What is hotel review management?

As the name suggests, hotel review management is the practice of monitoring and managing your hotel’s reviews. It’s a critical part of the broader management of your online reputation, which affects your ability to attract guests.

Hoteliers today are becoming increasingly aware that online guest reviews significantly influence the booking decisions of their potential guests. In fact, over the last 12 months, 81% of travellers said they found user reviews important so it’s little wonder why.

Word-of-mouth is often considered the most powerful tool for any marketer and it is important hoteliers start treating online hotel guest reviews as exactly that – transparent, public comments or feedback straight from their customers’ mouth.

Online hotel guest reviews represent an invaluable opportunity for small hotels to know what their guests really think of them, not to mention act as free advertising.

Whether those opinions are positive or negative, hotels, bed and breakfasts, guesthouses and motels can use this valuable information to engage with their guests, increase travel customer satisfaction, identify operational problems and promote their small hotel to future guests.

On the other hand, if reviews are left unchecked or not responded to, online review sites can foster negative opinions about your small hotel in plain sight of your prospective guests.

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Why are hotel reviews important?

In today’s marketing-savvy world people don’t necessarily trust businesses to talk about themselves. They do, however, trust other people. 

Reviews give potential guests real insight into the thoughts and experiences of previous guests. Add in the anonymity that the internet offers, and online reviews offer particularly honest and revealing feedback.

Reviews also show you how you can improve your hotel. Some guests aren’t comfortable sharing feedback face-to-face, but are more than happy to offer constructive criticism over the internet. If it’s reasonable you should take this feedback seriously.

As such you should actively encourage people to leave reviews across all your different channels, and to actively manage your reputation by responding to those that are left. And this process needn’t be as laborious and time-consuming as you might imagine – particularly if you use a hotel property management system like Little Hotelier.

Why is responding to hotel reviews important?

Responding to hotel reviews is important because people trust online reviews – a lot. According to Brightlocal, almost half of consumers trust online reviews as much as personal recommendations. What’s more, 88% of people feel it’s important that a business owner responds to reviews. 

The expectations of every guest are different, so no matter how incredible your hotel is, there will come a time when a guest leaves a less-than-perfect review. It’s inevitable, and may even come down to factors beyond your control.

But you’re far from powerless against mixed or outright negative reviews. You can respond to them.

The first and in some ways biggest challenge is simply finding the time to respond. It can be easy to push this task down the priority list, but it is one that you need to set aside time for, for a few very good reasons.

According to TripAdvisor, hotels that respond to reviews are 21% more likely to receive booking inquiries than those that don’t offer any responses. If you respond to more than half your reviews the number rises to 24%. The same study also found a direct correlation between review responses and review rating – the more responses, the higher the rating, and the more bookings a hotel enjoys.

Responding to reviews, whether positive, negative or mixed, is important. The next question: how?

How to respond to hotel reviews

Online reviews are critical to the success of any hotel. The star rating that certain platforms place on your listing can have a huge effect on your ability to attract guests and earn money.

While your rating will largely be determined by the guest experience you deliver, there’s another way to mitigate the negative effects and maximise the positive effects of reviews: posting a response.

How do you respond to a good guest review?

Let’s begin with the positives. How do you respond to a nice guest review? The following tips can help:

  • Never use a template: Cookie cutter responses can do more harm than good, and guests can smell them from a mile away. Make each response unique, address the person by their name and refer to specifics that they mentioned in their review.
  • Use ‘we’ instead of ‘I’ in responses to positive reviews: This shows that your team is united and that you share your wins with each other.
  • Thank the guest for their review.

How do you respond to a negative hotel review?

Negative or mixed guest reviews are a little more complicated to respond to. You need to carefully navigate the criticisms, accepting those that are fair while explaining any potential misunderstandings and misconceptions.

As a starting point, you should trade the ‘we’ for ‘I’, as this makes someone responsible for righting the guest’s perceived wrong. The best responses to negative or mixed reviews take the form of a sandwich, where negatives are placed between two slices of positivity:

  1. Thank the reviewer: They took the time to provide feedback and should be thanked for doing so.
  2. Highlight any positives: If the guest gave a mixed review, tell them that you’re glad they liked a certain aspect of their stay.
  3. Address the negatives: If the feedback is fair, accept it graciously, apologise for the experience, ask for more information, and outline how you plan to avoid the situation in the future. If you feel the feedback is unfair, ask for more info, consider saying sorry that the guest didn’t feel their expectations were met, then offer your side of the story in a humble, calm and objective manner.
  4. Return to a positive: Offer up another example of something that the guest enjoyed, or return to the earlier positive.
  5. Extend an invitation: Invite the guest to return. This shows that you’ve taken their feedback on board and are keen to do better next time.

Should hotels respond to every review?

Replying to every review can be impractical, and can see you fall into the trap of offering generic, impersonal responses.

Rather than replying to every compliment, your time will be better spent forming considered responses to negative and mixed reviews.

According to Cornell University, a nice response rate to aim for is 40-50% of all reviews. You should aim to respond to every negative and mixed review, as these have the potential to do the most damage, and are the ones that the eyes of potential guests will be drawn to.

Why should you care about your hotel reviews?

As a small hotel owner, you have always cared about your guests’ experience at your property. But today, managing your customer satisfaction levels goes beyond simply asking them how their stay was upon checkout.

It’s important to care about online reviews, because they are, in many ways, the lifeblood of your business, and caring will incentivise you to monitor your reviews and respond to reviews.

When you manage hotel reviews:

It improves your hotel Average Daily Rate (ADR)

High customer satisfaction ratings and consistent, positive reviews on reliable review sites, enable you to increase your prices.

According to a recent poll conducted by TripAdvisor, 76% of travellers are willing to pay higher prices for a hotel that has positive reviews.

A hotel with good review scores will also enjoy an increase in demand that can drive up the ADR as well.

Travellers will use reviews to compare hotels at the same price

If given the choice between two hotels that have the same rate for their rooms on the same days, travellers are 3.9 times more likely to choose the one with better reviews on Facebook, Google and other popular sites.

How to make your hotel reviews online better

The best way to ensure that online reviews become a positive drive at your property is to have a clear plan for how to deal with them.

Most small hotels have come to accept the need for online reviews. In fact, it’s fair to say that small establishments rely on reviews even more than the larger chains do, because without them, it will be difficult to get international travellers to stay with you.

Consider this:

  • 49% of travellers won’t book a hotel without reviews
  • 81% of travellers find user reviews important
  • 70% of global consumers say online consumer reviews are the second most trusted form of advertising
  • 93% of global travellers say their booking decisions are impacted by online reviews
  • 88% of consumers trust online reviews as much as personal recommendations

Here are two ways to help you take your online reviews to the next level.

1. Ask for reviews at the right time

You should ask for reviews at the following times:

  • During the check-out process.
  • As a self-serve option on your front-desk.
  • In a follow-up email.
  • When you’ve received unsolicited feedback.
  • Through social media channels.
  • Attached to a copy of your guest’s invoice.

2. Know what your guests look for in reviews

Take a look at your online reviews and consider whether it really is everything your guests are looking for.

Obviously, you want to be authentic and include all of the information needed. As long as you veer away from dodgy tactics (like creating fake reviews), and your service is great, then you should be headed in the right direction.

The top factors that consumers look for in reviews include:

  • It concentrates on the facts
  • It contains a lot of detail
  • It’s recent
  • It talks about the condition of your property
  • It provides tips on how to improve the guest experience
  • It’s a balanced review
  • There is context for why a reviewer liked or disliked something

How to manage hotel reviews

By implementing a solid hotel review management system, you can ensure your online reputation is managed in a way that maximises bookings and revenue.

Here’s a best practice guide on how to manage your online reviews:

1. Ensure no more than a few people at your property are responsible for responding to online reviews

This helps keep the tone and language similar and personal. Importantly, it means the responses sound more genuine, so you can start to create rapport with both your past and future guests online. For example, formal tone and language such as ‘Dear customer’ and a casual tone and language such as ‘Hi %first name%’ project a different message and perception.

2. Respond to comments quickly and regularly

This promotes an image of engagement and helps in developing a relationship with your guests both on and offline. A quick response to undesirable comments, in particular, is crucial to minimise the negative impact they can generate.

3. Be appreciative of all guest feedback, both positive and negative

When responding to a review, keep the following tips in mind:

  • Thank the guest for staying at your small hotel
  • Thank them for taking the time to give their feedback
  • Always keep a friendly and professional tone
  • Address any negative feedback and outline any steps you have taken to improve
  • Invite the guest to stay with you again
  • If more discussion is necessary, take the conversation offline, or invite the guest to write more in a private message or to your front desk email.

4. Ask your guests, especially satisfied customers, for their feedback and support

Post-check-out email requests are a common way of doing this and can be easily set-up in an all-in-one booking solution.

Quick tips to encourage travellers to review your small hotel:

  • Exceed expectations and give guests a reason to tell others about their amazing stay
  • Be active on social media, TripAdvisor and other review platforms and encourage guests to follow and engage with you
  • Let guests know they have the possibility to review your property on social media or TripAdvisor. Try asking for feedback at the front desk or adding a link to your newsletter and post-stay survey. And all-in-one system can automate this post-stay email for you
  • Respond to existing feedback in a timely manner. Management responses can reinforce prospective guests’ confidence that they are dealing with a hotel that will take care of their needs.

5. Do not offer compensation in online responses

Compensation may be offered to the guest, if warranted, even if it is not made public. Encourage guests to contact you offline and, if compensation is justified, offer a promotion code, which you can set up in your all-in-one booking solution system.

Online hotel reviews are not failsafe. As with all forums, they tend to attract the most extreme responses (i.e. from those who are either incredibly satisfied or dissatisfied with your small hotel), or simply those who are the most vocal and will make time to ensure their voice is heard.

But with 49% of travel customers refusing to book a hotel without reading reviews, they are an important part of getting booked online in today’s competitive environment and cannot be ignored.

Following this best practice guide will help you to manage your online reviews with ease. 

Top hotel review management tactics

While the rules above give you a broad sense of how to respond to reviews, there are a number of more refined strategies that can help to focus and bring structure to your efforts. Here’s how to respond to hotel reviews through very specific techniques and tactics.

The Review Feedback Loop

The review feedback loop is the process of guests forming and sharing an opinion about your hotel. Each stage of the review feedback loop must be managed to improve the overall guest experience at your property:

  1. Perception

The loop begins with perception.

The perception of your bed and breakfast is most impacted by your online presence. Your photos, virtual tours, descriptions and posts on social media give guests an idea of what they can and should expect during their stay.

  1. Research

During the research stage, your potential guests will often search for feedback from previous guests about your property on popular online review sites, as this is considered an objective and trustworthy source of information.

  1. Opinion

Finally, the last stage of the loop is the opinion stage.

At this point, guests have decided how they feel about your property and they will likely share their opinions with friends, family members and the internet.

It’s critical that hotel owners understand the review feedback loop, and actively work to impress guests at every stage. As always, the focus should be on providing your guests with an amazing experience, then soliciting feedback from them.

Ask for feedback on the day 

As your guests check out, conduct an exit survey or send a post-stay email asking for feedback. This gives you the information you need to make adjustments (if necessary) at your hotel.

Hotel review management software options

With so many reviews coming in from so many review platforms, smart hotel review management software can make the otherwise tricky and time-consuming task of review management so much simpler. A couple of the best examples of hotel review software include:

TripAdvisor Reputation Pro 

TripAdvisor was one of the first hotel review sites, and it remains one of the most important. In the Reputation Pro tool a hotelier is given a simple and effective way to monitor and manage their TripAdvisor reviews, to ensure you’re putting your best foot forward on the platform.

GuestTouch Reputation+

A more general reputation management tool, GuestTouch Reputation+ helps you get a broader, platform agnostic sense of how people perceive your hotel. Along with review management, it allows you to dig deeper into your online reputation, doing things like conducting guest surveys, soliciting reviews and monitoring guest sentiment.

By Dean Elphick

Dean is the Senior Content Marketing Specialist of Little Hotelier, the all-in-one software solution purpose-built to make the lives of small accommodation providers easier. Dean has made writing and creating content his passion for the entirety of his professional life, which includes more than six years at Little Hotelier. Through content, Dean aims to provide education, inspiration, assistance, and, ultimately, value for small accommodation businesses looking to improve the way they run their operations (and live their life).