If you are a hotel administrator, general manager, or operations VP, then you have probably suffered through the challenges of a property that has struggled with aging, or other facility issues that might lead to a renovation.
Hotel renovations can be difficult and lengthy, sometimes taking up to 18 months. Only in very few situations can hotels afford the luxury of closing the property 100 percent. Closing a section or floor of the property and then running the remaining rooms at the highest possible occupancy is the norm in order to avoid profit losses.
While this way of operating a property does decrease revenue losses, hotels undergoing renovations are exposed to a variety of customer-facing problems, from accidents due to construction to limited enjoyment of the facilities, or lack of flexibility in doing room relocations due to high occupancy. All of these factors often translate into negative reviews, and this can snowball into a star-rating audit and other reputation-related issues.
When a renovation is completed, the most popular review websites have implemented procedures and policies aimed at allowing hotels that have undergone a full renovation to have a clean start once they can provide sufficient documentation to prove a major renovation. Because renovations generally take place in stages, it is quite tempting to operational leaders to want to submit a request for removal of online reviews prior to the renovation.
But before moving forward with this review management request, hoteliers probably need to step back and consider the risks associated with a premature request for removal of renovation-related reviews. Let’s explore why most hotels are better off waiting instead of rushing a request for review removal from top websites such as TripAdvisor, Expedia, Hotwire, and Hotels.com.
Premature Removal Creates False Expectations
It might be tempting to remove old reviews with mentions about renovations when a property is 90 percent into renovation, but the reality is that the work is not yet done. That 10 percent can still cause problems that may impact all guests. For example, an incomplete renovation might involve a pool that is out of order, or customer issues with construction dust. Trying to sell a property as flawless and then delivering something less will result in negative reviews that you will not be able to resubmit for removal. You get only one chance to remove all past reviews associated with a renovation. Make good use of the opportunity and wait until you are 100 percent ready.
Premature Removal Deprives Customers of a Caveat
When customers know that you are undergoing a renovation, and you have taken revenue and pricing measures to reflect this transitional period, guests are more willing to forgive shortcomings in facility condition and service. It is both ethical and beneficial for businesses to provide guests with a caveat that allows them to make an informed decision about whether they wish to lodge at the property or not. By keeping the reviews posted in tandem with a well-written notice that provides details regarding progress and expectations, a property gains more credibility and is better able to handle complaints knowing that customers had sufficient information to revise their expectations.
Premature Removal Often Results in Costly Customer Remedy
One of the biggest problems associated with the removal of reviews and notices associated with a major renovation has to do with customers having unsatisfactory experiences. Walking into a construction zone is no fun at all, particularly if you have paid for something different. Frequently, when a guest expresses dissatisfaction with his or her stay, hotels end up having to engage in costly remedy, from discounts on the nightly rate to comping the total cost of a stay, or giving amenities such as spa credits or valet.
In the worst of cases, hotels end up having to foot the bill for relocations to an equal or better property. This type of situation makes the removal of renovation-related reviews a complete liability. Learn how to properly deal with a negative review and use it to your advantage.
Premature Removal Does Not Provide Properties Buffers to Fix Post-Construction Issues
After a major renovation, hotels and other facilities have a transitional period in which many of the upgrades show imperfections in need of tweaking. From outlets that were not wired correctly to plumbing without sufficient pressure, the many details that go into a renovation always result in the need for revisions in order to perfect the guest experience. Again, if you have already removed the renovation-related reviews, then you will have little to no chance of removing the new reviews highlighting the shortcomings, and they are likely to haunt your property for a long time.
What to Do When You Are Ready to Submit a Consideration for Review Removal
A review removal will give your property a fresh start, but before you begin the process, please take into account the following:
- The totality of your reviews will be removed. The removal of said reviews will affect your popularity rating on sites such as TripAdvisor. If your property has been minimally affected by negative reviews associated with the prior condition of the hotel or issues related to the renovations, and it has a large number of reviews boosting your popularity ranking, then you may want to opt for keeping your reviews and working toward securing additional reviews in order to make a correction to your overall score. For example, if your property has a 4.0 star rating and 1,000 reviews, then it may not be a good move to have it go back to zero reviews and having to start from scratch. If, on the other hand, your property has 50 reviews with an average star rating of 3.0, then you may benefit from starting with a clean slate.
- Review removal only applies to major structural renovations, such as new guest rooms, new bathrooms, remodeled public areas, etc. If you only made changes such as new linens and new paint, then you may not qualify for a removal.
- Hotels that have undergone a brand change qualify for a review removal even if no changes have taken place.
- You will need to provide documentation of the renovation to include building permits, material invoices, press releases, notarized inspections, and photos.
- If you are submitting to Expedia, then this is also a good time to solicit a revision of star rating, if applicable.
- It may take up to two or three weeks for the old reviews to be removed.
- Neither customers nor the hotelier will be able to access the old reviews once they have been removed.
- A change of management or ownership without a change of flag is not sufficient to trigger an old review removal. Remember, it is about facilities, not service.
- Until your renovation is 100 percent complete and repairs and upgrades have been tested, it is a good idea to engage in aggressive review management to include response and remedy to customers in order to convey customer focus and increase conversion originating from review websites.
- Remember to have reviews removed from all websites with a review-removal program, to avoid discrepancies in ranking across websites.
We cannot stress enough that having your reviews removed will affect your popularity index until you are able to secure new reviews. Keep this in mind if a large number of your leads originated from review-based websites.
These are the steps needed to solicit the removal of reviews due to a major renovation or change of hotel flag:
As always, keep in mind that you are in for the long-run when it comes to reputation and review management. Take a look at all the factors affecting the way potential customers perceive you online and offline and tackle each by making it your goal to deliver seamless and memorable hospitality experiences that trigger positive reviews.