Manage your online reputation for continued success

In today’s internet-fueled world of social media, your customers will make buying decisions based on other people’s opinions. Before social media took over, you could interact with customers more and cut inefficiencies off at the pass. Because that opportunity rarely exists now, your online reputation management needs to be at the top of its game.

If you haven’t paid much attention to your reputation online, now is the time to start. If you find that your reputation isn’t as great as you thought, it’s not hopeless. You can take steps to repair it through some care and consideration.

First, determine the key areas of the poor reputation and address them immediately. For example, consider any bad reviews left for your hotel. Read the reviews carefully and take ownership of the issues. Then, work with your team to actually fix the issues. Once the issues are corrected, respond to the reviews, acknowledge the complaint in an authentic way, and show reviewers what you have done to correct the issues. Furthermore, invite negative reviewers back to your hotel to share in the improvements. There is a chance that they will then go back online to update their experience if you put the work in.

Once you start to turn around your reputation, remain consistent and continue to improve the guest experience to manage and maintain your online presence.

Best practices
There are several best practices to make sure your online reputation is not only consistent but also one that will drive more customers to your hotel’s door.

Go above and beyond. Providing a great guest experience is a surefire way to ensure positive online reviews. Surprise guests on-property to show them you are willing to go above and beyond the call of duty. This can be anything from offering a small in-room amenity, providing personal attention or featuring extra services. When guests’ stays are accompanied by both personalized experiences and great hospitality, it will often be reflected in their online reviews.

Respond to all reviews. Positive, negative or neutral, you need to be responding to all guest reviews online. Some hoteliers will only respond to negative reviews and complaints while ignoring raving reviews. The danger in ignoring your fans can be huge. Keep this in mind: Guests who have positive experiences usually stay up to 10 to 20 times at properties, so ignoring your loyal guests can hurt your repeat business, which is what we’re all after.

When responding to reviews, personality is key. You don’t always need to take a high-level, professional tone in every bit of correspondence with guests. After all, we all have our own personalities and that’s what hospitality is all about. Let those personalities shine in your responses—it’s more authentic and relatable that way. Have you ever researched a hotel and found a general manager responding to all reviews with the same three scripted sentences? These scripts will turn off guests; guests crave personal and genuine communication.

Additionally, more than one person can and should handle review responses. Reviews should be responded to within 24 hours, so having more than one person take ownership of responses will allow every review to be acknowledged in a timely manner. Different job titles can also lend credibility to responses. For example, if a reviewer complains about a housekeeping issue, why not have the executive housekeeper respond that the specific issue has been addressed and corrected?

Don’t manage it alone. Managing your hotel’s reputation can be a big job, and it would take a lot of manpower to assign someone on the team to monitor by hand the countless review sites all day.

That’s why great software is key to maintaining reviews. Look for software that allows you to sort and search reviews. For instance, if you notice a lot of negative comments about the hotel’s breakfast, you can search for the term “breakfast” within the software and begin to look for patterns that will help you fix the issue.

The software also can alert you to new reviews so that you can respond in a timely manner. Remember that the longer you wait to respond, the less credibility you have. Good software will ensure you’re on top of your game.

Sam Trotter is corporate brand strategist at Charlestowne Hotels. He is a recognized leader in hotel e-commerce and marketing. Specializing in independent hotels, Trotter directs e-commerce initiatives to maximize hotels’ profits by acquiring direct bookings and monetizing past clients. Trotter speaks frequently on independent hotel management, marketing fundamentals, branding and ecommerce. You can catch him in New York City at Jacob K. Javits Convention Center during HX, where he will be a panelist on the session “#worsthotelever: Managing Your Online Reputation and Controlling the Message,” moderated by Hotel Business Senior Editor Gregg Wallis. The discussion is on Sunday, Nov. 11, from 2-2:45 p.m.

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