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Mr. Jost

Guest Service / Customer Experience Mgmt

A Winning Guest Feedback Formula for Your Hotel's Success

By Benjamin Jost, Co-Founder & CEO, TrustYou

As we enter into the planning period for 2018, you might be talking about revenue forecasting, occupancy rates prediction, holiday promotions - but have you factored in the winning guest feedback formula to operate a hotel successfully? By now, you probably want to know what this formula is. Here it is: Review marketing + operational excellence = hotel success

In this piece, I'll be focusing specifically on review marketing - its three biggest benefits, and then how you can actually put review marketing into practice at your hotel.

The Biggest Benefits of Review Marketing

We talk about guest feedback and we talk about digital marketing, often in the same sentence - but do you specifically devote time to "review marketing," the art and science of developing a marketing strategy that includes the pursuit of guest feedback and using that feedback online and offline in order to boost your hotel's reputation and guarantee greater success?

Some hoteliers I speak to definitely see the value of reviews yet they don't have an actual strategy on how they are going to get more and better reviews, and what they are going to do with them once they do. Now you will.

The Three Biggest Benefits of Review Marketing

  1. Encourages Travelers to Book Directly

    More than eight-in-10 global respondents (83%) say they completely or somewhat trust the recommendations of friends and family, and two-thirds (66%) say they trust consumer opinions posted online, according to Nielson's Global Trust in Advertising 2015 report.

    Another report by BrightLocal shows that 84% of people trust ratings and reviews just as much as recommendations from friends and family.

    In order to build that trust, you can maximize guest feedback by using it in various places on your website: Embed reviews from TripAdvisor and/or TrustYou directly on your homepage (the former has more brand power but also competes with you for that traveler booking, and the latter has less brand awareness but doesn't compete with your hotel) Highlight social posts about your hotel by adding a social media widget/feed that automatically pulls reviews to your website In addition to making "reviews" or "testimonials" a stand-alone page on your website, you can reinforce guest feedback at every stage of the buyer's journey by also adding it to the footer of each page on your website (and relate it to the content on that page). For example, your amenities page would have reviews specifically about amenities (tools that categorize reviews for you would make this more efficient)

  2. Ensures Travelers Pick Your Hotel Over Competitors

    With review marketing, you're building an online reputation - so travelers see one consistent story when they check out your website, or browse OTAs during their booking journey. A great example of a hotel that boosted their online reputation with review marketing is JollyTicket. JollyTicket wanted to give travelers a faster and easier search process as travelers search for reviews and information in order to complete their booking decision. They integrated reviews in the search results on their website, and included summarized review content that's easy to read and accessible everywhere travelers are searching.

    For example, on each of their individual hotel pages, you can see hotel meta review broken down into categories such as traveler type, ratings and the review score distribution (the amount of two-star, three-star, four-star etc. reviews). The meta data also enables them to show the quantity of reviews, badges for outperformance area, and summaries of the most mentioned attributes of each category. As a result, their data shows an increase of more than 15% is being spent on their detailed hotel pages where the hotel meta review data is published.

    The end result here is that travelers have a faster and easier search process, they can get verified information as they embark on the research phase of the buyer's journey and they can make a purchase decision much faster.

  3. Increases Your Hotel's Online Visibility

    Reviews do more for your marketing efforts than you may think. More review content for your hotel on third party platforms leads to more visibility, which means more eyeballs on your hotel vs. the competitors,  and ultimately more bookings. A great example of this is B&B Hotels. They wanted to enhance their post-stay experience by getting more feedback from guests, and then turn that feedback into actionable insights to improve their property (part of the winning formula for operational success we talked about earlier). They used guest surveys to collect more reviews and allow guests to publish their reviews directly on Google. Within the first month after implementing the program, B&B Hotels increased its number of Google reviews by 740%, getting eight times as many reviews compared to the same period of time in the previous year.

Easier Said Than Done?

Now that you're aware of the three biggest benefits of review marketing, let's go back to a bigger question: in order to do review marketing, you need to have a good reputation in the first place. How do you manage a good online reputation?

Advocacy Programs

One of the most in-demand jobs today are customer success managers or community/advocacy managers. While a new term and a new job, the role is what hotels have been trying to do for years: get their customers to be their advocates. Often, you'll see start-ups and technology companies talking about the need for customer advocates. What sets customer advocates apart from just regular happy customers are:

  • They have large networks (online or offline)

  • They're vocal about their feedback (they don't just tell their mom they had a great vacation, they tell their social networks)

  • They're consistent (they don't tell their social networks once, but repeatedly)

So how can you turn guests into customer advocates, and then use those advocates to help you ensure you have a positive online reputation, get more guest reviews and drive more direct bookings?

Find Out Your Talk Triggers

Talk triggers, as explained by marketer Jay Baer, are the things you do for your customers that people talk about. Talk tiggers have certain features: they are remarkable (enough so that a customer talks about it), they are consistent (every customer experiences it), they are realistic (too grand a gesture and customers are suspicious) and they are repeatable (they don't take a lot of time/money/effort).

For the DoubleTree Hilton, for example, their talk triggers are chocolate chip cookies. Ever checked into a DoubleTree? After you get your room key, they also give you a chocolate chip cookie, and it's even warm. Search Twitter for "DoubleTree Hilton cookie" and you'll see thousands of tweets by guests posting about the free cookie they received at check in. It's consistent - it happens to every guest, regardless of your membership (priority, etc.), it's repeatable (every check in, every property) and it sets them apart. What's your talk trigger?

Jay Baer lays out the five steps to creating your own talk trigger:

  1. Gather Ininternal Insights - From sales, marketing, and customer-facing departments.

  2. Analyze Customers - As they interact with your product. In this case, as they stay at your property.

  3. Score Your Customers - Based on complexity and potential impact (ideally, high impact so it stands out to your customer but is low on complexity so it's not hard to execute on)

  4. Roll Out a Pilot - Test and measure results.

  5. Expand to all customers and operationalize it.

Using these five steps, you can unearth your own talk triggers that are as memorable to guests as the DoubleTree cookies are to theirs. The end result? Besides just happier guests, you'll also be getting online feedback and reviews that you wouldn't be able to get elsewhere.

Create Guest Feedback Programs

One of the benefits of talk triggers is that they get your guests talking - but what do you do with what they say? That's where your guest feedback program comes in.

Similar to talk triggers, there are five key elements that make up good guest feedback programs:

  1. It's easy to leave feedback
  2. It's asked for immediately post-stay
  3. It's used by your hotel to actually improve a future guest experience
  4. It's multi-channel (you ask for it in person and online; and use it on multiple channels from social to OTAs to your website)
  5. It's categorizable (you can break down the guest feedback into categories - demographic that left the feedback, type of traveler, language of review etc.)

Those five elements should be part of how you encourage guests to leave review - and how you utilize review marketing into your overall strategy.

Key Takeaway

Earlier on, we talked about the formula for success: review marketing and operational excellence = success. In this article, I've showed you why review marketing matters and its biggest benefits. Once you know why you should do it, I broke it down a bit further by showing you how you can actually manage your online reputation - because no review marketing is complete unless you have a good online reputation to begin with. That involves the creation of customer advocacy programs and identifying your talk triggers. Finally, once you've got those, you can come back to the idea of review marketing - understanding what makes up a good guest feedback program.

Review marketing is one piece of the puzzle - but it's an important step in the right direction. In my next piece, I'll be focusing on feedback in relation to operational success - so you can use guest feedback not only to enhance your online reputation but also to see greater operational success.

Benjamin Jost is co-founder and chief executive officer of TrustYou. Benjamin is an expert on social semantic search and is leading the big data revolution in hospitality. Prior to TrustYou, he spearheaded the Southern European M&A team for one of the world’s leading renewable energy providers and oversaw hundreds of investment cases covering a profusion of renewable technologies. He started his career in venture capital at Siemens Venture Capital and Xange Capital. Mr. Jost holds a MsC in engineering from the University of Technology in Munich and conducted research at the ENST Paris and the University of Washington Business School, Seattle. Mr. Jost can be contacted at 011 49 89548 02925 or benjamin.jost@trustyou.com Extended Bio...

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