With travel being one of today’s most fiercely competitive industries, hotels, restaurants, entertainment destinations, and local businesses in the hospitality segment are constantly looking for ways to stand out.
Marketing strategies vary, but there’s one focus area that has emerged for those looking to gain a competitive edge: customer feedback and review management.
This is reaffirmed by a new research study by travel review site TripAdvisor and industry research firm Atmosphere Research Group which asserts that guest feedback and online reviews pave the path to greater engagement.
The study is based on data from over 12,000 properties in the top 25 traffic markets on TripAdvisor, but it’s reasonable to assume that the insights below also apply to other hospitality categories, including restaurants and foodservice, leisure and entertainment venues, tour operators, and travel service providers.
Insight 1: Businesses that engage on review sites perform better
In analyzing its own review data, TripAdvisor finds that highly engaged businesses enjoy:
- 4 times more page views than those who do not engage
- 63 percent higher Popularity Ranking average and higher visibility (visible to approximately 66 percent of travelers and searchers)
- 30 to 40 percent more traveler interaction with revenue-driving products
“Smart executives know that their marketing must be more relevant and compelling to appeal to distracted consumers,” reads the TripAdvisor and Atmosphere Research report. “A primary way to achieve this is to encourage guests (and customers) to interact or engage with the (business), and for the (business) to engage with guests as well.”
How your business can stay engaged
So what does “engaged” mean in this case? Offline, your customer-facing team may be doing an already brilliant job, but there are ways to take it up a notch in your digital properties – particularly, your business pages on customer feedback and review platforms.
Let’s take at a few characteristics of highly engaged hospitality businesses on TripAdvisor and similar review sites:
- They have claimed their business listings and registered as the business owner / manager.
- They have uploaded high-quality photos to their business page (a simple strategic move whose effectiveness previous studies support).
- They respond actively to online reviews. While it’s not always necessary to respond to every single review, the study found that responding to at least 25 percent can deliver positive results. (Need tips? Check out these best practices.)
- They regularly manage local business information and ensure that their data – including special offers and direct contact details – is correct, complete, and up-to-date.
Businesses that stay engaged, the report says, “are highly attuned to its guests’ insights and nimble in its ability to respond and act on feedback as required.”
Insight 2: Successful businesses manage reviews holistically
TripAdvisor describes it as a kind of “virtuous circle of engagement” – meaning, successful businesses know what exactly to do with their reviews. They recognize the fundamental importance of reviews and take action.
And it’s not a one-time thing, either. There are review management systems and processes in place, such as:
- They regularly track and listen to what customers are saying online, across multiple review sites and customer feedback platforms.
- They analyze the review data and make improvements to the customer experience.
- They respond to reviews – in a manner that’s professional, prompt, and polite.
- They systematically encourage feedback and online reviews from customers.
The results of all these efforts range from generating better reviews and higher ratings to having increased customer satisfaction, better visibility and, ultimately, more bookings.
Let’s take a closer look at how savvy hotel execs, for example, are able to create and foster a “circle of engagement” in their organizations:
“The most dedicated hotel managers seek feedback on their hotels across each stage of a guest’s stay,” reads the report. “After collecting the information, successful managers and their colleagues review the feedback, measure the results against relevant metrics, act to strengthen their advantages, and correct any problems. The continuous pace of these interactions results in a ‘virtuous circle’ of two-way engagement between guests and hotels.”
Insight 3: Embracing and encouraging reviews drives positive results
It’s easy for hospitality organizations – especially SMBs and local businesses – to be scared of what customers might say on TripAdvisor or Yelp or Facebook. What if customers didn’t rate their experiences highly? What if a one-star review single-handedly destroys the business’ brand reputation?
Smart managers, however, recognize that embracing – instead of fearing – online reviews can only drive positive results. So:
- Promote your presence on online review sites, and tell customers that you would love to hear their feedback through platforms like TripAdvisor and Yelp.
- Don’t censor reviews or create non-disparagement clauses; they’re generally a very bad idea. You certainly don’t want to end up like this hotel.
- Implement a system for collecting new reviews.
- Take advantage of widgets and plug-ins and incorporate fresh review content into your website and sales channels. (Cosmetics and beauty brands are already doing this, so just follow their lead.)
- Share your 5-star reviews across your social media channels, too – it can help improve visibility, reputation, and even SEO performance.
Looking for more tips? Check out “Requesting Consumer Feedback: 8 Simple Tips to Help You Generate More Five-Star Reviews”.
According to the study, the businesses that systematically encouraged customer feedback and incorporated reviews into their website and sales process actually enjoyed:
- Increase in the quantity of reviews
- More page views
- Increased traffic to all sales channels
- Improved conversion rates
- More “new” reviews, which – in the eyes of consumers – are perceived by consumers as more credible and trustworthy than reviews that are older than 90 days.
“Reviews allow hotels to become more transparent and accessible, identify and prioritize areas for improvement, and enhance their guest service,” reads the report.
Adds Javier Carazo, Senior VP of Operations and Quality for NH Hotel Group: “If you put a focus on getting reviews, you will see the positive results. You need to make it easy for guests to post their reviews.”
Want more insights on reviews? Check out our recent post, “5 New Findings that Legitimize Online Reviews as the New Word of Mouth”.