How to Generate Positive Online Reviews and Increase Occupancy
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 cliche- 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 cliche 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).