Reputation Management in the Age of the Instant Review

By Gary Kimball President, Kimball Communications | August 24, 2014

The reputation of a hotel no longer rests primarily in the hands of the owners, managers or employees. Thanks to social media and review websites, guests are controlling and shaping the reputations of hotels large and small every day. Consumers review, compliment and castigate hospitality businesses using Facebook, Twitter, TripAdvisor, Yelp and other sites and apps.

Such "word-of-mouth" reviews have changed how hotels can and should manage their precious reputations. With the 24-hour social media day, they have also changed when hotels should be paying attention to their reputation. As a result, hotels must be proactive if they are to play a role in shaping their brand reputations, which includes mitigating any damage from disgruntled guests.

Guests Take Control

Not all travelers bring their computers on every trip, but they have their smartphones and tablets. Where they have mobile devices, they have apps. And where there are apps, there is social media. People can read others' reviews, check in and rate, review and photograph their travel experience. And when they complain, they may not call customer service. They may simply post on social media – at any time of the day or night.

By proactively participating in social media, hotels can influence whether these engagements are positive or negative, as well as remedy issues of concern more quickly.

Several hospitality heavyweights have demonstrated how to successfully engage with fans and critics on social media. Marriott, for example, introduced a program where customers can earn rewards points for participating in social media tasks on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Foursquare. The hotel chain also asks guests to share content using specific hashtags. The program not only improves Marriott's social media reach but also entices point-hungry customers to share positive content about their Marriott experience, which will increase Marriott's online reputation even more.

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Eco-Friendly Practices: Corporate Social Responsibility

The hotel industry has undertaken a long-term effort to build more responsible and socially conscious businesses. What began with small efforts to reduce waste - such as paperless checkouts and refillable soap dispensers - has evolved into an international movement toward implementing sustainable development practices. In addition to establishing themselves as good corporate citizens, adopting eco-friendly practices is sound business for hotels. According to a recent report from Deloitte, 95% of business travelers believe the hotel industry should be undertaking “green” initiatives, and Millennials are twice as likely to support brands with strong management of environmental and social issues. Given these conclusions, hotels are continuing to innovate in the areas of environmental sustainability. For example, one leading hotel chain has designed special elevators that collect kinetic energy from the moving lift and in the process, they have reduced their energy consumption by 50%  over conventional elevators. Also, they installed an advanced air conditioning system which employs a magnetic mechanical system that makes them more energy efficient. Other hotels are installing Intelligent Building Systems which monitor and control temperatures in rooms, common areas and swimming pools, as well as ventilation and cold water systems. Some hotels are installing Electric Vehicle charging stations, planting rooftop gardens, implementing stringent recycling programs, and insisting on the use of biodegradable materials. Another trend is the creation of Green Teams within a hotel's operation that are tasked to implement earth-friendly practices and manage budgets for green projects. Some hotels have even gone so far as to curtail or eliminate room service, believing that keeping the kitchen open 24/7 isn't terribly sustainable. The May issue of the Hotel Business Review will document what some hotels are doing to integrate sustainable practices into their operations and how they are benefiting from them.