By now we're well aware of the benefits of positive reviews, but what about frequency? According to TripAdvisor, review volume is a key ingredient in its Popularity Index algorithm.
Google and Bing have disclosed that reviews and ratings now play a role in search rankings. And as travelers we know that a higher volume of recent reviews gives us more confidence in our booking decisions.
With this in mind, many hotels are actively soliciting reviews from guests. And yet it seems others are not comfortable with this practice. Here's a condensed summary of the responses I received:
"Absolutely, we ask our guests to write reviews. We staple a business card from TripAdvisor to all folios asking them to review the hotel, and the evaluation form we send to all guests includes a request to review us and a link to TripAdvisor. As a result, our review volume has almost tripled." – Stephen Peters, Resort Director, Pacific Sands Resort, Tofino, BC
"We always send a post stay email thanking the guest for the visit, asking how the stay was and letting people know how much we appreciate their support via a review. Occasionally we mention it if we feel it is appropriate to the conversation, but mainly the request is via email … and that is enough for us." – Adele Gutman, VP Sales, Marketing and Revenue, Library Hotel Collection, New York, NY
"It is my belief that if you want to be an elite property and top the country TripAdvisor listings the worst thing you can do is request or encourage reviews from guests. By doing so you generate non-passionate and middle-of-the-road reviews. Better to live by the sword and allow those with a passionate response (may that be good or bad) to leave reviews." – George Freitag, Owner, Elizabeth Lake Lodge, Cranbrook, BC
"We're trying a lot of different things. We want to make it easy for guests to write reviews and for them to know how much we value their feedback. We share a variety of social content including TripAdvisor reviews prominently on our website for our properties. From here guests can click through to TripAdvisor and read all of our reviews and/or write their own. Some properties have added the TripAdvisor widget to their internet login pages, added the link to their TripAdvisor page to folio statements, restaurant checks, etc.
"In some cases hotel staff may also make a personal request for the guest to consider writing a review but we try to approach this from the perspective that we think other travellers would benefit from the guest sharing their opinion and experience. The one thing we don't want is for guests to ever feel pressured to write reviews. We have a long history of valuing and acting on guest feedback so we want to make sure guests see social channels as valued and valid ways to share with us." – Andrew Gillespie, Assistant Director, Reservations Operations, Four Seasons Hotels and Resorts
"I just think review solicitation is bit desperate. If the guest is interested in contributing to sites – and they are still a very small number in context of guests who stay with me every week – if we have delighted them we will motivate them to write a great review. Similarly if we did not meet their expectations they can t wait to get home to write about how we got it wrong." – Ciaran Fahy, Managing Director, The Cavendish Hotel, London, UK
"We do ask our guests to comment on their experience on TripAdvisor. We are confident that most of their responses will be very positive and ask them to share their views with potential future guests. We think it is important as we realise that the number of reviews makes a difference on the ranking." – Dimitri Antononpoulos, VP Marketing F&B, Antonopoulos Group, Montreal, QU
"I do not ask. I do have links on my website, and use reviews in social media content. I also encourage all staff to read our reviews and be comfortable engaging customers on the topic of reviews. We do not however request reviews as I'm not a fan of how it comes across. Great service will generate good reviews." – Bill Lewis, General Manager, The Magnolia Hotel & Spa, Victoria, BC
"Yes. Hotels should actively solicit reviews. Some ask everyone – not recommended. Why ask someone who had a bad experience to write a review? We work with hotels to custom tailor TripAdvisor solutions that work for them … It is imperative to work within TAs guidelines so as to not risk running afoul with TA – the last thing any hotel would want." – Madigan Pratt, President, MP&A, Richmond, VA
"There is nothing wrong with asking your guests to share their hotel experience with their peers on TripAdvisor, HotelMe, Google+ Local, etc. The main question here is how you are doing it. In my view the best examples we have seen are via CRM tools like ZDIrect or Digital Alchemy. In the "Thank You" email (post-stay), where the user is offered to complete a guest satisfaction survey (typically powered by MarketMetrix), if their satisfaction level is above a certain acceptable level (i.e. 3.5 out of 5 stars), a second portion of the page opens which asks the guest if he could be kind enough to share his experience on TripAdvisor (or another review site) and provides a "deep" link to the property review form on that site." – Max Starkov, President & CEO, HeBS, New York, NY
"Yes, every time, even if the review is going to be bad. Bad things happen, but how you respond to it (as a hotel) tells me more than if you were to pretend nothing bad ever happened at your property. Traveller reviews have more credibility than any of the previous review systems (eg, AAA ratings) and thankfully you can tell by the way the review is written whether or not the author is someone whose opinion you'd value. I like the system of requesting reviews with a post-stay follow up such as an e-comment card request (e.g. Unifocus)." – Jil Larson, Corporate Director of Revenue Management, Coast Hotels USA, Seattle, WA
"In J Boutique Hotel Bali, we set as standard policy since 2010 that every individual traveler will receive a farewell note from hotel management. The content [includes] … a request for the guest to spend 5 minutes to give online feedback and fair comments following their visit via TripAdvisor." – Eko Purwanto, Director of Operations, Jatra Hotels & Resorts, Bali, Indonesia
"While we do not openly solicit guests to post reviews, we do selectively solicit guests to post reviews. We always do our level best to make sure guests leave the hotel happier than they arrived. If they openly compliment Distrikt, we encourage them to tell the world through their preferred review site.
"For guests who provide email addresses, surveys are sent out by an independent company, and the real time results are available to us online. We always respond to those reviews and if favorable, we will encourage the guest to share their experience. Aggressively soliciting reviews is not our style, and I think it puts people off. Of course, at least 75% of our guests have seen a review of Distrikt prior to their stay, and most of them choose our hotel because of those reviews. They are more apt to leave a review of their own without any encouragement from the team. I am proud of our ranking, mainly because it is completely organic." – Jennifer Rota, General Manager, Distrikt Hotel, New York, NY
"I don't have a strong opinion either way. I think these days most guests will consult consumer reviews and some will also write reviews. I think someone who likes to write reviews will do so, without or without a request from the property. Those who don't write reviews, won't generally start doing so, just because someone asked them to. A post-stay thank you email is always a nice gesture, and a request for review, if politely asked for, might result in some additional reviews or at least act as a reminder. Personally, it wouldn't motivate me to write a review if I wasn't already going to do so." – Barbara Pezzi, Director Analytics & Search Optimization, Fairmont Raffles Hotels International, London, UK
"Yes, via business cards with TA access at front desk, meeting rooms and in guest rooms … We are trying to avoid however to ask guests at check-out "was there anything WRONG with your suite" to avoid begging rebates … Our president wants us to ask the question but I'd rather put a deficiency feedback form in the room in triplicate form." – Geoffrey Allan, General Manager, Hotel le Crystal
So once again, the jury is out. It's important to note that many of the properties I surveyed rank high on review sites so have the confidence that if they ask for reviews they will likely be favorable. But overall it seems that each property's approach is as unique as the hotel or brand itself. What do you think?Daniel Edward Craig is a former hotel general manager and the founder of Reknown, a consultancy specializing in social media strategy and online reputation management. He collaborates with ReviewPro as Industry Advisor, Engagement. Visit www.reknown.com Copyright ©2012 Daniel Edward Craig. Reprinted with permission.