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How to Generate Positive Online Reviews and Increase Occupancy, by
 

How to Generate Positive Online Reviews and Increase Occupancy

By , | May 07, 2010

Customer service is at the core of any hospitality business, from hotels to restaurants to tour operators. And just about everyone in the business knows this; ask any waiter, general manager, first year hotel school student, or tour guide and they will agree with you: customer service is what it’s all about. Even the industry’s most well-worn cliché- the customer is always right- is a tacit admission that customer service is the heart and soul of the industry. In my opinion, the great hotelier E.M. Statler articulated the hospitality industry’s raison d’etre best when he said “life is service.” From a dollars and sense perspective, it is common knowledge throughout the industry that good customer service equals more repeat business, which means spending less on marketing the product.

So if the whole industry knows this so well, why is it that so many hotels need to be reminded of the primacy of customer service so often?

This is not to imply that the majority- or even an out-sized percentage- of hotels are consistently delinquent in their delivery of satisfactory customer service. Most hotels take the old cliché and Mr. Statler’s immortal words to heart; they do the good work and reap the financial rewards of the satisfied guest. Yet there is increasing awareness of the levels of customer service (or lack thereof) guests encounter at almost every property. And here’s the important distinction: that awareness seems to be coming from the guests themselves. It’s not that hotels are suddenly becoming more cognizant of their service levels- after all, industry professionals at every stage are already well aware of the centrality of customer service- it’s that the guests are becoming better versed in the customer service experience.

That’s common sense, right? Guests must be aware of the guest experience, by definition. There is another factor at play here, though, and it’s easy to identify. It’s the proliferation of customer review websites. More importantly, it is the importance these sites have taken on in the quick dissemination of guest experiences and the role that they play in influencing purchasing decisions. Recommendation sites like TripAdvisor have created a multiplier effect for the guest experience, enhancing and magnifying both the positive and the negative. How and why these sites came to such a prominent role is a subject for scholars and consumer sociologists, but how to manage them is the task of every hotel owner and manager in the world.

A heightened emphasis on customer satisfaction is not a bad thing at all, and wise hoteliers are realizing that improving customer service is now a much more direct way to increase sales and bookings than it was just a decade ago. It’s the same win-win situation outlined in the first paragraph, just sped up to the speed of information.

But how is an improvement in customer service best accomplished? There are a few guiding principles that can help hoteliers improve the guest experience at their properties and subsequently boost their consumer reviews, land more bookings and encourage repeat visits (and, of course, boost revenues in the process).

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Coming up in February 2018...

Social Media: Engagement is Key

There are currently 2.3 billion active users of social media networks and savvy hotel operators have incorporated social media into their marketing mix. There are a few Goliath channels on which one must have a presence (Facebook & Twitter) but there are also several newer upstart channels (Instagram, Snapchat &WeChat, for example) that merit consideration. With its 1.86 billion users, Facebook is a dominant platform where operators can drive brand awareness, facilitate bookings, offer incentives and collect sought-after reviews. Twitter's 284 million users generate 500 million tweets per day, and operators can use its platform for lead generation, building loyalty, and guest interaction. Instagram was originally a small photo-sharing site but it has blown up into a massive photo and video channel. The site can be used to post photos of the hotel property, as well as creating Instagram Stories - personal videos that disappear from the channel after 24 hours. In this regard, Instagram and Snapchat are now in direct competition. WeChat is a Chinese company whose aim is to be the App for Everything - instant messaging, social media, shopping and payment services - all in a single platform. In addition to these channels, blogging continues to be a popular method to establish leadership, enhance reputations, and engage with customers in a direct and personal way. The key to effective use of all social media is to find out where your customers are and then, to the fullest extent possible, engage with them on a personal level. This engagement is what creates a personal connection and sustains brand loyalty. The February Hotel Business Review will explore these issues and examine how some hotels are successfully integrating social media into their operations.