When was the last time you had a serious think about why customers choose your particular hotel, restaurant or venue?
You might say: “Well, we’ve got a good location. Our rooms are nice and our staff are friendly – and we pride ourselves on our customer service.”
If you tick all those boxes, that’s good news. But whatever your hospitality business, you’re operating in a competitive world that just keeps on getting tougher – for instance, more than 7,000 new hotel rooms are being built in London right now.
So you need good online reviews. They’re the modern equivalent of word-of-mouth, always been the most powerful marketing tool.
And thankfully, there’s a lot you can do to encourage positive online reviews of your hotel, as TripAdvisor expert Sanj Naha told delegates at a recent business breakfast we organised in London.
Rule number one: you need to make sure that your hotel, venue or restaurant is genuinely operating smoothly. Without getting that right, nothing will bring in positive reviews.
How to give your business a health check
Savvy businesses know there’s software that can help you do this, whatever kind of hospitality establishment you run:
I run a hotel: Many of the most successful hotels use a hotel management system to help smooth their operations.
A hotel management system will capture real-time data that helps you check the performance of every aspect of your business, from labour to online booking ability to stock control.
And – importantly – a hotel management system can help you monitor your online reviews, alerting your management team when adverse comments are posted.
I run a restaurant: In the restaurant business, EPOS software – electronic point of sale – looks after everything from handheld order taking and billing to labour management and stock control.
Social media tools are included with good EPOS software, so you can tackle an issue and put it right before a diner even leaves your establishment.
I run a meeting, conference or event venue: Venue management software provides the solution to streamlining operations, enables you to schedule event activity, manage all your financial transactions, and free up time for your staff to spend on customer service.
It’s also a valuable aid to sales, and like the other systems, can help you to monitor your all-important online reputation.
OK – all’s well. What next?
Once you’re sure your business is operating smoothly, what can you do to encourage your guests and customers to post the kind of reviews that will persuade others to follow?
Sanj is Head of Sales Support and Enablement, B2B Marketing and International Groups, at The Fork, a TripAdvisor company.
As a reputation revenue expert, he says: “You might say: ‘Online reputation – why bother?’ Here’s why:
90% of consumers read online reviews
“Would you want to do business with a company linked to ratings of 1 out of 5 and phrases like: ‘Bad service’, ‘Terrible experience’, ‘Horrible food’?”
Sanj says the modern customer wants:
> Personalisation – friendliness, empathy
> Responsive communication – accurate, honest
> Empowered staff
> Mobile access
> Promptness – no delays
9 top reputation tips:
So working with Sanj, we’ve put together these 9 top tips on how to become a top ranked business and improve your online reputation:
1) Deliver amazing service and products
2) Own and optimise your listing content
3) Don’t give a blank first impression
4) Use impactful photos
5) Include contact details
6) Own your reputation
7) Offer free wi-fi
8) Increase reviews
9) Engage with reviews
Deliver amazing service and products: As we’ve just covered, software can help.
Own and optimise your listing content:
Look at the difference between this claimed and unclaimed page – the claimed one has much more information and identity, so it’s far more engaging.
Don’t give a blank first impression: Take ownership and create more of an identity here – it’s the first thing potential customers will see.
Use impactful photos: A picture is still worth a thousand words. We all look at posts with good images more than those without. Draw pictures from all kinds of sources (although always make sure you have permission to use them).
Include contact details: Seems obvious, but it’s worth emphasising.
Own your reputation: Create ‘Promoters’ by encouraging positive customers to post reviews, and minimise ‘Detractors’ by neutralising potentially negative experiences before they post negative reviews.
Offer free wi-fi: Collect data via a wi-fi gateway service and encourage Facebook likes and posts.
Increase reviews: Use your software to collect email details for TripAdvisor Review Express, a free email service that allows hospitality businesses to send customisable bulk emails to up to 1,000 guests asking them to submit reviews.
Engage with reviews: If they’re negative, all’s not lost – offer a response that shows empathy, and provides explanations and assurances. If they’re positive, respond with further information and look out for cross-selling opportunities.
And after that?
Sanj says: “When a potential customer reads reviews about your business, are you waiting for the phone to ring?
“You can use review feedback to enhance your value proposition. Track which review site your online traffic comes from, and how people navigate your website, then use that information to optimise the user journey.
“You can also use the review information to target messaging to convert online traffic into leads, bookings or calls to action.”
Reputation = revenue. It’s a great connection for a modern-day hospitality business to make – and capitalise upon.