A Year in Review on Hotel Reviews
By Benjamin Jost Co-Founder & CEO, TrustYou | November 2013
I will get right to it and let you know that travelers are writing fewer reviews, being slightly kinder overall, yet increasingly more critical when it comes to evaluating a hotel and giving out a "five-star" review. This is what we learned when examining over a quarter-million user-generated reviews over a year-long period. I will also tell you what this means in the grand scheme of things and how it will impact your online reputation.
Before I get to that, let me tell you a bit more about how we came to these finding and who was part of our study. The team at TrustYou, working in conjunction with Donna Quadri-Felitti, Ph.D., at New York University, Preston Robert Tisch Center for Hospitality, Tourism, and Sports Management, has developed its first quarterly report identifying key trends in travelers' reviews and hotel satisfaction. Based on a sample of more than 250,000 reviews of US-based hotels from across 250-plus sources, the data and insights are segmented by region and major markets versus secondary ones. Review scores are based on the TrustScore, TrustYou's aggregate score out of 100, pulling from all reviews written worldwide.
As Quadri-Felitti, an associate professor at NYU specializing in marketing, rightly asserts "Data, big or not, are only meaningful when managers find actionable insights from the patterns. This thought leadership series was developed to provide those insights." So now we'll get into the heart of those insights and what it means for your hotel.
Travelers Writing Less - Can You Blame Them?
Travelers have written 9% fewer reviews compared this same time last year. I don't know we can really blame them. While the travel industry might be one of the pioneers in the online feedback space, we are certainly not alone now in our quest for feedback. Order a pair of shoes; get an email requesting feedback. Make a change to your cell phone plan; get a note asking to rate your experience. Call your car insurance carrier; get a survey to rank your interaction and how it might be improved upon. Buy a coffee; get a link on the bottom of the receipt to see how you enjoyed your visit (with an incentive for a free donut, of course). Consumer review fatigue may be setting in, which underscores the importance of each review and management's thoughtful response to them (more on responses later).
As I have said before (specifically in my last article on the "Circle of Trus t"), we have seen a tremendous spike in reviews from hotels that use the survey functionality of our platform. You don't have to take the drop in reviews written as the norm to live by. We highly recommend customizing a survey and sending it to past guests to fill out; there you have a wealth of information that can live in the form of user-content on your very own website. We give hotels the option of distributing reviews across a number of sites. Maybe you send 25% to your own site, 40% to TripAdvisor and the rest to some combination of Yelp!, Google+ and Booking.com. The more reviews, the better the score. The better the score, the higher the visibility. Higher visibility and better scores translate into higher revenue.