Whoever first said “all publicity is good publicity” certainly wasn’t a hotelier. If an establishment gets positive news and reviews, that is worth its weight in gold. Equally, if the reverse is true it can be utterly ruinous. So while it is true that hotels have found their fortunes nose-diving when they have received poor publicity for being rude to customers, having unclean rooms, bad facilities or unhygienic kitchens, so it is equally the case that when a hotel earns lots of praise and great reviews it can start to build up a good reputation. Ultimately, however, it is only by being persistently good and managing any problems that do arise well that a truly lasting, solid image as a great place to stay can be established.
The big brands have not got where they are by accident, but by an enormous amount of hard work and dedication to go with investment and innovation. Having gained a good reputation, there may be a temptation to sit back and expect the guests to keep coming in. But resting on one’s laurels is always a risky move. It breeds complacency and not only does it carry the internal risk of standards slipping, it also brings the external peril that the competition will catch up. Aiming at constant improvement is one way to combat such attitudes, but it is also important to maximise that reputation.
Preservation by continued good performance is one thing and improvement by ever-higher standards is another, but the effective exploitation of your own good name is a crucial factor in helping bring in more custom. Known colloquially as “sweating the brand”, this means taking steps to ensure that a good name is used to sell effectively and thoroughly.
Responding to reviews is one important way to do this. In cases of negative feedback, it is an opportunity to react positively and constructively, telling not just the reviewer but readers of the site what you have done or are doing to solve an issue. By doing so, not only do you protect your reputation, but also boost it by showing you are not too proud to take on board constructive and valid points. At the same time, if a criticism is unjustified, you can set out clearly and concisely why that is not the case or why you have a policy of doing something a particular way. It is equally important to respond to good reviews, but do so with humility. Declaring that a positive comment is proof that you are the best thing since sliced bread will smack of arrogance. Instead, thank the reviewer for their kindness and tell them you hope to see them again soon.
Research by Lodging Interactive shows that responding to reviews pays dividends. Adopting such a policy helped Best Western enjoy a 6.4 per cent rise in occupancy levels. When responding to reviews, it is also important to be prompt in doing so, as an indication of your efficiency and professionalism. As Chris Jackson, president and partner of digital marketing consultancy GCommerce remarked: “Just as you wouldn’t turn your back on someone at the front desk, you can’t turn your back on them in an online situation.
Customers who see quick, effective responses online get a sense of the kind of service they can expect when they are on property.” Also, be personal – generic answers suggest little thought has been given to the individual and their points.It is also important to ensure good training is given to staff in this area to ensure they fully buy into a culture of responsibility, personalised service and a willingness to deal with both positive and negative guest responses.
Handling reviews is not the only way to protect and bolster a brand. A good online presence is also important. This is not just about having an impressive website – although that is definitely part of the equation – but also looking to have a good social media presence. This can be particularly helpful if your hotel has a specialised theme. For instance, if it is located in an area popular for outdoor activities, make sure you highlight its role in this, such as a base for charity walks, as a mountain rescue base or as a business that is connected to charities operating in this field. Indeed, social media is a superb way to ensure that any good news coming your way can be spread far and wide, with the holy grail being to ‘go viral’. An impressive YouTube presence can do this,but try not to do something that is funky just for the sake of it.
Of course, the bigger your social media presence the harder it is to keep up with everything that’s going on out there, so try setting up monitoring tools to ensure you are alerted when news and feedback comes in. By being both pro-active and re-active to news, reviews and opportunities to build a reputation, you can ensure your hotel and brand continue to be viewed as favourable – and reap the rewards as a result.