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In talking about Hotel Reputation Management, let’s consider what ‘reputation’ actually means. One view is that it's the perception of an individual, organisation, or brand, a judgement formed by people based on their interactions and observations. That is shaped by factors such as trustworthiness and consistency, built over a period of time.
Once a positive reputation is established it can be maintained to nurture confidence and credibility that often lasts through change or short-term difficulties. In contrast, a poor reputation creates many negative consequences which can be hard to throw off. Reputational damage or enhancement can come swiftly in our interconnected world, where the word is spread through social media and online platforms. This can have a lasting impact on reputation.
In the hospitality sector Hotel Reputation Management is crucial. It shapes how guests book, and respond to their stay, so hoteliers must take positive steps to ensure that the hotel’s reputation is built, and maintained. There must also be a clear policy for dealing with situations where the reputation of the business is potentially harmed. We’ll examine these three factors - building, maintaining, and protecting reputation - and see how they can be applied successfully to any hotel operation.
Online is where reputations are made or broken. Sure, your reputation can be enhanced or damaged by word-of-mouth, but online platforms reach hundreds of thousands of people, who are specifically looking to learn more about the reputation of the hotels they are researching. That research is one of the last things they do before ‘pulling the trigger’ and making a booking, so at that point you’re really going to want the reputation of your hotel to be very shiny. A good reputation earns the trust of potential guests, and confirms already existing relationships with past guests. That converts into enhanced reservations, and increased profitability.
Hotels are carefully curating their own reputation, and doing their best to nurture guest relationships. So do you roll over and let them get on with it, losing any competitive advantage? No, of course not - the savvy hotelier gets organised to deal with the challenges and benefits of online reputation management.
The main factors included in Hotel Reputation Management are interdependent, and have overlapping effects, but we can also examine them as separate entities:
Sometimes a reputation can be created ‘overnight’ for a sports star or entertainer, but in the case of ‘grand’ hotels, reputation is forged over many years. ‘Quality’, ‘Discretion’, ‘Luxury’ and top cuisine take a long time to be recognised as synonymous with a particular hotel, or brand. Boutique and smaller hotels have a far shorter timespan to make their mark, but need to develop the same level of branding and reputation that older establishments have achieved. Grand hotel chains have been marinated in time, but newer hotels have to work harder and more swiftly to build their reputation.
So if reputation is now largely built on how a hotel is perceived on social media and OTA platforms, that’s where hoteliers have to get active. What are the values and principles that you wish to promote in order to cultivate the reputation you’re looking for?
Not every hotel will have the same goals - one may be looking to reach younger travellers, another for longer stay guests, and yet another catering for the retired ‘boomers’ market. Whatever the type of guest, the hotelier has to know their values, and connect to them. Speak to them in their language, with images which most appeal to them.
Retirees may want to see comfort underlined, with a strong emphasis on the quality of food and beverages. Younger guests will be attracted to the promise of interconnectivity and smart applications which make engagement with the hotel seamless through new technologies.
Your job is to tell the right people about the right things in order to build reputation. Your aim is to be recognised for values that you share with your ideal guests. Craft your message and keep repeating it in attractive and creative ways, shaping your words and images for the specific purpose of building a reputation. Remember, reputation is ‘a judgement formed by people based on their interactions, and observations’ but you have to give them something to judge. Develop your reputation for eco-friendly services; or hi-tech competence; or great leisure facilities; or gourmet food... Play to your strengths.
It’s never possible to communicate once with the target audience and leave it at that. The maintenance and monitoring of reputation must be kept in good order. The process is constant and ongoing:
Monitoring and maintaining how guests view your offering, and your reputation, is an essential activity. It will result in an enhanced guest experience, an improved reputation for the hotel and its brand, and attract further guests for future success.
It can take a long time to build a reputation, and almost no time to tear it down. And sometimes things do go wrong which can threaten a hotel’s hard-won reputation. Every experienced hotelier can recite stories of problems which could have been catastrophic, but hopefully most survived the issues and were able to see their business rebuilt.
Hotels have procedures in place to manage emergencies, and staff are trained in how to deal with these. Just as no hotelier waits until the fire alarm sounds before planning how to deal with the situation, so too the protection of a hotel’s reputation should be ongoing and proactive. This means doing everything in the list of Reputation Maintenance and Monitoring above, and more. A hotel which has built and maintained a strong reputation will be more resistant to negative comments, as and when they come along.
Even if reputational protection is effective, there can still be the need for reputational repair, to re-establish the trust of guests, and the market. Never deny that problems took place, but engage proactively to tell people how you will meet the challenges encountered, and make changes to ensure that they will not reoccur.
Building, maintaining and protecting hotel online reputation requires constant vigilance by management and staff. However the good news is that there is now a lot of hotel reputation management software available to assist human operators. These are all designed in various ways to track, analyse and respond to online reviews, and to frame strategic responses. All-in-one Hotel management systems also have a suite of products to help hoteliers collate guest responses which can positively or negatively impact the hotel’s reputation management. Using automation provides a more comprehensive monitoring of what guests are thinking and feeling, and alerts hoteliers to opportunities for reputation enhancement, or responses to reputational threats.
Getting online hotel reputation management right isn’t difficult if it’s approached systematically, so here are a few tips:
Keep the wheels turning all the time to build and enhance your reputation through regular postings on social media and OTA platforms. Keep information accurate, text interesting, and images fresh and appropriate (for example to reflect the season).
SEO is key to reaching out to potential guests, and according to one survey, in general 93% of online experiences begin through a search engine, with 70-60% of users ignoring paid advertisements and opting to explore ‘organic’ links. This means your website should be very current, and SEO-friendly, confirmed by Search Engine result pages available from Google, Bing, Yahoo, and other search providers.
Engagement with your audience is important to maintain, both with potential guests, and those who have already stayed at your hotel. Satisfied guests return, or make recommendations to others. Think of it as ‘free advertising’, with the advantage of it also being more credible because it comprises the opinions of real guests. Engage through online media, and by using automated tools such as personalised pre-arrival welcome emails, and post-departure thank you notes.
In hotel reputation management, the value of knowing what others are saying about you is vital. 85% of consumers trust online reviews as much as personal recommendations, so positive reviews can be capitalised on, and negative reviews must be met with a considered and polite response. Positive reviews are also an opportunity to thank guests for staying at your hotel, and can incentivise staff in recognising their high levels of service.
As well as voluntary postings on social media and OTAs, guests can also be directly asked for their opinions through surveys, both on paper and online. New technologies available to hoteliers even allow instant feedback during a guest stay, so that any potential issues can be quickly dealt with.
Put together, this comes down to building a brand identity which is recognisable and individual to your hotel. Your brand identity will express your values and the quality of your offering, in such a way that others will then confirm your reputation.
None of us can demand that others will confer a good reputation on us. We have to earn it. In the hospitality sector, hotel reputation management is a crucial factor in maintaining and building a successful business, and it requires constant attention. Fortunately there are now seamless all-in-one systems to help with the whole guest journey, and we’d be very happy to tell you more about ours: SabeeApp.
Book a free demo, and find out why we are proud of the reputation we have gained with modern hoteliers.
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