Since being founded originally as a “mystery dining” company, Somerset-headquartered HGEM has become a market leader in guest experience management for the hospitality sector in the UK.
Today, the company helps over 10,000 hospitality operators — restaurants, hotels, bars and pubs, cinemas, and caterers — monitor their performance, manage guest feedback, and generate a culture of continuous improvement.
Key to HGEM’s growth and success is the way the company understands the power of detailed, practical feedback. Apart from pioneering mystery guest assessments and collecting data from customer surveys for its clients, the company now also pulls in valuable data from online review websites.
It’s all made possible by HGEM’s API partnership with ReviewTrackers.
“The ultimate public measure of word of mouth”
According to HGEM managing director Steven Pike, clients initially did not pay online reviews the attention they deserved.
He recalls, “We’ve got some clients who said, ‘We just want you to do mystery visits for us.’ Or some tended to focus more on social media than reviews, even though the latter was probably more important to them.”
“Our clients now use reviews to aid the visibility of reputational data across multiple channels. This has helped location managers, in particular, directly see the impact of the efforts they make on the guest experience.” Steven Pike, HGEM managing director
Reviews are certainly potent enough to affect a company’s brand reputation. According to the Online Reviews Survey, 94 percent of respondents say that a negative review convinced them to avoid a business.
“The three main sources of data we manage are reviews, surveys, and mystery guest assessments,” Pike explains. “Reviews are the ultimate public measure of word of mouth: what people are saying about your business.”
“Our job is to help clients engage with guests directly, listen to them, and manage their experience, so that guests leave them with positive reviews.”
Thanks to HGEM’s API partnership with ReviewTrackers, operators can now benchmark their performance against a range of guest experience measures — including online reviews — and identify actions for team development and business improvement.
“Our clients now use reviews to aid the visibility of reputational data across multiple channels,” Pike adds. “This has helped location managers, in particular, directly see the impact of the efforts they make on the guest experience.”
HGEM accesses the ReviewTrackers API to download review data and sync it with its own platform, called the Hub. By doing so, the company has simplified the consolidation of critical feedback from multiple sources.
“Reviews weren’t on their radar before,” Pike shares. “When we added review data, it opened their eyes to something they should be tracking more closely. And it enabled us to have more rounded conversations about how they can influence things that have a direct impact on their business.”
“Another way of looking at it is that the ultimate objective of learning from the results of surveys and assessments is to improve the clients’ brand reputation and drive sales. The reviews serve as evidence of success.”
Since July, 2018, HGEM has collected more than 354,000 online reviews across their client base from major review sites, including hospitality-specific ones like TripAdvisor, Expedia, Booking.com, OpenTable, Zomato, and Yelp.
“We greatly value the relationship we have with ReviewTrackers. The API has been easy to work with and reliable. And we can always rely on rapid and helpful support.”
API scalability allows data to be transformed into insights
In its mission to establish guest experience management as a core discipline for hospitality businesses, HGEM positions itself to clients as a technology partner — instead of simply a data provider.
As part of the Hub offering, the company offers e-learning modules and seminars to help train teams in best practice. The mystery guest program is also crafted to match specific business objectives, whether it’s a regular audit of brand standards or a review of the guest journey to support training.
Says Pike: “It’s good for us to be holistically involved in our clients’ business and operations.”
HGEM also relies on the scalability of the ReviewTrackers platform to transform review data into actionable information that makes sense to its clients.
“We have explored ways to ‘gamify’ operations and the guest experience,” Pike shares. “The starting point is through comparison with other venues. After all, everyone likes to be in the top half of a leaderboard.”
As the company seeks innovative new ways to harness the power of reviews and help clients manage the guest experience, HGEM relies on ReviewTrackers to continue to deliver best-in-class support every step of the way.
“We greatly value the relationship we have with ReviewTrackers,” Pike says. “The API has been easy to work with and reliable. And we can always rely on rapid and helpful support.”
Reviews essential to achieving multi-dimensional insight
Integrating with ReviewTrackers has also allowed HGEM to strengthen its own guest experience management offering. This, in turn, has led to stickier relationships with clients, improved retention, and significant growth for the company.
Pike says, “Adding reviews has helped us better articulate the purpose of the other measurements that we undertake.”
Initially, the company offered review management only as an add-on, but Pike and his team eventually decided to make it a standard part of the Hub platform.
“Management of the guest experience requires multi-dimensional insight,” he explains. “Reputational data from reviews complements emotional data from surveys and operational data from assessments. We wanted to present more rounded insight and support for our clients and enable more informed decision-making.”
“We know we can rely on ReviewTrackers”
As HGEM continues to evolve from its beginnings as a “mystery dining” company, Pike knows that online reviews will continue to play a major role in guest experience management.
“If people are rating and talking about your brand,” he says, “would you really want to close your ears to that, or not explore the patterns that highlight where effort is required?”
By tracking online reviews and customer feedback across multiple review channels, HGEM’s clients are gaining new insights into the strength of their brand reputation — along with the opportunity to influence it.
“I would definitely recommend ReviewTrackers to other agencies and hospitality operators. The technology is great and the support is responsive and helpful. We know we can rely on ReviewTrackers, and it definitely feels like we are in a successful partnership, which is really important to us.”