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.