The Evolution of the Review

By Benjamin Jost Co-Founder & CEO, TrustYou | October 08, 2017

While it's unlikely that Mary and Joseph left a scathing TripAdvisor review after being turned away at the Inn in Bethlehem, hotel reviews have been around, in various forms, since the first hotel opened its doors. As with many other human activities (relationships, journalism/information sharing, etc), "reviews" have become digital. And like those other activities, entire ecosystems have sprung up to support this new channel.

How We Got Here

We'll skip beyond the first form of feedback, word-of-mouth, quickly. It's fairly obvious that customers who had a great experience (or a lousy one) at a property would tell their friends about it. These data points are virtually impossible for hotels to track and understand. One interesting thing to point out, however, is that the question of "would you recommend the hotel?" has become one of the major markers for whether or not a hotel is doing well. This question is at the heart of the Net Promoter Score.

However, in addition to discussions in which they weren't privy, hotels spent years soliciting feedback on guest experiences, usually through direct mail or phone. Response rates for these initiatives were generally low, as is true of nearly all direct mail and outbound telemarketing. Comment cards were also among the early forms of feedback gathering. Data gathered from these initiatives was better than nothing at all, but also had a few major challenges. First of all, it was very difficult to track or share in meaningful ways. If a manager at a particular hotel didn't want to share feedback from each guest's stay, they would simply hold onto the data (or throw it in the trash). In the cases where info was sent to a corporate office, there could be considerable lag time between the time period when a guest stayed, and when the information was shared with a hotel.

Today's Review Ecosystem

Let's fast forward a few dozen years, to a time when Amazon was among the first companies to allow reviews to show up in product search. While it's commonplace today, the decision to let anyone post their views on a particular product was quite forward thinking.

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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.