How Paying Closer Attention to Guest Reviews Can Impact Your Hotel's Bottom Line

By Benjamin Jost Co-Founder & CEO, TrustYou | February 19, 2017

Each day, hotels across the industry put themselves at risk of losing hundreds, or even thousands of dollars… simply by doing nothing at all. These hotels, many of which are a few simple actions away from nearly doubling their pool of potential customers, fritter away opportunities because they don't know how to address the concerns that previous guests have shared on the internet. But inaction can be changed, and new revenue streams can be opened.

To begin, hotel leaders need to understand the feedback that guests are posting online, whether the hotel is excited about that or not. There are millions of reviews written each week, and while not every review pertains to every property, nearly every hotel will receive online feedback on a regular basis.

Understanding these reviews can be tricky… it's important to identify the tone of a review (positive, neutral or negative) along with the contents of the review (going beyond the tone to identify what's actually being discussed). Then, over time, hotels can summarize the sentiments and their statistical relevance to truly understand what impacts their hotel the most. For example, if half of the reviews your hotel receives over a 30-day timeframe mention room cleanliness could be improved, and suddenly your room cleanliness performance drops 35%, you know right away that you need to take action.

So, once data is understood and contextualized, it must be operationalized. Identifying weaknesses in a hotel, based on guest feedback, requires a willingness of management to understand that all feedback is simply data, and data should inform decisions. It can be very difficult to accept that, for instance, an employee who's regularly happy-go-lucky in meetings may turn off the charm in guest service settings. However, if multiple guests complain about the cleanliness of their rooms, there is likely an issue that management must address. This may be by ensuring their employees are implementing the best practices the hotel has established. It may also be changing those best practices (or changing employees if one particular person isn't effectively completing their job).

Using feedback as a tool to identify challenges based on what guests are experiencing first hand can lead to a variety of outcomes, from simple corrective action with employees to more drastic actions are required (such as employee termination) or realizing a particular approach is the wrong way to do things. It can also be used to identify standout employees. Perhaps guest feedback about a hotel's restaurant is always amazing on Tuesdays. At that point, hotel executives should look to see if there is a particular dinner special earning praise, or if there is a standout chef who deserves some sort of recognition.

Remember, not all feedback is bad. In fact, nearly 80% of online reviews are positive.

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Coming up in March 2019...

Human Resources: An Era of Transition

Traditionally, the human resource department administers five key areas within a hotel operation - compliance, compensation and benefits, organizational dynamics, selection and retention, and training and development. However, HR professionals are also presently involved in culture-building activities, as well as implementing new employee on-boarding practices and engagement initiatives. As a result, HR professionals have been elevated to senior leadership status, creating value and profit within their organization. Still, they continue to face some intractable issues, including a shrinking talent pool and the need to recruit top-notch employees who are empowered to provide outstanding customer service. In order to attract top-tier talent, one option is to take advantage of recruitment opportunities offered through colleges and universities, especially if they have a hospitality major. This pool of prospective employees is likely to be better educated and more enthusiastic than walk-in hires. Also, once hired, there could be additional training and development opportunities that stem from an association with a college or university. Continuing education courses, business conferences, seminars and online instruction - all can be a valuable source of employee development opportunities. In addition to meeting recruitment demands in the present, HR professionals must also be forward-thinking, anticipating the skills that will be needed in the future to meet guest expectations. One such skill that is becoming increasingly valued is “resilience”, the ability to “go with the flow” and not become overwhelmed by the disruptive influences  of change and reinvention. In an era of transition—new technologies, expanding markets, consolidation of brands and businesses, and modifications in people's values and lifestyles - the capacity to remain flexible, nimble and resilient is a valuable skill to possess. The March Hotel Business Review will examine some of the strategies that HR professionals are employing to ensure that their hotel operations continue to thrive.