The Next Phase of Online Reputation Management for Travel Brands

by James O'Brien + Skift Team - May 2014

Skift Research Take


With travelers increasingly influenced by online reviews, hotels & destinations are expanding their attention to more sophisticated strategies surrounding management, response, and analysis of consumer feedback. Meanwhile, tech firms are providing fresh approaches to online reputation management that foreground data, curation, and the mobile review experience.

Report Overview

When it comes to making choices about hotel destinations, travelers are deeply and increasingly invested in the online review. At the same time, hotel brands seeking consumer bookings have invested time and human resources in managing and developing the online review space as well. On both ends of the equation, the infrastructure surrounding online hotel reviews is becoming more sophisticated, its users more savvy, and the options for how, when, and from where reviews can be posted, consumed, and responded to is evolving toward new models.

The push for proactive approaches to online reputation management (ORM) in the hotel-review space is now augmented by third-party aggregators, big-data analytics, and the critical — if at times sensitive — notion that reviews need to be not only a two-way communication between brands and travelers, but also a curated experience, so that consumers see the feedback that is most relevant to them.

Furthermore, the very concept of the online review is entering the mobile space, where travelers are already — and developers mean them to be increasingly — employing apps to find site- and scenario-specific feedback that helps them to make in-destination decisions. Brands, meanwhile, are also working with new mobile interfaces, ones that allow their ORM teams to see and react to the reviews that consumers create. At a speed that is approaching realtime, technology is empowering brands to conduct ORM independent of where any given manager or hotelier may be located, whenever the need to respond might arise.

Executive Summary

When it comes to making choices about hotel destinations, travelers are deeply and increasingly invested in the online review. At the same time, hotel brands seeking consumer bookings have invested time and human resources in managing and developing the online review space as well. On both ends of the equation, the infrastructure surrounding online hotel reviews is becoming more sophisticated, its users more savvy, and the options for how, when, and from where reviews can be posted, consumed, and responded to is evolving toward new models.

The push for proactive approaches to online reputation management (ORM) in the hotel-review space is now augmented by third-party aggregators, big-data analytics, and the critical — if at times sensitive — notion that reviews need to be not only a two-way communication between brands and travelers, but also a curated experience, so that consumers see the feedback that is most relevant to them.

Furthermore, the very concept of the online review is entering the mobile space, where travelers are already — and developers mean them to be increasingly — employing apps to find site- and scenario-specific feedback that helps them to make in-destination decisions. Brands, meanwhile, are also working with new mobile interfaces, ones that allow their ORM teams to see and react to the reviews that consumers create. At a speed that is approaching realtime, technology is empowering brands to conduct ORM independent of where any given manager or hotelier may be located, whenever the need to respond might arise.

Introduction

Source: Booking.com

Source: Booking.com

The requirements and demands of online reputation management are transforming, evolving into a suite of opportunities and challenges that are more dynamic, more critical to business success – and potentially more rewarding for the brands that successfully navigate them — than at any other point in recent years.

Within this context, hotel brands in particular are immersed in a world of content publishing and customer-relations management that has achieved the level of what is often a one-to-one correspondence in a public forum. And so, one way to frame the arc of online reputation management’s transformation — and how it applies to hospitality (encompassing theme parks, services provided by cruise lines and other businesses, even event planning) is to consider what ORM has been, what it is, and what it stands to become for hoteliers.

Statistics help tell the story. Specifically among U.S. travelers, 95% say they are influenced by online reviews.1 One-fourth to one-third of all consumers look at online hotel reviews and place a significant weight upon the reputation that such feedback helps to create.2
Screen shot 2014-09-29 at 11.05.43 AM
However, the centrality of reviews in the decision-making process has, at times, come at a kind of price. Back in 2003–2004, a given hotel owner/operator might have said that the online world was against them.

“They felt that if something made it to Google, then there was very little they could do,” said Mark G. Johnson, an independent industry analyst who founded HotelChatter, in 2003, and Jaunted, in 2005, speaking in a phone interview. “They were very frustrated by TripAdvisor, and HotelChatter, and all of the different publications that were out there. Hotels felt very much behind the eight-ball. And from the consumer side, it was was also very difficult.”

Difficult because online interactions were limited in terms of volume and effective methods of aggregation. Hoteliers struggled to manage the words that were written about them, whether by happy or unhappy visitors. Then, the approach started to change.

“The most savvy hotels started blogging, and interacting with blogs and comments,” said Johnson. “The general managers could now come in and get involved in the conversation.”

Responding to online reviews emerged as not only acceptable but also a crucial tool in the hotelier’s kit of options. The rise of social media further augmented the brand-response scenario and ORM, as a practice, began to formalize within the hotel space.

“By the time Facebook and Twitter had gained popularity, most forward-thinking hotels had been playing in the world of TripAdvisor responses, on Yelp, and things like that,” Johnson said.

“We were at the point that somebody — probably working in the back of house — was pretty savvy with this stuff, and then that person took on Twitter and Facebook responsibilities” more of the time.

As the workload of managing online reputations continued to grow throughout the late 2000s, that individual’s role changed again, advancing from an adjunct activity to a focused mission for brands. Alongside all of this, third-party companies offered management services, aggregation, and deeper analysis.

By the time Facebook and Twitter had gained popularity, most forward-thinking hotels had been playing in the world of TripAdvisor responses.

“The hotels that do the best at getting loyal, direct guests are going to be the ones with the best reputation,” Johnson said. “Life is going to be easier for them, moving forward, and for the ones that don’t, it’s going to be harder and harder for them. There’s so much competition, now the stakes are just going to go up.”

One upshot of this increasingly complex ecosystem is that ORM is no longer a purely reactive space. It is a proactive process, in 2014, with brands seeking to shape and enhance travelers’ opinions, sometimes even before they can take hold online. And they are doing so in a variety of environments, often transcending the traditional consumer desktop-research experience

Traveler behavior: online reviews in 2014

Source: Booking.com

Source: Booking.com

If there is an underlying constant when it comes to the factors that play into online reputation management, it is the behavior of the travelers that brands serve. It is a constant that demands questions: what kind of consumers write the reviews that significantly shape destination reputations, who reads them, and what kind of reviews do travelers trust in the first place?

Creation, reception, and trust of online reviews

Recent numbers suggest that complaints are still a primary motivator in the online review space, across all categories. Nearly one quarter (22%) of the consumers who have a bad experience with a brand of any kind will take to online reviews to express their displeasure, while only 9% of consumers who experience something positive with a brand will do the same.3

In general, online consumers are looking for the experiences of individuals who are also spending money in the marketplace: 90% of review readers trust online reviews published by individuals who identify themselves as other consumers. That’s more confidence than users place in friends and family, from whom, by comparison, only 70% of readers trust reviews.4 But beyond source type, if the reader in question deems a review to be authentic, some 30% of them said they trust an online review over a personal recommendation — which is a sentiment that is on the rise, up, in 2013, from about 24% in 2012.5

Two other factors that play into consumers’ trust of online reviews are age and gender. More younger readers tend to trust reviews of brands when they deem the writing to be authentic, or when there are multiple reviews to read. Meanwhile, men tend to trust reviews of both categories about equally, but women weight authenticity, as they perceive it, over review quantity.6

Review Trust at Selected Channels

TripAdvisor: 59%
Yelp: 53%
Google +: 49%
Hotels.com: 47%
Room Key: 45%
Priceline: 44%

Source: Maritz Research, 2013

The type of traveler engaging with online reviews of hotels matters as well. The nature of the consumer counts for something when it comes to reading, writing, and sharing about hotel experiences.

“Another important trend to watch is the drop in percentage of reviews that consumers rate as 5-star,” according to a recent report by TrustYou, which looks at late 2013 compared with 2012. “Across all markets and regions, consumers were less likely to rate their hotel experiences as 5-star.”8

However, the report also predicted a possible turnaround in that phenomenon. And it suggested a new emphasis on proactivity among brands.

“As consumers continue to read and trust the reviews of fellow travelers, they may likely adjust their expectations and in choosing a highly rated hotel that adjustment may be upwards,” the report indicated. “This creates greater demands on hotel management to exceed expectations, to delight and surprise guests, and to differentiate their product and service delivery on what are increasingly high traveler expectations.”

Sentiment Analysis Trends in the U.S., 2012–13

Travelers who write online reviews can reveal key drivers of satisfaction and dissatisfaction with their experiences at a brand’s property. Recent TrustYou analysis helps to show what percentage of U.S. travelers were satisfied with different components of their stay — given what they wrote about them online, in late 2013.

Service: 2012: 81.2% 2013: 80.7%
Room: 2012: 64.9% 2013: 65.8%
Location: 2012: 85.6% 2013: 86.4%
Internet: 2012: 63.0% 2013: 61.4%
Food: 2012: 75.7% 2013: 76.6%
Price: 2012: 67.7% 2013: 67.8%

According to the company’s Q1 2014 report for North America, U.S. hotels made slight improvements to last year’s numbers in the categories of Location and Food.13
Source: TrustYou Quarterly Report: USA Q3 2013

Brand response and the traveler review

Luxury Hotel Reviews and Reviewers

Within the luxury hotel space — which includes among its largest brands, Four Seasons, Oberoi, Orient-Express, and Park Hyatt — the numbers of online reviews increased 35% from 2012 to 2013, and the nature of the reviews skewed toward positive feedback.7

% of positive online guest reviews: 82%

% of neutral online guest reviews: 12.7%

% of negative online guest reviews: 5.3%

Source: ReviewPro 2014 Top Luxury Hotel and Brand Report

To understand how deeply online reviews have penetrated the hotel vertical, start with a statistic: 97% of U.S. hoteliers say reviews play a key role in generating bookings.9 However, winning the trust of those travelers, and managing online reputations, for brands within the hospitality space, is an ongoing challenge.

Within the context of fighting for more and better online reviews, brand response to the posting and sharing traveler is increasingly the mantra that analysts say hoteliers must adopt. When TrustYou measured increases in overall hospitality reputation scores, in 2013 — they represented a 13% uptick — one driving factor, according to the company was improved management response rates to reviews.10

“Hoteliers across the U.S. have taken heed of the consumer’s voice and embraced responding to more guest reviews,” according to the report. “Hoteliers in every market increased the number of their responses by double-digit percentages over these same months last year … In particular hoteliers in the Midwest, led by hotel managers in Chicago and Minneapolis, increased the volume of management responses by over 15% from third quarter 2012.”

And when it comes to shaping and enhancing travelers’ opinions before they take hold online, brand response to reviews has been cited as a key step in that effort. Among consumers who received a response to a negative review, 33% acted by following up and posting a positive review — and 34% deleted the negative review they’d posted.11

However, proactive approaches can become somewhat problematic when taken too far by brands online. Hotels can over-respond to online reviews, according to recent research by Digital Marketing Works.

Screen shot 2014-09-29 at 11.12.35 AM

“Responding an ‘appropriate’ percentage of the time can lift the quantity of incoming reviews by up to 35%,” wrote Aaron Zwas, director of emerging technologies for DMW, in an article for Tnooz.12 “We also learned, however, that responding too often can have a noticeably less beneficial effect… the review page for a given property on, say, TripAdvisor, is a social space in its own way, an asynchronous meeting room, of sorts. If the host of the party (the hotel) is crowding out the conversation with a lot of jabber, it appears to turn people off from participating in the conversation, with the end result of guests writing fewer reviews.”

Screen shot 2014-09-29 at 11.21.15 AM

When Brands Can’t Respond

Not all online outlets allow hoteliers to respond to the reviews published on their sites. And while lobbying a site’s parent brand to change a no-response policy is one option, experts in the hospitality space suggest another approach, too.

“Become a content publisher,” said Mark G. Johnson, who founded HotelChatter and Jaunted, in the 2000s. “Whether that be through a hotel’s own website or social media, there are so many ways for hoteliers to communicate with their guests and potential guests these days.”

And, Johnson notes, when a brand moves its content to an in-house channel: “They can point out, on their own channels, the fact that they are locked out from communicating via certain OTAs” and other platforms, he said.

Developments in online reputation management

Source: Creative Commons

Source: Creative Commons

In the United States, in 2014, TripAdvisor remains the primary online outlet to which travelers turn for online reviews. According to TrustYou analysis, TripAdvisor was “the biggest player in the U.S. in terms of volume of reviews, accounting for 42% of all reviews written about hotels in the U.S. during the third quarter.”14

Meanwhile, the report showed that “Booking.com and Priceline also posted year-over-year growth, accounting for 16% and 6% of all reviews written about hotels in the U.S., respectively.” Most of those trends are shown to continue in TrustYou’s most recent numbers, published in Q1 2014.

Source: Creative Commons

Source: Creative Commons

In terms of channels, the growth leader in the United States is Booking.com. One likely reason for its upward trending review volume is the company’s recent investment in infrastructure. In 2013, Booking.com significantly increased its U.S. efforts, including hiring on some 1,000 new employees, instituting new marketing campaigns, and placing an emphasis on digital-audience development.17

The company says growth is also due, in part, to consumer trust engendered by its invitation-only approach, thus limiting the reviewer demographic to only Booking.com consumers.

“To ensure that future customers can filter searches to find accommodations that best fit their particular needs or travel type, consumers can also indicate what type of traveler they are,” said Paul Hennessy, chief marketing officer at Booking.com, in an e-mail. “They can search for families with young children, families with older children, young couples, mature couples, solo travelers” and so on.

There is, in that, perhaps, a resultant shift of perception: consumers finding more relevance among the review demographics and more consumer-to-consumer alignment by type.

Channels and Review Fatigue

The average number of reviews per hotel fell to nine from 15, in 2013, according to TrustYou’s Q3 report. Analysts suggest “review fatigue” may be one factor in that drop, but it is also possible that upticks in brand efforts to drive more online reviews plateaued since a spike in activity, in 2012. Another theory is that online reviewers pick favorites and stick with them, when it comes to outlets for their writings, so some sites might see an increase in traveler feedback while others experience a dip — and the average could be affected in this way.(15)

“My guess would be channel proliferation,”n said travel analyst and HotelChatter founder, Mark G. Johnson, in an e-mail, offering a third option. “There are now so many different ways inclined reviewers can express their opinions: OTAs, Twitter, Facebook, TripAdvisor, etc. etc. etc.”

Meanwhile, TrustYou’s Q1 North America report suggests that the apparent dip in Google+ online review volume may be attributable to something related to the nature of social media itself: users like to post anonymously and the platform would not let them do so.

“There are quite a number of lengthy forums about consumers choosing other reviews for this reason,” according to the report, “and even a more complicated answer on how to leave an anonymous review in Google+… all pointing toward consumers avoiding the site” altogether.16

Aggregation, curation, and analytics

While Booking.com works to further refine in-house aggregation, curating reviews so that more travelers find feedback from consumers within or close to their own demographic has become a major component of go-forward ORM strategies for hotel brands.

“The problem that needs a solution is that reviews are long and detailed, mixed and complex,” said Daniel Edward Craig, founder of ORM strategy consultancy Reknown, in a phone interview. “And that might work for a desktop, but it certainly doesn’t work for a smartphone. So, travelers need this information boiled down to soundbites, essentially, that they can trust. You can easily aggregate reviews down to ratings, but they want more information than just ratings … there has to be written content there as well.”
Screen shot 2014-09-29 at 12.16.54 PM That content also needs to encourage confidence. Consumers are wary of the ways that curation separates relevancy from complete transparency.

“The traveler has to trust that the reviews aren’t being cherry-picked, that they’re getting the real truth,” said Craig.“So, being curated by the hotel or brand can be tough when it comes to winning credibility, as opposed to using a third party aggregator.”

From the brand’s point of view, aggregation is not only about what the customer can see, either. As Craig notes, it’s also about analysis of what’s in the review itself, and what that content can tell marketing about brand performance.

“Tools that aggregate online reviews have helped hotels in two primary ways,” said Amy Patti, corporate communications director for Hyatt, in an e-mail. “The first is that the back-end technology streamlines all reviews into one central repository, allowing hotel associates to see what needs immediate attention in an at-a-glance format.

Where Hotels Collect Reviews

1. Online media platforms (ex. TripAdvisor)

2. E-mail correspondence with recent guests

3. On-site guestbook

4. Hotel website

5. Feedback forms at hotel desk

Source: TripAdvisor 2014 U.S. TripBarometer Report

“Secondly, thanks to the analytics technology that powers those sites, hotels are also able to see common themes emerging, allowing them to understand if an issue is having a significant impact on the overall guest experience, good or bad,” she said. “That deeper and more immediate level of understanding allows not only the general manager to address it in a meaningful, timely manner and let guests know that we truly value their feedback, but it also helps Hyatt’s brand managers and operations executives see larger trends across brands, cities, and/or broader geographic regions.”

The companies that have emerged to supply that kind of perspective are creating a new big-data backbone within the ORM space for hotels — and for travelers. Alan Young, senior vice president of Marketing and Strategic Partnerships at TrustYou, talked about that phenomenon in a phone interview.

Curation is helping hoteliers to control the effect of (say) a Four Seasons customer reviewing a significantly different extendedstay brand with same the expectations he or she might bring to a $450 room experience.

“We’ve gotten to a point where OTAs and meta-search companies are purchasing data that we’ve aggregated and are then using that data to educate consumers about where they want to travel to and where they want to stay, based upon big numbers, related to a large dataset of reviews,” Young said. “It does change the dynamic somewhat, because from an educational perspective the hotelier now needs to be aware of who their customers are, where they’re coming from, and subsequently what kind of service level does the customer require.”

Education, but not obfuscation. Setting expectations, for hotels, goes hand in hand with revealing the pros and cons of a property for different traveler types.

“The buying public is so much smarter, today, than it was 10 years ago, and that’s based on data,” said Young. “What we’re seeing is the adoption of honesty — where the hotel industry needs to be aware that the consumer is that savvy, and thus trying to pull the wool over their eyes doesn’t make a lot of sense.”

Online Reputation Leaders Among Luxury Hotels

As measured by online reviews, ReviewPro reported the following five hotel brands to be among the top leaders in guest satisfaction according to the company’s Global Review Index.

  1. Oberoi Hotels: GRI: 94.6% Properties: 20
  2. Four Seasons Hotels: GRI: 92.2% Properties: 91
  3. Orient-Express Hotels: GRI: 92.1% Properties: 27
  4. Park Hyatt Hotels: GRI: 91.3% Properties: 32
  5. Taj Hotels: GRI: 90.9% Properties: 27
  6. St. Regis Hotels: GRI: 90.8% Properties: 31
  7. Mandarin Oriental: GRI: 90.6% Properties: 29
  8. Jumeirah Hotels: GRI: 89.7% Properties: 20
  9. Banyan Tree Hotels: GRI: 89.6% Properties: 22
  10. Jaz Hotels: GRI: 89.5% Properties: 40

Source: ReviewPro 2014 Top Luxury Hotel and Brand Report

Reviews and the mobile traveler

Source: Creative Commons

Source: Creative Commons

Another area of development is the travel review within the mobile-app milieu. One company that’s working on that equation is TripAdvisor — it’s app experience aims to take reviews to a new level of real-time functionality, at a more granular level than its desktop users typically require. “It’s a function of scale, and there’s a huge opportunity for mobile,” said Kevin Carter, senior public relations manager at TripAdvisor, in a phone interview. Carter emphasized the company’s focus on mobile apps being able to help travelers to further define their trip when they’re already at their destinations and making choices, day to day. That is, what if they decide to drive six hours, impromptu, from Point A to Point B, and need a hotel that they hadn’t initially planned for? “An area that the industry as whole needs to be focused on is providing that type of localized, in-destination information, around the world,” Carter said.
Not just trip planning, but in-trip consultation. TripAdvisor intends its mobile apps — via features such as Near Me Now and Point Me There — to supply review and how-toget-there content that answers those kinds of questions on the fly.

Top 10 Luxury Review Sites

Within the luxury hotel space — including properties such as Four Seasons, Oberoi, Orient-Express,
and Park Hyatt — review and online travel agency sites that recorded the most traveler-generated content for the brands that ReviewPro tracks listed the following, in order of magnitude.

1. TripAdvisor
2. Booking
3. Ctrip
4. Bestchinahotel
5. Expedia
6. Hotels.com
7. Agoda
8. HolidayCheck
9. Google
10. Yelp

Source: ReviewPro 2014 Top Luxury Hotel and Brand Report

As with curation, the other side of a mobile review experience impacts brands as well, and developers are creating tools to provide hotels with more dynamic ways to respond to the reviews travelers create.

Revinate is one company that is pushing for ways to shave hours and minutes off that kind of hotel reaction turnaround. The social-media and online-reputation management firm is working with a new ORM user interface for hotelier’s smartphones and tablets. With the company’s app in hand, hotel representatives are set to receive near instant notifications when feedback about the brand appears online. And then a series of work tickets can be created from the mobile device — empowering the brand’s team to respond in a networked fashion no matter where they’re located at the time.

“Hoteliers rarely sit behind their desks, and social media demands real-time attention,” according to Matt Zarem, director of Product for Revinate, in a press release last December.(20) “It’s critically important that we think about the mobile experience in everything we do and allow our customers to actively manage their hotels’ online reputation at any time, from anywhere.”

Review Volume: a Global Perspective

TripAdvisor may reign at the top of the U.S. online review rankings, but in other parts of the world, Booking.com is a key force with which traveler-review publishers contend.

In Q1 2014, in major European, Middle Eastern, and African markets that TrustYou measures, Booking.com led in volume, carrying 70% of the online reviews.18 Overall review volume increased in approximately 86% of the EMEA hospitality sector, and 70% of those markets saw an uptick in five-star reviews.

Review volume in the Asia Pacific region increased in 88% of major markets. The number of five-star online reviews rose 73% from 2013 numbers. Booking.com held the largest market share of reviews (40%) in APAC as as well, where TripAdvisor was second in market share, publishing 28% of the reviews in Q1 2014.19

Social media and the online review

An underlying motivator of apps such as Revinate’s, and part of what’s driving the advent of full-time, quick-turnaround responders within the hotel space’s marketing infrastructure, is the rise of social media as a locus for online traveler reviews. Environments such as Facebook, according to Kevin Carter, at TripAdvisor, represent another envelope that review sites and brands can push. They are also spaces in which much of the like-minded associations that a hotel wants to identify within traveler segments are often already accounted for by dint of the friend-to-friend model of the sites.

For brand ORM to fully bridge from brand blogs, OTAs, and review aggregators to the discourse that is ongoing across Twitter, Facebook, and other social platforms is a clear and present challenge, according to RJ Friedlander, CEO and chairman of ReviewPro. “A hotel’s reputation is the sum of its presence across the social web” Friedlander said, in a phone interview. “Brands that are really, really standouts — that I would say are really just killing it — understand social media. They know how to listen, they know how to react; they know how to make operational service changes.”

3 Facts About Travelers and Mobile Travel Apps

No. of active travelers who use mobile devices while traveling: 3 in 4

% who have downloaded a mobile travel app: 12%

% who have researched trips on mobile apps or mobile websites: 17%

Source: EliNext Group 2012 Report

In that, experts agree, is a key recipe for online reputation management — one that is both proactive and based on providing avenues for consumers that trust each other to share their experiences online. If hotels began with blogging and reacting to blogs, they are now engaged in increasingly social — and analytical — approaches to review management. As Johnson noted in the first section of this report, the stakes for brands are high, and only getting higher. Online tools are again evolving to match the efforts needed to win at the game of ORM.

Changing Social Media Demographics

Travelers ages 24–36 now account for some 33% of hotel guests, and older travelers compose another 29% of the total who book and stay in rooms.21 Hoteliers who seek those guests on social platforms such as Facebook will see a shift in demographics as well, one that makes it potentially somewhat harder to identify younger Millennial hotel guests among the Social Network’s users, but that could bring advantages to hotels seeking to newly interact with guests in the 25–55 age range.

    • Nos. of Facebook users (13–17) in 2011 v. 2014: 13.1 million ; 9.8 million -25.3%
    • Nos. of Facebook users (18–24) in 2011 v. 2014: 45.4 million ; 42.0 million -7.5%
    • Nos. of Facebook users (25–34) in 2011 v. 2014: 33.1 million ; 44.0 million +32.6%
    • Nos. of Facebook users (35–54) in 2011 v. 2014: 39.6 million ; 56.0 million +41.4%
    • Nos. of Facebook users (55+) in 2011 v. 2014: 15.5 million ; 28.0 million +80.4%

Source: iStrategyLabs 2014 Report

Surveys and the Online Review

The role of customer surveys in relation to online reviews is also a factor that hoteliers should take into consideration, according to experts, but systems that rank traveler experiences on a numerical scale may not be as relevant to hoteliers now working with the more qualitative space of online reviews.

“I think they’re still of value,” said Alan Young, senior vice president of Marketing and Strategic Partnerships at TrustYou. “I think they could be more deeply intertwined with the review ecosystem… I think at the end of the day you need to get the same [online-review type] methodology within the survey.”

That is, a 30–40 question card that asks hotel guests to rank services by numbers could well be replaced, going forward, by a large-scale shift toward formats that allow brands to capture the kind of sentiment data they now glean from online reviews.

“With technology, today, surveys can be nothing more than a how-did-you-like-your-stay question with an open text box,” Young said. “That’s where we should be … or two or three numbered questions and then an open text field.”

Insights and strategies

  • ORM begins onsite — The surest way to climb the rankings of online review sites is to create experiences on-property that send travelers away with positive feedback in mind. These don’t have to be extraordinary gestures, rather a guest’s takeaway is often the aggregate of many small things going right. Spending time on your hotel is tantamount to spending time on ORM.
  • Expectations lead to online-review decisions — If your online descriptions don’t match your onsite experiences, then the effect is all too likely a review that speaks of guest disappointment. The more honesty and authenticity you bring to your online representations, the higher your chances of attracting guests who feel comfortable with the accommodations and services that your property actually delivers. Aim to receive reviews that reflect the real hotel you operate, and you’ll have fewer guests that later write about what you promised not matching up to what they encountered during their stay.
  • Share online feedback with staff — Your team is your front line when it comes to helping each guest leave with a sense of satisfaction. If your staff are well aware of what’s been written about the hotel — meaning, both positive and negative reviews — then they’ll have a better chance of making decisions that ensure future guests have better experiences in the areas where service might have flagged. It’s also helpful to know where superior service exists, motivating staff to continue doing right in the places where they can already take pride in a job well done.
  • Manage TripAdvisor, but manage other sites as well — When it comes to online reputation management, well-written descriptions and stunning photos count for a lot on massive-traffic/high-volume review sites such as TripAdvisor. But don’t focus on the biggest candidates to the exclusion of OTAs and social networks. Daniel Edward Craig, founder of Reknown, suggests that hotel brands also give attention to Google Local and Yelp, in particular, because both feed traveler feedback into larger engines such as Google Maps, Google Hotel Finder, and Apple Maps.22

Endnotes & further reading

  1. “TripBarometer: 2014 US Edition,” TripAdvisor (2014). Retrieved at http://www.tripadvisor.com/TripAdvisorInsights/n2239/tripbarometer-april-2014-us-edition
  2. Anderson, Myles. “Local Consumer Review Survey 2013,” Bright Local, June 25, 2013, pp. 6+16. Retrieved at http://www.brightlocal.com/2013/06/25/local-consumer-review-survey-2013/
  3. Vahanvaty, Murtaza. “Social Media in Online Reputation Management,” Social Media Today, October 3, 2013. Retrieved at http://socialmediatoday.com/murtazav/1790366/social-media-online-reputation-management
  4. Vahanvaty, Murtaza. “Social Media in Online Reputation Management,” Social Media Today, October 3, 2013. Retrieved at http://socialmediatoday.com/murtazav/1790366/social-media-online-reputation-management
  5. Anderson, Myles. “Local Consumer Review Survey 2013,” Bright Local, June 25, 2013, p. 12. Retrieved at http://www.brightlocal.com/2013/06/25/local-consumer-review-survey-2013/
  6. Anderson, Myles. “Local Consumer Review Survey 2013,” Bright Local, June 25, 2013, pp.13–14. Retrieved at http://www.brightlocal.com/2013/06/25/local-consumer-review-survey-2013/
  7. “2014 Top Luxury Hotel & Brand Report,” ReviewPro (2014), p.4. Retrieved at http://resources.reviewpro.com/luxury-report?utm_campaign=2014-luxury-report&utm_medium=social&utm_source=blog
  8. Ady, Margaret, and Quadri-Felitti, Donna. “TrustYou’s Quarterly Report: Destination USA, 3rd Quarter 2013,” TrustYou, 2013. Retrieved at http://marketing.trustyou.com/acton/attachment/4951/f-013c/1/-/-/-/-/3rd%20Quarterly%20Destination%20Report%
    20PDF%20Final.pdf
  9. “TripBarometer: 2014 US Edition,” TripAdvisor (2014). Retrieved at http://www.tripadvisor.com/TripAdvisorInsights/n2239/tripbarometer-april-2014-us-edition
  10. Ady, Margaret, and Quadri-Felitti, Donna. “TrustYou’s Quarterly Report: Destination USA, 3rd Quarter 2013,” TrustYou, 2013, p.2. Retrieved at http://marketing.trustyou.com/acton/attachment/4951/f-013c/1/-/-/-/-/3rd%20Quarterly%20Destination%20Report%
    20PDF%20Final.pdf
  11. “The Retail Consumer Report: Bring Back Unhappy Customers via Social Media,” RightNow, 2011, p.4. Retrieved at http://www.slideshare.net/ecommercenews/retail-consumerreport-10210264
  12. Zwas, Aaron. “How to respond to hotel reviews (hint: not too much),” Tnooz, January 4, 2013. Retrieved at http://www.tnooz.com/article/how-to-respond-to-hotel-reviews-hint-not-too-much/#sthash.GehUGmQE.dpuf
  13. Ady, Margaret, and Quadri-Felitti, Donna. “TrustYou’s Quarterly Report: Destination North America, 1st Quarter 2014,” TrustYou, 2014, p.5. Retrieved at http://marketing.trustyou.com/acton/attachment/4951/f-01f0/1/-/-/-/-/Q1%202014%20Destination%20North%20America%20Report.pdf
  14. Ady, Margaret, and Quadri-Felitti, Donna. “TrustYou’s Quarterly Report: Destination USA, 3rd Quarter 2013,” TrustYou, 2013, p.4. Retrieved at http://marketing.trustyou.com/acton/attachment/4951/f-013c/1/-/-/-/-/3rd%20Quarterly%20Destination%20Report%20PDF%20Final.pdf
  15. Ady, Margaret, and Quadri-Felitti, Donna. “TrustYou’s Quarterly Report: Destination USA, 3rd Quarter 2013,” TrustYou, 2013, p.5. Retrieved at http://marketing.trustyou.com/acton/attachment/4951/f-013c/1/-/-/-/-/3rd%20Quarterly%20Destination%20Report%20PDF%20Final.pdf
  16. Ady, Margaret, and Quadri-Felitti, Donna. “TrustYou’s Quarterly Report: Destination North America, 1st Quarter 2014,” TrustYou, 2014, p.5. Retrieved at http://marketing.trustyou.com/acton/attachment/4951/f-01f0/1/-/-/-/-/Q1%202014%20Destination%20North%20America%20Report.pdf
  17. Schaal, Dennis. “Booking.com Going For a Shock And Awe Strategy in U.S. With Huge Expansion,” Skift, February 20, 2014. Retrieved at http://skift.com/2014/02/20/booking-com-going-for-a-shock-and-awe-strategy-in-u-s-with-huge-expansion/
  18. Ady, Margaret, and Quadri-Felitti, Donna. “TrustYou’s Quarterly Report: Destination Europe, Middle East, Africa (EMEA), Q1 2014,”
    TrustYou, 2014, p.5. Retrieved at http://marketing.trustyou.com/acton/attachment/4951/f-01ef/1/-/-/-/-/Q1%202014%20Destination%20EMEA%20Report.pdf
  19. Ady, Margaret, and Quadri-Felitti, Donna. “TrustYou’s Quarterly Report: Destination Asia Pacific (APAC), Q1 2014,” TrustYou, 2014, p.5. Retrieved at http://marketing.trustyou.com/acton/attachment/4951/f-01f1/1/-/-/-/-/Q1%202014%20Destination%20APAC%20Report.pdf
  20. Wohl, Michelle. “Revinate Releases the Hospitality Industry’s First Native Mobile Apps for Reputation Management,” Revinate, December 18, 2013. Retrieved at http://www.revinate.com/blog/2013/12/revinate-releases-the-hospitality-industrys-first-nativemobile-apps-for-reputation-management/
  21. Schaal, Dennis. “Millennials Make Hotels Rethink How They Do Loyalty Programs,” Skift, November 18, 2013. Retrieved at http://skift.com/2013/11/18/millennials-make-hotels-rethink-how-they-do-loyalty-programs/
  22. Craig, Daniel Edward. “Social Media and Reputation Management for Hotels: Eight Key Takeaways,” Reknown, June 4, 2013. Retrieved at http://reknown.com/2013/06/social-media-and-reputation-management-for-hotels-eight-key-takeaways/