Turning Feedback into Gold: The Ultimate Guide to Hotel Reputation Management

Bryan Michalis
Bryan Michalis
May 1, 2024
September 28, 2023
Turning Feedback into Gold: The Ultimate Guide to Hotel Reputation Management

How do you pick between hotels for your next trip?

You probably search for services they offer, compare rates, check star ratings on review sites and read reviews from past guests.'

You’re not alone. TripAdvisor found 80% of their users read at least six to 12 reviews before booking. 

This shows how much your online reputation matters when it comes to convincing people to choose your property. 

The great news is that the right approach to hotel reputation management will help you generate more bookings.

In this comprehensive guide, we’ll teach you how to make online reviews your marketing superpower. 

The Basics of Hotel Reputation Management

Let’s cover the basics of hotel reputation management before we get into how to use it to drive business. 

What Is Hotel Reputation Management and Why Is It Important?

Simply put, your hotel’s online reputation is what people say about your property online. This can be on social media, review sites, forums, comments sections on blog posts, but also in media articles. 

Of course, you can use reputation management to improve your online reputation. This involves monitoring and influencing your hotel’s reputation to build a positive brand image for your property online. 

The first thing that comes to mind here is likely reading and responding to reviews. While that’s an important part, it’s not everything. Maintaining and optimizing your presence on social media and your website also has a considerable influence on how your audience perceives your hotel. 

The Impact of Online Reviews and Ratings

Review scores can have an enormous impact on how much business you get and how much people are willing to pay for your rooms. 

We already saw that 80% of TripAdvisor users read up to 12 reviews before choosing a hotel. That shows how important reviews are in shaping booking decisions. 

But it’s not only that. Reviews and ratings also impact potential guests' willingness to pay. 

A Cornell study found that a one-point increase in ratings can allow hotels to raise rates by up to 11.2% while maintaining the same occupancy levels.

Key Platforms for Hotel Reputation Management

Today, the top places where people leave reviews are Google, TripAdvisor and online travel agencies (OTAs). And of course many local markets have their own popular sites. In the US, for example, Yelp is a big player. 

If you rely heavily on a specific source market (e.g. China, UK, India…), monitor top review sites for those countries to createfor a more complete picture of your guests’ perceptionsopinion. 

Now that we’ve covered the basics, let’s look at how you can get started with reputation management at your hotel. 

Lay the Foundation: Build a Strong Online Presence

A solid online presence is essential if you want to get people’s attention. That means making it easy for your target market to find you on their favorite channels. As a result, you’ll grow your reach and get more of your ideal guests to book with you. 

1. Optimize Your Hotel’s Website

Your hotel’s website is the most important part of your online presence because it helps you generate commission-free direct bookings. Ensure it’s always up to date and helps potential guests find the information they need to make a booking decision. 

Highlight your latest online reviews on your website to add some social proof that you deliver on your promises. You can do this via widgets, e.g. from TripAdvisor. If you want something consistent with your branding, display guest comments via your review management tool (e.g. Olery). Alternatively, prompt travelers to leave comments directly via a comment box on your website. 

2. Use Social Media Effectively

Social media is not just a place to share your latest offers and promote your services. Many people use their favorite social media channels to ask questions and reach out to hotels. Engage with them to show that you value their interest. This will put you in their good books and ensure they think of you first when it’s time to book. 

Mobile social media platform engagement

Travelers also love tagging their hotels in posts and stories. Reshare this content to show you appreciate their engagement. Take it a step further and actively encourage people to share their stay on social media with contests and giveaways.

3. Keep OTA Profiles Current

Of course your focus should be on direct bookings. Still, OTAs are valuable distribution partners that increase your visibility. Keep your listings updated and provide relevant information about your hotel to set the right expectations. That means adding seasonally appropriate images, uploading fresh photos after renovations and highlighting new services and offers. OTAs are also a reliable source of reviews that help you gauge guest sentiment. 

Proactive Review Management Strategies

Now that you’ve laid the groundwork, it’s time to focus on improving your online reputation. Start by benchmarking where you’re at and coming up with ways to get more guests to share their great experiences at your hotel. 

Step 1: Conduct a Reputation Audit

The first step in successfully managing your hotel’s online reputation is to assess your current situation. Know what people are saying about your hotel and understand your brand’s current strengths and weaknesses. See how you stand in the market as well. Is your reputation better than your compset’s? 

Use Reputation Management Tools

A reputation management tool can pull answers from post-stay surveys as well as track reviews on platforms from TripAdvisor and Google to OTAs and social media. It gathers guest feedback from all sources into one interface, so you can read and respond to them directly. This saves valuable time and ensures you never miss a guest comment again. 

Do a Sentiment Analysis

A good reputation management tool does more than just help you track reviews. It shows how your overall score is trending and can analyze which points guests mention repeatedly. 

Do they often praise your value for money? Do they love your extra-fast WiFi? Or is the sluggish service at breakfast a regular cause for complaints?

You’ll discover things like this via data-based reports from your reputation management tool. Today, you can go deeper with sentiment analysis and even get recommendations for action steps with the help of artificial intelligence (AI)

Next, look at your main competitors. How many reviews do they have? What’s their overall rating? What do guests frequently praise and criticize?

Collect your findings in a spreadsheet, so you can get an overview, spot trends and opportunities.

Here’s how this could look:

Hotel reputation management sentiment analysis example

As you collect this data, you may realize you don’t have a lot of reviews yet. In that case, it’s time to get more people to talk about your hotel’s many features and benefits. 

Step 2: Encourage Guest Feedback and Reviews

While 40% of hotel guests are likely to leave a review after a wonderful experience, the other 60% won’t share their thoughts online. Luckily, you can persuade more of that 60% to get vocal by automatically sending post-stay questionnaires to every guest. A survey by BrightLocal found that a whopping 65% of consumers leave reviews when asked to do so by a business. 

You can do all this automatically with a modern guest communication tool. That saves time and brings in more reviews right away. Canary’s Smart Check Out tool is a good example. It lets you send a questionnaire, so guests can give their feedback right after departure. Then it asks your happiest guests to share their thoughts publicly, e.g. on TripAdvisor or Google. 

Step 3: Respond to Reviews Promptly and Professionally

Getting more reviews is a great start. Responding appropriately is the next step. Quick and relevant answers are important because they show that you value feedback. This makes a good impression on the reviewers and potential future guests.

Of course, writing new answers for each review is a lot of work. But that doesn’t mean copying and pasting the same answers under several reviews is the solution. It rubs readers the wrong way and diminishes the benefits of your response. Instead, you can save time by leveraging AI tools to help you come up with fresh answers faster. 

Step 4: Handle Negative Reviews and Complaints

Even though you consistently do your best, things go wrong sometimes. And disappointed guests will air their grievances publicly. 

When this happens, don’t panic. Examine the review and find out what happened from your team. Then respond with a thoughtful, relevant answer. 

First, thank the reviewer for their comment and apologize for the shortcomings they experienced. Next, outline how you’re aiming to improve your service and offer a service recovery. 

That could mean:

  • Inviting the guest to return, so you can do something special for them
  • Giving them a discount or a guaranteed upgrade for their next booking
  • Sending them a voucher for the service that went wrong, e.g. breakfast, dinner, a spa treatment
  • Offering a free night or two (especially if this is a particularly valuable regular guest or the problem was extremely grave)

A response like this shows readers that you act on criticism and want to keep doing better. That builds trust and can nudge more potential guests in your direction. 

Or, if the situation permits it, you can use a negative review to better attract your target audience. Here’s how the Snowbird Lodge did it with a review criticizing the extremely difficult slopes.

Negative review turned into positive marketing in hotel industry hotel reputation management

Negative review hotel industry reputation management

Talk about a great way to show expert skiers and adrenaline junkies where to book their next winter trip!

Step 5: Leverage Guest Feedback for Improvement

Once you know which area of service needs the most work, create a plan to improve. There are a few ways to do this:

  • Set the right expectations by providing clear, up-to-date information. For example, fewer people will complain about the pool closing early if you prominently post its opening times on your website and OTAs. That way guests know what to expect and plan accordingly.
  • Speed up services with the help of technology. Use a tool like Canary to offer smooth online check-in and check-out. That shortens waiting times at reception and gives travelers extra flexibility. 
  • Provide extra staff training. Choose the topics depending on recent guest comments. One subject could be food allergies, intolerances and dietary choices, so your team can better accommodate guests with special requirements.

These are just a few examples. The concrete actions you should take depend on your hotel’s strengths and weaknesses. 

Here’s a bonus tip: When you implement these steps, share them with your audience. They’ll love seeing that you’re investing in creating better experiences for them. 

Step 6: Measure and Track Success

The best way to see how your online reputation is developing is to measure and track key performance indicators (KPIs). 

KPIs for Hotel Reputation Management

Measure the following metrics regularly to know if you’re making progress:

  • Review score by channel: Your average rating on each channel. Usually it’s shown on a scale from one to five (e.g. on Google) or one to 10 (e.g. on Booking.com).
  • Overall performance: The combined score from all review sites. A reputation management tool will use results from all platforms to calculate your overall performance. 
  • Number of reviews: Ideally, this figure will grow consistently week over week.
  • Response time: A reputation management tool measures the average amount of time it takes you to respond to a review. The faster, the better. 
  • Response rate: Use a reputation management tool to track how many reviews you answer. Again, the more, the better. 
  • Ratio of positive to negative reviews: Check by how much your positive reviews outnumber your negative ones. Especially if you’re just getting started with reputation management, this KPI can show great improvements. 

Step 7: Make Data-Driven Decisions and Keep Monitoring Your Results

Leverage your KPI data to see if your action steps are moving you in the right direction. Keep track of when you implement a new service standard or training to see its impact on your score. 

Check review content as well to know what guests are saying about your new offers or amenities. Adapt your strategies based on how your performance develops over time to continuously improve your results

The Role of Hotel Staff in Reputation Management

Your staff plays a critical role in forming your hotel’s reputation, both online and offline. Give them the tools and training they need to provide the best service in everyday situations and more challenging interactions. The better they can do that, the more positive reviews you’ll see coming in.

Hotel Staff Reputation Management

1. Train Employees in Customer Service and Guest Relations

Dealing with guests isn’t always easy. That’s true particularly when special requests, difficult personalities, complaints and busy operations come together. One way to help your team learn to better manage these situations is to offer specialized training. Share techniques for coping with stressful situations and providing excellent service even when it’s not easy. 

2. Empowering Staff to Handle Guest Issues and Complaints

Training gives your staff the confidence they need to take care of issues quickly and effectively. The goal should always be to quickly solve the problem to your guest’s satisfaction. Ideally your team will know which services, compensation, etc. they can offer in standard cases without having to check with management. That should only be necessary in exceptional cases. 

Proactive Crisis Management

Even with the best staff and great service, a serious mistake or something you have no direct control over can trigger a bigger crisis than one guest disliking their stay. For grave cases such as theft from a guestroom or a foodborne illness outbreak, it’s best to have a crisis communication plan in place. 

1. Prepare for Potential Reputation Crises

First, consider your hotel’s main weaknesses and which crisis is most likely to occur. Examples of common problems hotels face are an accident involving a guest at the hotel, employee strikes or even data breaches

If you need help coming up with scenarios to consider, call in outside experts. Skilled professionals, e.g. publicists or public relations agencies, can consult you on what and how to prepare. 

2. Develop a Crisis Communication Plan

Again, work with pros to set up your custom crisis communication plan. On top of an action plan, PR agencies often provide media training for senior leadership. This gives your managers a chance to run through different scenarios and get feedback on their answers to potential media questions. 

3. Respond Effectively to Negative Press or Social Media Backlash

If you ever read negative headlines about your hotel, stay calm. If you have a crisis communication plan, consult it for your next steps. Depending on the situation’s gravity, call in your PR and/or legal team. 

The first step will most likely be to issue an apology for any wrongdoing. Then, show that you’re doing everything to correct the mistake and ensure it never happens again. It’s critical to communicate honestly and sincerely. If you get probing questions, remain courteous and professional. 

After the initial wave of the crisis subsides, there’s more work for your PR team. Let them help you create positive content around your brand to rebuild your reputation. 

Hotel reputation management is a worthwhile investment

Now you know: hotel reputation management is about more than just responding to reviews. Getting it right takes time and dedication. But sticking with it can result in massive advantages for your hotel: extra bookings, more visibility and an increased willingness to pay among your guests.

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