In this article, we explain how you can handle online reviews in the best way. We'll discuss the strategy in four different phases, so you'll know what the best approach is in each stage. After all, service doesn't stop at the front door; it's also expected in review management.
The four phases we've listed:
1. Encouraging reviews
Reviewers can be divided into five different categories:
- The guest who always writes a review
- The guest who writes a review because they want to support you
- The guest who only leaves a review when he has a complaint
- The guest who finds it too much hassle
- The guest who does not write a review as a matter of principle
How do you encourage these types of guests to write a (positive) review?
Make leaving a review as straightforward as possible
It should be as easy as possible to leave a review, not only for the guests who think it's too much of a hassle but also to create more goodwill with your supporters. For example, make sure they don't have to create an account to leave a review or have to go through multiple steps. The easier the process, the faster a review will be written.
Ask for a review after check-out
You can ask for a review verbally after check-out, but you can also send an automated email asking the guests if they would like to leave a review after their stay. Another way is to put a review request on the invoice or on the folder that you provide at check-out. By providing the link to the review page, you make it easier for the guest to leave their feedback.
Give a discount to guests who leave a review
You can encourage guests to leave a review by offering a discount when they do. Opinions differ about this strategy because it can be seen as a bribe. In some countries (like America) it is even forbidden to give a discount when you ask for a review. It's not forbidden everywhere, so that's why we've mentioned it here. Please do check your country's policy first!
Be sure to ask guests about their stay whilst they're staying
There's nothing worse than getting a bad review after a guest has stayed simply because you didn't address those issues when they were with you. Ask your guests how their stay is and resolve any potential problems before they leave. This usually turns into a positive experience for the guest, and they can review about that instead.
Related article: 3 tips to upgrade your Guest Communication
2. Monitoring reviews
The reviews are coming in steadily; now it's essential to monitor them actively. But how do you do this? You can choose to manage it manually, but there are also programs to make tracking your reviews less time-consuming.
Manually monitoring reviews
Managing your reviews manually is fine; it just takes a little more time. If you choose to monitor your reviews this way, first make sure that all notification emails ("You have a new review!") go to the email address of the person responsible. This way, you know that no review is overlooked.
To make your reviews as insightful as possible, we recommend that you create a file and keep track of the data in it. In a document, you can keep track of the following things:
- How many reviews come in per week/month?
- Through which platforms do the reviews come in?
- What is the ratio of positive and negative reviews?
- What action(s) are taken as a result of the reviews?
Automated monitoring of reviews
Should you find manually managing your reviews too much hassle, then you can use a program that automatically monitors your reviews. In the market, such programs are often called "Online Reputation Management". Some examples are:
Most review software comes at a cost, although you can use some programs (with limitations) for free. Please take this into account when making your choice.
3. Responding to reviews
When responding to reviews, there are three important factors: the number of responses, the reaction speed and the reaction length. When these factors are correctly used, you often see an increase in the number of reviews that other guests give.
Make sure you've determined in advance what your strategy is for a negative review: are you going to compensate and if so, how are you going to do that? Try to treat every guest equally, although some responses may require more customisation.
Keep the following things in mind when you are going to post a reaction, whether it is a positive or negative review:
Always respond positively
Although a review can sometimes be very negative, try not to jump to the defence. Acknowledge and apologise in your response, keep it simple and sweet and evaluate whether a follow-up action is needed. If possible, try to move the conversation offline after your initial response.
Think from your company's point of view
When you're going to post a reaction, think from your company's point of view. This way, you keep your response professional, and you avoid the feeling that you are being personally attacked (this is not the case!).
You might also like: How to improve your Online Distribution Channel Strategy
It is possible that a guest is disappointed or unsatisfied with the accommodation. Even if it is no fault of your own, take the high road and apologise anyway. You don't have to agree with each other to apologise for not being able to exceed your guest's expectations.
Go offline and fix it
Always respond to a negative review, but solve the problem with the guest behind the scenes. Extend an invitation to the reviewer to personally reach out to you to resolve the issue together. This way you keep it discreet and you limit online negativity.
The heart of a hotelier breathes hospitality, and therefore you may often have the feeling that you have to solve every negative reaction. Put such responses on a scale every time, because some people will leave a bad review in the hope of getting a discount or a refund. In such cases, you can comment that you are always doing everything you can to provide an unforgettable experience and that you find it unfortunate that the guest did not experience it that way.
Do not skip reviews
Although negative reviews seem more relevant to respond to, you should not forget the positive ones. Always respond to positive reviews so that these guests are heard. A simple reaction is often enough: Thank you for the nice compliment!
4. Turning reviews into improvements
Every review is an opportunity to improve your hotel. Share them with colleagues: the positive ones to make your colleagues smile, the negative ones to learn from together.
Did you solve a negative review behind the scenes or have you taken a guest's point of improvement to heart and made adjustments? Then always report this online. This way, potential guests can see that you are listening to the expectations of your guests.
Ready, set... go!
Reviews are essential, and you can't ignore them anymore. With this article, you can start managing your reviews, which will help you get more reviews and hopefully more reservations. Don't forget that this blog is just a guide to help you move forward; you are entirely free to give it your own twist, as long as you start taking action with your reviews.
For more than 16 years, SmartHOTEL has been helping hoteliers navigate the exciting world of online distribution. From our office based in the Netherlands and the United Kingdom, our team serves independent hotels, hostels and chains worldwide by providing channel management and tailored online distribution solutions. A lot has changed over the last years, but our goal remains the same: simply connect hotels to the world. For any questions regarding our services, please contact us at email@example.com or call +31 (0)182 75 11 18.