Best Practices in Reputation Management: Whose job is it anyway?

Hoteliers with a proven track record for success share insights on what really works to top the charts on TripAdvisor

By Adele Gutman VP Sales, Marketing & Revenue, Library Hotel Collection | February 17, 2013

Many hoteliers are just beginning to understand the power of positive guest reviews in driving traffic to their website, but they are unsure of where to begin in terms of proactively managing the process.

Is it best to ask our PR company to take charge of this issue? Should we get a young intern to handle Social Media? I get these questions from hoteliers from around the world. At the Library Hotel Collection, our four NYC properties once ranked in the four top spots on TripAdvisor for New York City. Two years later, at the time of this writing, all four of our Manhattan properties - the Casablanca, Library, Hotel Giraffe and Hotel Elysee -all rank in the top five in New York. Similarly, in London, Red Carnation Hotels have four hotels in the top five on TripAdvisor, and in Tel Aviv, Atlas Hotels usually have 5 or 6 hotels in the top 10-15 hotels. In Seattle, Cedarbrook Lodge had the enviable distinction of being ranked #1 in the U.S. in 2011 on TripAdvisor® Travelers' Choice®. So just what is it that makes these hotel groups so consistently successful with regard to their TripAdvisor rankings?

I remember back in 2004 or 2005, I was speaking with the General Manager of the Hotel Giraffe, a member of the boutique hotel group I work for, (now called the Library Hotel Collection, www.libraryhotelcollection.com ), and I commented on the Hotel Giraffe being in the #3 spot in NYC while another property, the Hotel Elysee was #56. I will never forget the "eureka" moment for me when she said, "I highly recommend being in the top seven hotels on TripAdvisor, because when you are on the first page, the phones start ringing off the hook." I instantly knew that getting all four of our Manhattan properties on the first page was a way I could generate tremendous demand for my hotels, at little to no cost, which fit my budget perfectly. It seemed as though making an impact on our reputation would be a daunting task, but through our passionate commitment to the effort, we built our reputation brick by brick, guest by guest, and by 2006, all four of our hotels were in the top 10 in New York. Six years later, the Casablanca Hotel, Library Hotel, Hotel Giraffe and Hotel Elysee have consistently enjoyed the top rankings in New York on TripAdvisor year after year. What is the secret? Successful Reputation Management is successful Hotel Management. Service is Marketing. When Marketing and Operations are a team the hotel's participation in the Social Media conversation is not just public relations but a process to elevate almost every aspect of a hotel's standards of excellence.

Henry Kallan, the owner of the Library Hotel Collection, believes that the greatest way to show you care about someone is to listen to them. Think about the other important relationships in your life. You may have a coach to help you learn to more effectively communicate with your loved one, but at the end of the day, it needs to be you doing the listening, right? We feel the same is true for our business relationship with our guests. In this case, I, as the VP of Sales, Marketing and Revenue, am the coach, and along with the VP of Operations of the company. We may coordinate the process and assist with planning the course of action in response to a review, we may have our best communicators collaborate in composing the message, we may suggest or develop programs and initiatives as tools, but the General Managers and Director of Sales & Marketing at each property feel ultimately responsible for their hotel's success. That commitment to the guest experience is what ensures that as they perform the various tasks involved in their work, they never forget that our top priority is the Library Hotel Collection guest and his or her happiness.

This philosophy is shared by Red Carnation Hotels. "Building a relationship of trust with our guests and delivering an exceptional experience is at the heart of absolutely everything we do at Red Carnation Hotels. We understand that guest satisfaction comes first in reputation management," says Suzie Wotton, VP, Marketing, Red Carnation Hotels (www.redcarnation.com ). "We use a system called ReviewPro to track guest reviews across all sites. The marketing office manages content, images, offers, website integration of reviews, etc. But it is always the general manager who reads and responds to reviews directly. Management responses are important in allowing our General Managers an opportunity to express their delight at receiving positive feedback, but also to respond to any negative experiences in an open forum."

Ms. Wotton adds, "We display guest reviews on our websites (directly from Tripadvisor) and believe this is a testament to our confidence in the service we deliver and offers potential guests complete transparency, helping them to discover more about Red Carnation Hotels through the experience of others."

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