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How do Smart Hotel Management Firms Actually Handle Guest Reviews?

April 8, 2017 Headline News No Comments Email Email

Key Takeaways:

1. Positive Reviews = Flag Happiness = More Deals for the Flag and the HMG

One of the primary reasons that HMG operations execs place such high emphasis on reputation/review management is because positive guest scores and reviews ultimately lead to more deals. If an HMG has a reputation for quality service in their hotels, everyone benefits.  In the case of a flagged hotel, more franchise agreements are written for the brand and more management agreements are given to the HMG.

2. Property Operators are Busy

Hotel General Managers no longer have the freedom to delegate all tasks.  They are working with their teams’ hands on to help run the property. Additionally, they need to be guest facing as much as possible. The more time a GM can spend on the floor ensuring a positive guest experience, the less negative reviews a property will have. This is where their time is best spent versus spending their time responding to reviews reactively.

3. Escalation Effect

What happens if a GM is busy while a scathing negative review, that could potentially escalate into something very damaging to the property, comes in? A hotel’s vendor/partner can quickly be called to help do damage control. Part of a hotel management group’s responsibility is to safeguard the asset on behalf of the owner. A hotels reputation is one of the most crucial components of the asset.   

One of the biggest tasks hotel management firms face is managing the reputation of their portfolio properties. And it often requires different policies, processes and people than what might be occurring at the property level…

Reputation management software that monitors and responds to guest reviews makes things easier, but software alone can’t manage a hotel’s reputation.

People do that.

The Property Owner, General Manager, Operations Manager, management company and often an outside vendor drive these efforts.

How do hotel management companies handle this complex issue?

We asked a few for their advice.

A Common Bond

“Guests want acknowledgment,” says Delana Meyer, Vice President of Digital Strategy, Crescent Hotels & Resorts. “Whether complaining, praising or just commenting, they have taken the time to tell you and you, in return should acknowledge, empathize and, at minimum, say thank you, your feedback will help us be better.”

“The question is not ‘what’s the value of reputation management?’ but rather, ‘what’s the cost of not participating?,’” she says. Hotels want guest feedback while they’re on property so issues can be taken care of right away. But that’s not always the case, and tools like Twitter, text messaging and Expedia’s Real Time Feedback make it easier for guests to communicate their needs without coming to the front desk.

Still, these tools need managing, and an instant response is an expectation.

“We are constantly reviewing and updating our policies on guest reviews, responses and monitoring and have corporate (as well as brand) tools in place to assist with that,” says Meyer.

Don’t Go it Alone

Should hotel management firms handle reputation management at the property level or the management company level, or should they outsource it all?

A Forbes interview with Don Sorensen, the online reputation management expert, suggests the last, primarily because professional reputation management firms have the advantage of “leveraged knowledge” from working with numerous companies.

Another essential is a designated contact person to coordinate a seamless response. The biggest challenge hotels face is how to hire and train employees on property to professionally manage the increasing volume of guest reviews across multiple mediums. What happens if the position turns over? The property is back to square one. This is a fundamental benefit of outsourcing to a professional hotel reputation management firm.

An anecdote from Michael Cady, Vice President of Marketing for Charlestowne Hotels, attests to the value of such seamlessness.

Charlestowne uses proprietary software called InstantComments to facilitate guest feedback. When guests sign in to the on-property internet, a simple feedback request pops up. The hotel’s executive team receives the feedback in real time, and if there’s a problem, responds immediately.

Case in point: Last year, when InstantComments “asked” a guest about her stay, she said she wasn’t feeling all that well and the tissues available in the room were actually aggravating her condition.

The GM took immediate action, sending “one of his team members out to get the best tissues he could find, and within an hour of her comment, an attendant knocked on her door with a new box of super-soft tissues on a silver platter,” Cady recounts.

“We’re trying to deal with any issue while guests are on-property, especially ones that wouldn’t normally warrant a call to the front desk. That way when they leave, they’re praising us all the more,” Cady adds, noting positive reviews have a direct correlation to revenue, “no ifs, ands or buts about it.”

Where Charlestowne uses a social media aggregator called Revinate to track its properties’ scores, 1859 Historic Hotels uses ReviewPro, says Josh Henegar, Corporate Revenue Director.

Revinate and ReviewPro are two of many software options that collect online reviews and guest satisfaction scores across multiple platforms, funneling them to a dashboard hotel executives use to handle guest feedback.

ReviewPro features a metric called Global Review Index used to benchmark a hotel or group of properties, reflecting guest satisfaction scores across all social media channels including Expedia, Facebook and TripAdvisor.

Say a guest has an issue with an F&B item, registering his or her complaint on TripAdvisor. The alert goes to the GM, the F&B Director and the Executive Chef, who “operationally figure out what happened, respond right away and do whatever they can to make it right,” according to Henegar.

Set up to trigger alerts whenever a guest satisfaction score registers at three or less, the system “works well assuming we’re on the other end to respond,” he says. “The more people on alert, the better chance we have of knowing right away and being able to respond to them.”

The Human Touch

Intelligent software is essential but it doesn’t stand on its own. Synergy among owner, asset manager and management company is also critical. Its lack can be costly, suggests a well-informed HotelNewsNow opinion piece written by Paul Breslin and Julia Zhang.

Also, enhance your brand by stressing what’s unique about it. Each property in the 1859 Historic Hotels portfolio has its own lore, says Henegar, noting some can effectively tell stories of their particular neighborhood, their atmosphere, even reputed ghosts. “Guest reviews constitute our reputation,” he says.

“Nothing will come close to what guests actually say about their experience and their satisfaction… what guests say about their experience, I would say, is the backbone of our reputation.”

Word-of-mouth no longer means face-to-face, but it’s still crucial.

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