Best Practices for Cultivating Guest Satisfaction and Retention

By Michelle Wohl VP of Marketing & Client Services, Revinate | March 30, 2014

Step One: Capturing the Booking

Guest satisfaction starts long before the hotel room is booked. Guest satisfaction begins during the information gathering stage, where prospective guests consult hotel web sites, social media channels, online travel agencies (OTAs) and online review communities to ask for advice or validate recommendations. How your hotel is positioned across these sites and how you communicate with prospective guests is critical to capturing the initial booking and beginning your relationship with your guests.

How can you ensure that you capture the booking during this information gathering stage of travel? First, you need to make sure that your hotel is well represented and, ideally, highly ranked on TripAdvisor, one of the most visited sites during the inspiration phase of travel, when travelers are beginning to plan their trips.

When prospective guests visit TripAdvisor and search for a city, the hotels in that city are ranked according to a proprietary algorithm, called the TripAdvisor Popularity Index, which takes into account the number of reviews that your property receives, how well your property is rated by guests (star rating) and the freshness of your reviews. (In other words, new reviews are weighted heavier than old reviews.) In addition, TripAdvisor takes into account other information about the hotel that is available online. Depending on the size of your market, it's critical for bookings to be positioned on the first or second page of the results. If you're at the bottom of your market, you need to put a plan in place to get towards the top.

Regardless of whether you have a five-star luxury hotel or a three-star mid-scale hotel, you need to pay close attention to your TripAdvisor Popularity Index ranking. Every hotel needs to put a plan in place for climbing the index. With TripAdvisor's algorithm in mind, the plan should include ways to improve both your review quality and your review volume, which are two components that you can easily control. When putting together your plan, you need to ensure that your entire staff is bought into the idea that online reviews are critical for the health of your hotel. For hotels to be successful, there needs to be a culture of paying attention to guest feedback and understanding that every guest has the ability to make or break your reputation with an online review. Hotel management can show staff that they are listening closely to feedback from reviews by reviewing positive and negative reviews in daily stand up meetings and rewarding staff members that are mentioned by name in reviews. The hotels that I have seen make great strides when it comes to online reputation have incorporated online review metrics into management team bonuses and overall hotel key performance indicators (KPIs).

When it comes to improving your review scores on TripAdvisor, you need to make sure that your operations and training teams are closely involved in online review feedback. By listening closely to what guests praise about your hotel and also what they complain about in online reviews, you can make operational changes that please your guests and drive more positive reviews. Automated Online Reputation Management software solutions can help you easily analyze your online review data to understand what guests love and hate about your property, and what issues are trending negatively and positively. By actively monitoring these trends, you can ensure that small issues don't become big problems down the line and cause negative feedback that can impact your bookings.

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Coming up in June 2019...

Sales & Marketing: Selling Experiences

There are innumerable strategies that Hotel Sales and Marketing Directors employ to find, engage and entice guests to their property, and those strategies are constantly evolving. A breakthrough technology, pioneering platform, or even a simple algorithm update can cause new trends to emerge and upend the best laid plans. Sales and marketing departments must remain agile so they can adapt to the ever changing digital landscape. As an example, the popularity of virtual reality is on the rise, as 360 interactive technologies become more mainstream. Chatbots and artificial intelligence are also poised to become the next big things, as they take guest personalization to a whole new level. But one sales and marketing trend that is currently resulting in major benefits for hotels is experiential marketing - the effort to deliver an experience to potential guests. Mainly this is accomplished through the creative use of video and images, and by utilizing what has become known as User Generated Content. By sharing actual personal content (videos and pictures) from satisfied guests who have experienced the delights of a property, prospective guests can more easily imagine themselves having the same experience. Similarly, Hotel Generated Content is equally important. Hotels are more than beds and effective video presentations can tell a compelling story - a story about what makes the hotel appealing and unique. A video walk-through of rooms is essential, as are video tours in different areas of a hotel. The goal is to highlight what makes the property exceptional, but also to show real people having real fun - an experience that prospective guests can have too. The June Hotel Business Review will report on some of these issues and strategies, and examine how some sales and marketing professionals are integrating them into their operations.