6 Sept 2011

Address online guest feedback internally

It’s a relatively new phenomenon - customers actually shaping a brand by commenting and sharing experiences. Yet travelers rely so heavily on peer experiences that to not manage it, to not stay on top of guest comments, is to ignore one of the most important parts of your brand. 

Reputation management can mean different things to different hoteliers. While some may equate it with ensuring their hotel is projected online in a positive light, the hoteliers who truly understand reputation management see it as a way to respond to guests’ demands and improve operations.
Some hoteliers consider reputation management trying to manipulate the perception of their property,” said Daniel Edward Craig, former hotel GM and current online reputation management consultant. “If that’s the case, you’re setting up expectations you can’t meet.”

Craig said he tries to instill in his clients that, done well, true reputation management is a function that touches many aspects of a hotel’s operations.

It comes down to transparency,” he said. “We’ve lost a lot of control about what is said about our properties, and we can’t hide. Listening and making changes that are feasible in turn naturally and organically improves your reputation.

At ZMC Hotels, a manager of 33 select-service properties in 12 states, guest services manager Ellen Troeltzsch believes online reputation management is all about the conversation and the connection with guests.

The guest will tell us when we’re doing a good job and when we need to do a better job,” she said. “That’s why we’re here—to deliver a guest experience.”

Real-time results
Hyatt Hotels Corporation is beginning to take online reputation management seriously. At the Manchester Grand Hyatt in San Diego, for example, Kristin Spitz has been electronic sales and marketing manager for nearly a year.

When she first started, Spitz was logging on to each individual review and social media site and monitoring mentions of her property. In March, Hyatt contracted with a third-party vendor brandwide to aggregate online mentions into a single dashboard. Spitz said the application cut her time spent crawling the Web by 50%.

“The program sends email alerts, and you can specify those however you like,” she said. “One-star and 2-star, negative reviews I’ll get to immediately. The 4- and 5-star positive reviews I’ll save to the end of the day as they aren’t that urgent.”

Beyond reviews, Spitz spends a significant amount of time monitoring mentions on social-media sites, which also are aggregated into the dashboard that she keeps open on her desktop all day.

It really scans anything I need to address,” she said. “We have a lot of people talking about us on Twitter and FourSquare.”

At the Hyatt, Spitz has the leeway to respond to reviews as she sees fit. If she sees an extraordinarily bad circumstance - a poor service experience reported by a guest - she’ll send it within the hotel and it will be addressed internally. The application allows her to tag whichever manager needs to see and handle the comment.

If it’s something like ‘Wow, this needs to be addressed, we need to offer some type of compensation,I invite the guest to contact usually the rooms director,” Spitz said. “Minor issues I first apologize, thank them for their feedback and then assure them that their review is sent to the exact corresponding manager. I let them know the process—that rest assured we’re going to follow up internally."

“I really mean that because it helps us improve every day,
” she said. “We ask: ‘What do we need to do to fix this?’”

As well as addressing individual instances, Spitz brings reviews and scores to weekly management strategy meetings and presents them to the group. The department managers go over scores assigned by the application, as well as TripAdvisor ratings, bi-monthly.

When we have a really great review, they call out staff members’ names,” Spitz said. “We’re not just calling out the flaws of everyone.

She said behind the front desk is a large door full of reviews and positive mentions that have been printed out. She calls it the “Wall of Fame.”

Before bringing Spitz aboard, the Manchester Grand Hyatt was rated No. 75 out of more than 200 hotels in San Diego on TripAdvisor. Today they are ranked No. 64.

The staff really responds to that,” she said. “It’s been great to get that momentum and see those results.

And Spitz said her involvement on review sites has led to direct business. A handful of guests have commented on TripAdvisor that they planned on staying down the street until they noticed how active the Grand Hyatt was in responding to reviews.

Learning curve
Introducing online reputation management as a team function will require some learning curve. But once it’s adopted, hotels can use the information captured in reviews to motivate and educate.

(Managers) can leverage reviews in their staff meetings to highlight and discuss the bad guest experiences and how to improve them,” said Mike Wylie, founder of ReviewAnalyst, a review and social media monitoring tool that recently partnered with TrustYou, a European-based reputation management company. “Of course, they can also be used to highlight exceptional service for positive recognition or to tailor marketing messages.”

Wylie said ultimately the practice of rewarding staff for positive reviews can in-turn help encourage guests to leave reviews.

Many operations tools can be found in TripAdvisor’s new Management Center. Brian Payea, head of industry relations for TripAdvisor, suggests making sure multiple staff members are signed up to receive feedback alerts. He also suggests tracking performance by monitoring TripAdvisor’s customer satisfaction index and comparing that score to hotels in the competitive set.

The real game-changer is getting involved in reviews by writing management responses,” he said. “Research really proves that travelers value that exchange. Properties ignoring that are really missing an opportunity.”

Article source: HotelNewsNow