Does posting guest reviews and using social media to air travel grievances really make a difference? Lodging Interactive, an interactive and social media marketing agency exclusively servicing the hospitality industry for the past 10 years, knows that it does. Together with its subsidiary CoMMingle, a social-media marketing consultancy, the two companies have spent the last five years helping hoteliers grow and better manage their use of social media channels for hotel marketing, of which monitoring and managing guest reviews is a big part.
Consider this scenario. In a recent USA Today column titled "Airing your hotel problem on Twitter can pay off," Travel Columnist Barbara DeLollis recaps a story shared with her by one of her "Hotel Check-In" readers:
"About 18 months ago, I checked into the [hotel] for staycation when a friend was visiting from Seattle. When I opened the mini-fridge, to my horror and disgust, there was a leftover box frozen solid into the freezer section, with strong odor of what may have been a lovely Mexican meal gone bad. I immediately took a picture with my iPhone and Tweeted [the hotel] before heading out to dinner with my friend. In the middle of our appetizer, I received a Tweet apologizing for the mishap and an offer of free breakfast for two the next morning. When I arrived back in my room, a bottle of wine and a hand-written note were waiting for us. Needless to say, the frozen dinner was gone. Since then, I have used [the Twitter handle for the hotel] for everything from confirming early check-in to ordering room service. The consistent, immediate and non-intrusive service of [the hotel's Twitter handle] is probably the No. 1 reason I've remained loyal to the chain. Since the above-mentioned incident, btw, I have made Diamond status with [the brand] and will probably be a customer for life."
Lin told USA Today's DeLollis that he believes "Twitter is almost always faster than calling the front desk or corporate to get results." The biggest bonus, he said, is that "he can just type a quick message while on the go instead of taking the time to get someone on the phone and talk."
While this situation was resolved via Twitter, Lodging Interactive professes that using a hotel's own website to enable guests to post reviews works equally as well, and it helps to better manage channel shift from third-party sites to the brand or property site. In addition, for hotel managers who may not be as social media savvy, being able to reply to guest reviews via a laptop or desktop onto the hotel website makes the response process that much quicker and easier.
"Social media is more about psychology than marketing," said Rosella Virdo, Director of CoMMingle Social Media Marketing. "When guests take the time to post a review on Twitter or the hotel's Facebook page, for example, someone needs to be monitoring the channel ready to post a response. It's a way to take online marketing to the next level. Frequent traveler Lin who corresponded with USA Today was fortunate that he stayed at a hotel that had social media monitoring tools in place. Most hotels don't; but that's where Lodging Interactive and CoMMingle come in."
Lodging Interactive has developed an easy-to-use and extremely affordable Guest Review System that enables guests to post reviews directly on the hotel's website. By allowing management to respond to comments in real time, hotels are improving hotel-to-guest communications and boosting guest retention and loyalty. The Guest Review System alerts management in real time when reviews are posted. This ensures that there are no delays in communication, and the appropriate staff can immediately fix any pending problems before the customer leaves the property. 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.
With Lodging Interactive's low-cost, turn-key Guest Review System, hotels can be up and running in 10 minutes. If finding the time to respond is an issue, Lodging Interactive is staffed to reply on the hotel's behalf.
"It's important for hoteliers to know that they can easily and affordably compete with brand guest review programs and take control of their online reputations today through Lodging Interactive," said DJ Vallauri, Lodging Interactive Founder and President. "Those that want to go the extra step and also monitor the various social media channels, including Facebook, Twitter, Google+, YouTube and blogs can benefit by partnering with CoMMingle. This group is designed to assist hotels with social media engagement via strategic planning, growing and managing social media channels, word-of-mouth marketing and experiential marketing, reputation and consumer sentiment monitoring, and social search engine optimization."
The challenge for hoteliers is not just being visible via the various social channels, but being interactive and engaging, constantly monitoring content and keeping the conversations going, Vallauri said.
"If a hotel does not have a dedicated staff member serving as its social media watch dog, it's easy for the plan to fall apart," he said. "That's where CoMMingle comes in. We become the eyes and ears of the hotel, monitoring conversations and posting instant replies if desired. So the next time your hotel gets a Tweet from a disgruntled guest like Mr. Lin, management will have a team in place to Tweet a reply and turn the negative situation into a positive one. Easier yet, by adding the Lodging Interactive Guest Review System to the hotel website, management can monitor reviews and respond to complements or concerns in a format that they are more comfortable with."
Lodging Interactive is offering a free trial of its Guest Review System. There is no contract to sign and hotels can cancel anytime. For more information, visit http://www.guestreviewsystem.com. The offer is being made available now through June 28 at the conclusion of the Hospitality Industry Technology Exposition & Conference (HITEC).