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Why Aren’t Hotels Responding to Guest Reviews Online?

Hotel reception with bell

Hotels that respond to reviews see an increase in overall review ratings and booking
inquiries. The benefits are well documented, and yet hoteliers still are not responding.

If a guest fills out a comment card on-site, emails a hotel’s customer service address or even calls to share their frustration or praise about a recent visit, hotels know to read the card, answer the email or return the call. So why, in an age where everything is done online and the majority of consumers rely on travel and hotel reviews before booking a trip, do hoteliers still miss the opportunity of responding to online reviews?

Ideally, hoteliers would pre-empt a negative experience before it ever made it online, while a guest is on-site. Realistically, that is not possible to do each and every time, for each and every guest. When hoteliers are unable to provide the experience that meets or exceeds a guest’s expectations, taking advantage of posting a management response is an important step in protecting a hotel’s online reputation. This step, however, is something only a small amount of hoteliers do with an average of just 36% of hotels responding.

Hotel guests can post reviews of a stay to over 100 review sites, according to the 2014 Hotel Reputation Benchmark Study, however, hotel management is barely responding to two of the largest review sites online. 56% of hoteliers offer replies to TripAdvisor reviews and just 17% respond to those that review their experience on Expedia.

There is ample proof from a variety of studies that it is in a hotel’s best interest for hoteliers to respond to the online reviews that their property receives. Often boosting a hotel’s rank or rating, bookings or booking inquiries and even justifying an increase in room rates.

Consider these guest review statistics:

A 2014 TripAdvisor study noted a connection between the rates of management responses with the average review rating a hotel receives. Properties responding to over 65% of the reviews they received saw an average review rating of 4.15.

Is this because guests magically experience only positive stays? Not according to the researchers at Boston University who deduced that perhaps the most impactful result of providing management response is that, “consumers with a poor experience become less likely to leave a negative review when hotels begin responding.”

This can be seen across the industry where 75% of reviews are four- and five-star reviews while less than 10% are one- and two-star reviews, according to the 2014 Hotel Reputation Benchmark Report. Do not be fooled though, while one-star reviews make up the lowest percentage of all reviews, the number of total reviews are increasing and the volume of both one-star and five-star reviews are seeing the biggest surge.

While hoteliers aren’t responding to reviews, it seems that they recognize that they should be and are taking steps to begin penning replies. According to Ipsos and TripAdvisor’s 2014 TripBarometer Report, six in 10 hoteliers say that investments in reputation management would increase in the next 12 months. The commitment to invest is a new way of thinking for hoteliers who may finally be ready to reap the benefits of replying to reviews by providing management responses. This is the second largest increase in investment priorities, only surpassed by small renovations – a list of property refreshes likely taken from what guests point out in negative reviews.

Hoteliers cannot afford to neglect review responses any longer, especially if their competitive set is making plans to reply to guest reviews. Hoteliers that understand the importance of management responses and how essential it is to invest in them, but may not have the time to take on the task can look to Lodging Interactive’s CoMMingle Reputation Management services as a complete solution for handling review responses.

We provide a personalized approach to management responses that hotels find to be invaluable. CoMMingle Reputation Management monitors, collects and researches reviews and provides suggested responses for approval by hotel management. We also post the approved responses to the review sites as a feature of the service. Contact us or call 877.291.4411 to learn more.

The Value Of Hotel Guest Reviews By Lodging Interactive

It’s no secret to anyone by now that user generated content (“UGC”) in the form of guest reviews continues to be on the rise.  It seems as if there are new websites popping up everywhere to empower the consumer to provide their perspective as it relates to their experience with your business.  This sharing process is a natural evolution in social media and it is especially important for hoteliers to take it seriously and not “blow it off” as we have seen many do.

According to the recently published PhoCusWright Social Media In Travel 2011: Traffic, Activity & Sentiment report, the volume of posted hotel reviews in the U.S. alone has grown from 880,000 in 2008 to nearly 1.1 million in 2010.  The average number of posted hotel reviews per month, per 100 rooms,  was also up significantly from 2.5 reviews in 2009 to 3.1 in 2010.  Interestingly the report also stated that properties in the one, two and three star categories all saw a significant increase in guest review posts while four and five star properties both saw declines.

Unfortunately some General Managers still believe most negative hotel reviews are “planted” by their competition or posted by disgruntled guests looking for freebies or refunds.  While we have seen much evidence of this on review sites, and some hotels are reportedly banding together to form a class action defamation lawsuit against TripAdvisor, we believe all posted reviews should be dealt with as if 100% sincere; posted guest reviews do effect revenue opportunities for the property.

Studies have shown that 75% of online travel buyers will check at least three reviews sites before booking online.  Now imagine a hotel that doesn’t respond to a negative guest review post which is read by thousands of potential guests.  The revenue impact to the property is real and when you consider the cost involved to initially acquire the interest of that potential guest it is fiscally irresponsible to no respond to negative guest review posts; yet so many hoteliers do not reply.  The PhoCusWright Social Media In Travel 2011: Traffic, Activity & Sentiment report also describes that visitors to Online Travel Agency (“OTA”) hotel review pages are significantly more likely to book on hotel websites, and convert at a rate of 13-14% versus the average hotel conversion of 8-9%.  In support of the report, we have always recommended our clients respond to all guest review posts regardless the comment sentiment being negative or positive.

While there are many tools and services on the market, including our own Chatter Guard Online Reputation Management Services, to help hotels identify and manage their guest review posts, responding to posts is time consuming especially when posting responses on multiple review sites.  Moreover, beyond the overall sentiment scoring, careful focus should be placed on scoring guest review posts based on service attributes to ensure operational improvements are made in the problem areas.  We recommend our clients meet regularly to discuss guest review post areas of concern based on departmental attributes such as housekeeping, food & beverage, staff, etc.  Hoteliers should make the most of guest review posts to improve their overall service levels.