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What is your opinion? Really, truly, I’d love to read it.

For years and still now, some hoteliers have been fighting the beast. But like the Hydra, you cut the head off and two grow instead. Well, TripAdvisor has never had its head chopped off and it is not showing any signs of going down anytime soon (100 million reviews this year!?). Also now, customers can review us on the like of Holidaycheck, Expedia, Booking or actually, our very own brand.com too since July 2012. Business travelers have also started to review us privately on CarlsonWagonLit ‘Hotel Intel’ (4Hoteliers, 2012), although hoteliers don’t have yet access (I’ve checked for us).

Now what do they say? When you can’t beat it, play along with it (and win). Hotels have the chance to reply to these reviews and yet, how many truly engage and make the most of a formidable (and free) marketing channel? Please consider the work of Bulchand-Gidumal, Melian-Gonzalez and Gonzalez Lopez-Valcarcel (2011a, 2011b), Hsu, Chen and Ting (2012), O’Connor (2010), Parra-Lopez, Bulchand-Gidumal, Gutierrez-Taño and Diaz-Armas (2010) or Smyth, Wu and Greene (2010), they will all tell you the same: go for it and engage! And they will also tell you that sadly, we (hoteliers) are still lagging behind … and I read that some are still tilting at windmills, like Don Quixote.

Thus, shall I give you a peek of how we see it at the hotel? Review platforms may be a necessary evil, but are they truly evils? Probably not. Just as some hoteliers have been taking cash, then waiting for guests to go and be replaced by the next ones. Customers have now been seriously empowered by social media. They now can talk back, and they should! Don’t you think? We’ve deprived them of freely and easily expressing their perceptions and emotions to us, for years. Please, don’t tell me that the good old in-room questionnaire was a nice and user-friendly experience! So now, it is time for a catch-up.

And what is the worst that could happen to you? Receiving a public rant? If deserved, then bite the bullet and grab your chance to improve. Unjustified? Then just say so. In a nice way obviously, although I do use sarcasms when they are mean to us … we’re just human beings right? Just passionate and committed hoteliers, on top of it. Yet, for most of them, they just want to be heard by YOU. So, show them you care. Dead easy. You would be surprised how many listeners you get on TripAdvisor, and how many reviewers read your response to their posting!! I have been studying the matter for my Applied Business Project with Glion these past 9 months, and I still learn more every week. I have just found out that there is indeed a conversation (I had only dreamt about it so far)! Not only with future guests (yes, we get a lot of referrals from Trip), but now from past reviewers who turn back and acknowledge my responses. We also started a conversation with a couple of reviewers on our brand.com recently. One replied online through the ‘comment’ button, the other emailed me straight after the publication of my response, with a screen shot of it!! How nice! Don’t we love conversation?

Now, I am not talking about the unfortunately usual: “Thank you so-and-so (usually with their weird and unreadable log-in names!) for reviewing us … we are (ever) so sorry … will turn the place upside down for you … and change totally. Won’t do it ever again …” and a signature from the property (if you’re lucky)”. That is so-not listening. This is a pure and utter tick-box exercise. And what do readers do? They read one review after the other, and find the exact same template all along. That is if the hotel is listening and responding. If not, they only get one sound of the bell; your customers’. And as Iain Ainsworth (White Line Hotels) said so clearly at a panel discussion organised by HVS (Paris, February 2011): yes, they are already talking about you!

Alternative option. Find a creative and caring member of the team, and empower her / him with writing personal notes back to all the customers who have actually taken some of their time to talk to you. Then, you’ll start receiving many more notes of ‘thank you’, of congratulations for actively listening and caring and more booking referrals … just like we do! You will raise your online profile, your credentials and maybe increase your brand equity.

OK, we take the game a little further by adding references in our responses, the old little joke here and there, a salute to someone through someone else’s review, a bit of a teasing … and even a quiz. But this never went anywhere. I had hidden my messages so well, that nobody found them!

Oh, and before I leave you to your creative and genuine writing skills, don’t forget that you are reviewed in many languages and also scrutinized in all these languages too. So you might need several “creative and caring members” to cover them all and translate. But then, that’s another opportunity for you to engage with your team on social media. Please join the conversation and enjoy!!

  • 4Hoteliers. (2012, November 16th). CWT Hotel Intel – a new private hotel review site for companies. Retrieved February 2nd, 2013, from 4hoteliers.com: http://www.4hoteliers.com/4hots_nshw.php?mwi=10680&awsb_c=4hdm&awsb_k=dnws
  • Bulchand-Gidumal, J., Melian-Gonzalez, S & Gonzalez Lopez-Valcarcel, B. (2011b). Improving hotel ratings by offering free WiFi. Journal of Hospitality and Tourism Technology, Vol.2 N°3. Retrieved from Emerald Database.
  • Bulchand-Gidumal, J., Melian-Gonzalez, S. & Lopez-Valcarcel, B. (2011a). The Importance of Stimulating Client Online Review. E-Review of Tourism Research. Innsburgh: ENTER 2011 Conference Abstracts.
  • Hsu, YL., Chen, KY. & Ting, YS. (2012). Travel Review Websites as Innovative Marketing Venues for Hotels. International Journal of Organizational Innovation, 5(2), pp.179-212. Retrieved from EBSCO Database.
  • O’Connor, P. (2010). Managing a Hotel’s Image on Trip Advisor. Journal of Hospitality Marketing and Management, 19(7), pp.754-772. Retrieved from EBSCO Database and supplied directly by the Author.
  • Parra-Lopez, E., Bulchand-Gidumal, J., Gutierrez-Taño, D. & Diaz-Armas, R. (2010). Intentions to use social media in organizing and taking vacation trips. Computer in Human Behavior, 27(1), pp.640-654. Retrieved with the help of GLION’s Librarians.
  • Smyth, P.C.B., Wu, G. & Greene, D. (2010). Does TripAdvisor Makes Hotels Better? Dublin (Ireland): School of Computer Science & Informatics – University College.

And here is the link to our TripAdvisor page, should you fancy a peek: http://www.tripadvisor.co.uk/Hotel_Review-g186338-d277089-Reviews-Holiday_Inn_London_Camden_Lock-London_England.html

With our brand.com reviews: http://www.ihg.com/holidayinn/hotels/us/en/london/loncl/hoteldetail/hotel-reviews

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About the author

Glion Institute of Higher Education
Glion Institute of Higher Education is a private Swiss institution offering bachelor’s and master’s degrees in hospitality, luxury and event management to an international student body across three campuses in Switzerland and London, UK.
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