Best Practices on Monitoring Hotel Review Sites By Max Starkov and Mariana Mechoso Safer

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1 January 2008 Best Practices n Mnitring Htel Review Sites By Max Starkv and Mariana Mechs Safer Hteliers ften ask HeBS hw they can mnitr the Internet chatter surrunding their htels and whether r nt they shuld pay fr services that ffer this type f mnitring. What htel review websites shuld yu mnitr? Hw ften shuld yu check fr reviews abut yur htel n these websites? Shuld yu prvide a rebuttal fr reviews? These are just a few f the questins hteliers pnder n this subject. This article ffers a free, quick, and easily implemented actin plan fr mnitring reviews abut yur htel. H e B S d i g i t a l, I n c. A d d r e s s : 6 W 4 8 t h S t. 8 t h F l r, N e w Y r k, N Y P h n e : F a x : E - m a i l : s a l e h e b s d i g i t a l. c m W e b : w w w. h e b s d i g i t a l. c m

2 Backgrund: It's cmmn knwledge that the Internet has certainly changed hw travel cnsumers perceive the credibility f infrmatin. Any discrepancy between "fficial" and "unfficial" cntent shuld be dealt with immediately. A travel supplier has t stand by its prduct/service, but cannt ignre the ppular vte fr its prduct s quality. HeBS surveys and ur wn research shw that cnsumer-generated cntent n scial media sites and netwrks is perceived as mre credible by nline travelers. And the bigger the disparity between fficial and unfficial cntent, the bigger the gap in credibility. Scial Media (Cnsumer-Generated Media) is nline cntent created by Internet users and made available t ther Internet users via Web 2.0 interactive technlgy applicatins. Htel review sites such as TripAdvisr.cm are part f the Scial Media phenmenn. Fact: 38% f US Internet users (72 millin) use a scial media site at least nce a mnth 89% f US Online Buyers read custmer reviews befre they buy 43% mst f the time, 22% always (emarketer) S what are the mst imprtant htel-related custmer review sites? As part f a brand-defensive strategy, it's unnecessary t mnitr hundreds r thusands f review sites, but nly the handful that the majrity f travel reviewers visit. These sites are: TripAdvisr.cm: TripAdvisr receives ver 40 millin visitrs, and an additinal 3 millin via Mbile web, every mnth. The htel can actively respnd t any custmer review via the 'Htel Owner's Page' by using the link lcated at the bttm f the page with custmer reviews and then clicking n the 'Respnd t a Review' link. Expedia.cm: Expedia is the largest nline travel agency (OTA). Expedia encurages its Htel Partners t mnitr and respnd t custmer reviews. Htel Partners can respnd t custmer reviews via Expedia's extranet r via t Ggle.cm: Ggle is the largest search engine with 60% f search traffic in the United States, and mre than 75%-80% f traffic in Eurpe. Ggle prvides a sampling f reviews fr each htel frm TripAdvisr and ther review sites (type in the htel name + lcatin, and then click n Reviews under the htel listing). Yu can then visit each f the review sites and respnd t an actual review there if allwed HeBS 2

3 A Wrd abut Web Reputatin Mnitring Tls Several vendrs have launched "Web Reputatin" mnitring tls fr htels. The cst ranges frm the absurd fr mre enterprise-level applicatins, t mre affrdable slutins at a cst f $150-$250/mnth. These new tls suppsedly autmate the prcess f mnitring wh says what abut the htel n as many as 25 millin cnsumer-generated sites, plus they claim t autmate the htelier's respnse t such pstings. Here is what we think abut services like this ne: What these services d fr $150+/mnth, Ggle Alerts and Technrati Watchlist d fr free. Ggle is the mst cmprehensive search engine that nw indexes the whle blgsphere and cnsumer-generated sites as well. Techrati is the mst cmprehensive blg and cnsumergenerated media search engine tday. Sme f these vendrs claim that they mnitr 25 millin cnsumer-generated sites ut there. Ggle searches 12 billin web pages. Technrati searches millin blgs and ver 250 millin pieces f tagged scial media. There are nly a few custmer review sites that matter and these are TripAdvisr, Expedia and Ggle. Sme vendrs say they infrm yu f the negative pstings abut yur htel and "autmatically pst yur respnses" hwever the mst imprtant sites like TripAdvisr, Yah Travel Planner, etc. d nt allw such autmatic pstings. Actin Plan fr Mnitring Internet Chatter abut Yur Htel One designated persn at the prperty needs t be respnsible fr tracking, reprting, and reacting t reviews n a weekly basis abut yur prperty n Ggle, TripAdvisr, and Expedia, s they can immediately address any issues and act apprpriately. Yu must authrize smene specific at the prperty t respnd t reviews (bth negative and very psitive). Imprtant Cnsideratins: Determine wh wns the prcess f mnitring and respnding t custmer reviews and then issue an internal mem: Make a staff member respnsible fr mnitring custmer reviews n TripAdvisr, Expedia and Ggle n a weekly basis Authrize smene at the prperty t respnd t: Extremely psitive custmer reviews Negative custmer reviews that are dead wrng Negative custmer reviews that are right n target HeBS 3

4 Address the issue f when, and in what cases, the GM shuld be alerted Our experience shws that the Frnt Desk Manager r DOSM can handle this respnsibility equally well. This persn may simply review these three websites n a weekly basis as well as sign up fr bth Ggle Alerts and Technrati Watchlist. Here are sme quick tips fr respnding t custmer reviews: Thank the custmer fr taking the time t write a review Aplgize prfusely if the custmer is right n target with their negative review Prvide a simple, shrt explanatin f what really happened (if such an explanatin is pssible). Make sure yu are nt merely making excuses, but rather, explaining why smething made their stay less than favrable and why it will nt reccur in the future Assure the reviewer and htel guests in general that every pssible step has been taken t address the prblem r service in questin Offer a direct line f cmmunicatin between htel management and the reviewer (via , direct phne line, etc.) in rder t rectify the situatin T cnclude the respnse, use any elements f the custmer s cmments that are cnstructive (e.g. great htel lcatin, cmfrtable rms, etc) t put a psitive spin n a negative review. Cnclusin Hteliers need t wrk hard t nurture happy custmers and avid negative pstings. Often times, negative reviews appear nline because the issue at hand was nt handled crrectly at the htel level. If a prblem arises at the htel which cannt be fixed, ensure the htel staff knws why this is, and hw t manage this withut causing further negative feelings n the guest s behalf. Shuld the guest still chse t vice their cmplaints nline, hteliers must mnitr reviews, TripAdvisr in particular, and react immediately if an extremely psitive r negative review is psted. Designate ne persn at the htel t mnitr these reviews weekly and t use tls like Ggle Alerts and Technrati t mnitr all nline chatter abut yur htel. It's much better t react t these pstings and shw yur current and ptential custmers that yu are 100% cmmitted t serving them by addressing any and all prblems, rather than ignring cmplaints. Currently, nly 7% f htels n TripAdvisr are respnding t negative reviews, which leave the ther 93% f guests t feel that their feelings and cncerns have gne unnticed. Yu may be under the impressin that respnding t a negative review is a wasted effrt because this custmer will prbably never return. Hwever, yur respnse shuld be primarily fcused n assuring the traveling public that the issue is being addressed and the htel is dedicated t custmer service. In a recent Frester Study, HeBS 4

5 travelers cnsider past experiences f frmer guests equally as imprtant if nt mre s than the price f the htel. Yur respnse will als speak t future ptential custmers wh might stumble n this review and the htel's respnse. With 35% f travelers changing htels after reading reviews n scial media sites, hw yu respnd t yur reviews (bth psitive and negative) culd ptentially affect yur revenue. As yu evaluate yur prperty s Actin Plan fr mnitring htel review sites, seek advice frm an experienced and ROI-centric Internet marketing hspitality cnsultancy t help yu adpt industry s best practices and implement the latest trends. Abut the Authrs: Max Starkv is Chief ebusiness Strategist and Mariana Mechs Safer is Vice President Marketing at Hspitality ebusiness Strategies (HeBS), the industry s leading full-service htel Internet marketing and direct nline channel strategy firm based in New Yrk City ( HeBS has pineered many f the "best practices" in htel Internet marketing and direct nline distributin. The firm specializes in helping hteliers build their direct Internet marketing and distributin strategy, bst the htel s Internet marketing presence, establish interactive relatinships with their custmers, and significantly increase direct nline bkings and ROIs. A diverse client prtfli f ver 500 tp tier majr htel brands, luxury and butique htel brands, resrts and casins, htel management cmpanies, franchisees and independents, and CVBs has sught and successfully taken advantage f the firm hspitality Internet marketing expertise ffered at HeBS. Cntact HeBS cnsultants at (212) r HeBS 5

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