Hotel reputation management is extremely important if you are managing a hotel. It is about monitoring, and influencing your hotel's reputation and how it's perceived online and offline. That is shaped by factors such as trustworthiness and consistency, built over a period of time.
In this post, we're going to take a look at what hotel reputation management is exactly, how to measure it and how can you make sure to keep a good reputation.
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.
Why online reputation management is important in the hotel industry
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.
What Hotel Reputation Management includes
The main factors included in Hotel Reputation Management are interdependent, and have overlapping effects, but we can also examine them as separate entities:
1. Reputation building
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.
2. Hotel reputation monitoring and maintenance
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:
- Monitor Online Reviews on platforms such as TripAdvisor, Google Reviews, and social media channels. This helps to stay updated on what guests are saying about the hotel, both positives and negatives.
- Respond to Reviews promptly and always professionally. Thank guests for positive reviews, and answer any concerns expressed in negative reviews. You demonstrate that guest feedback is valued and that you are serious about maintaining and improving the guest experience.
- Manage Social Media so that you are active in posting interesting and engaging content. There is always something to show and talk about, whether in the hotel itself, or the local area.
- Strengthen Online Presence by ensuring the hotel website is attractive, and current. It’s easy to get a website up and running and then ‘file and forget’ it. Your website must be regularly refreshed. And keep Online Travel Agent sites fed with accurate information and descriptions, as well as fresh images.
- Conduct Guest Surveys to see what people really feel about their stay, and your reputation. You can do this with a survey sheet, comment cards, or through an app such as GuestAdvisor from SabeeApp, which enables guests to provide real time feedback through their smartphone.
- Watch the Competition to see how they are managing their reputation on social media and with the OTAs. If they’re doing something that looks like it’s working, do more of the same to stay ahead of the field.
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, improved KPIs, and attract further guests for future success.
3. Reputation protection and repair
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.
- Define the Protection Processes: There have to be well-defined processes in place to give timely and transparent responses to negative reviews. Know who the correct spokespeople are for the hotel, and have them already practised in speaking and writing on a variety of difficult situations. Hotels have fire drills, make sure that there are reputation protection drills too.
- Manage Crises: When and if a situation becomes critical, then protecting the hotel’s reputation becomes even more essential. Doing nothing and hoping problems will ‘blow over’ is never the correct posture. Everything possible must be done to mitigate issues, by initially dealing with them at source. If the problem concerns one guest only, then ensure that you deal directly and honestly with them. If the problem is more widespread, then escalate your crisis management to an appropriate level.
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.
Ways to monitor hotel online reputation
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.
Tips to improve online reputation for hotels
Getting online hotel reputation management right isn’t difficult if it’s approached systematically, so here are a few tips:
1. Be active on social media
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).
2. Optimise your website for search
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.
3. Engage with your audience
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.
4. Collect and respond to reviews
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.
5. Send automated feedback surveys
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.
6. Build brand identity
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.
Hotel reputation management is an integral part of the guest journey, which is essential to master in the hospitality industry. If you'd like to learn about the guest journey in detail, don't forget to check out our ebook below:
Your reputation, our 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.