Exclusive Feature: Not all types of guest feedback are created equal: There are key differences between online reviews and guest surveys which call for a different approach to responding.
Whereas reviews are shared publicly on review sites and seen by hundreds or even thousands of travel shoppers, surveys are shared privately between guests and hotel staff. Likewise, responses to reviews are public and responses to surveys are private.
Another important distinction is that reviews are often anonymous. You don’t always know who the guest is, although you might have a good idea. With surveys, you always know who the guest is and can easily verify the details of their stay.
To optimize the effectiveness of responses, hoteliers need take these differences into account, devising distinct response strategies for reviews and surveys.
“The goals are different for each type of response,” said Silvia Battistella, online reputation manager at Barceló Hotel Group, during a recent ReviewPro webinar. “When responding to a review, we communicate publicly to an entire community of potential guests. We respond to reviews to increase our sales. When we respond to a survey, the guest is already a customer, so we want to build loyalty.”
With these different objectives in mind, here are tips and strategies for each type of feedback.
Responding to Online Reviews (ORM)
Understand expectations. Because travelers write reviews for other travelers, they don’t expect a response from hotel management. When they do see a response, they’re often surprised and impressed that the hotel is listening and making efforts to improve.
Choose your words carefully. Given that responses are public and can influence the impressions and booking decisions of travelers, your choice of words is critical. As the voice of your brand, your responses should be thoughtful, meaningful and professional. Write responses in the language of the review, and ask a colleague to check them for spelling, grammar and typos before posting.
Know your audience. Address the reviewer in your response, but keep in mind that your real audience is all the travelers shopping for a place to stay. The subtext should be, “We care about guest feedback and we’re committed to guest satisfaction.” If the reviewer was disappointed, reassure other travelers that the same thing won’t happen to them.
Respond as quickly as possible. Travel shoppers tend to focus on the most recent reviews. If you wait days or weeks to respond they might not see your responses. If you fall behind, prioritize recent reviews over older reviews. If you have to choose, reviews should take priority over surveys because they reach a much larger group.
Avoid repetition and “canned” responses. Travelers can easily spot when the same response is being copied and pasted again and again. Use templates to save time and create efficiencies but modify them to speak directly to each guest’s comments. This is especially important for reviews that appear on the same site within a similar timeframe.
Respect privacy. Don’t reveal details in your response related to the guest’s identity or behavior and don’t make assumptions about who the guest is.
Assess the quality of your responses. Unlike other forms of social media, with online reviews the conversation thread ends after you post a response. How do you know how people react? One way is to evaluate the quality of responses internally. At Barceló Hotel Group, the online reputation manager scores management responses on a scale of 1 to 5.
Keep an eye on competitors. Take advantage of the public nature of responses by checking out competitor activity. How quickly and how often do they respond? What do they say? Use ReviewPro to set benchmarks, and craft your responses in ways that set your property apart.
Responding to Guest Surveys (GSS)
Understand expectations. Because surveys go directly to the hotel or corporate office, guests are more likely to expect a response, especially if they have a complaint. Don’t disappoint them. And don’t underestimate the impact a direct response from the general manager or senior manager. If the response is well written, the guest will be impressed.
Make complaints a priority. By sharing feedback in a survey, the guest provides you with an opportunity to resolve issues privately and discreetly. If you ignore the feedback or fail to address it adequately, the guest will be more inclined to post a negative review, causing damage your hotel’s reputation. If, on the other hand, you resolve the issue to their satisfaction, the guest will be less likely to post a bad review and might even write a positive review raving about your service recovery.
Acknowledge satisfied guests too. For positive surveys, a thoughtful, appreciative response accompanied by a request to share the feedback online will help earn positive reviews, strengthening your hotel’s reputation.
Speak to the specifics. Because survey responses are private, you can address the guest’s comments openly and frankly and mention other details of the stay such as compensation offered or previous attempts at resolving issues.
Build loyalty. Think of survey responses as an opportunity to create dialogue and build relationships with your guests. If the guest has stayed with you before, acknowledge their loyalty and ask for more detailed feedback. Identify highly satisfied guests, promoters and repeat guests and offer them a discount, upgrade or personal assistance on future stays.
Use templates. Templates can increase efficiency and save time while also ensuring that your messaging is consistent and on-brand. Since survey responses are private, guests won’t know that other guests receive similar responses. Nonetheless, be sure to personalize responses and, when appropriate, address specific comments and ratings.
Make in-stay surveys the top priority. For in-stay surveys, the guest is in-house, so speed is of the essence. A quick telephone call is usually the fastest and most effective way to resolve issues. Strive to respond immediately, and no later than two or three hours after the survey is submitted.
Assess the quality of responses. ReviewPro clients can include a question in survey responses asking the guest if they found the response helpful. This will help you quantify and track the effectiveness of your responses.
To get up to speed on the latest and greatest in management response strategies, check out the ReviewPro webinar, Winning Strategies for Responding to Guest Reviews and Surveys.