life is perfect!

The Cornell report goes on to say consumers show more of an appreciation when they see how quickly you respond and make good on a situation that would have otherwise become a hotel’s nightmare. 72.5% of the hotels in the study show that encouraging review postings drove up the hotel’s ratings. Higher ratings means a better online reputation. Better online reputation means more bookings. More bookings translate into more revenue.

Any way you slice it, review responses are a necessity that brands cannot ignore.  It’s not just about the hotel rating itself. It’s how your hotel is perceived by all that read your responses.  So join the online conversation showing some r-e-s-p-e-c-t and putting a human face behind the words within your responses. You will create your brand loyalists and project a positive online image for your hotel. These are things that don’t have a price tag when it comes to having hotel visitors book their stay with you.