Wednesday, 29 May 2013

Dialogue and Contract Bookings

Almost all the noise on the web focuses on individual travellers and their interaction with reviews, but what about your other sources of business?

We have many clients who source much of their business from the corporate/contract channel - and here we examine the help that Dialogue can be.

Pitching and negotiation

Having Dialogue reinforces your commitment to customer service. It provides evidence of customer satisfaction. Time and again we hear that 'contracts are won on price', but we both know there's more to it than that; the client wants to know there will be no backlash from their client(s), great reviews make that backlash much less likely, having great reviews and a mechanism for unhappy guests to voice directly to the hotel makes it even less likely

Retaining custom

Great feedback from the contract client's guests makes winning the renegotiation much more likely. Showing actual reviews and out-turns from Resolution - where the guest has had whatever issue raised managed to their satisfaction - reinforces the hotel's position

From the contractor's viewpoint 

Corporates are impressed by efficient and effective CRM. It means less concern that their clients are going to feed back negative experiences to them

TripAdvisor 'Review Express' gets a hotel a 'Killer Review'

You can be number 1 in your location, but that won't stop a 'killer review' harming your business. Last month TripAdvisor launched its 'Review Express' service, and just like we warned about potential drawbacks of 'Rave Reviews' we highlight the possible downside:

For those of you who would like to see the full death-dealing content...

Oh - and to complete the suite of TripAdvisor tools: a direct feed on the hotel's own home page - and guess what's on top? Another killer review...

Update 26 June - this hotel is no longer No1 in its area.

In summary:

If you run a perfect hotel, and, much more importantly, all your guests are perfect and would never dream of writing a negative review, then Review Express will work for you. 

Unfortunately we all have to live and work in the real world where guests do get out of the wrong side of the bed and want to vent their frustration; if you give them an easy-to-use mechanism they will use it (our clients know that) so you have to have a way of making sure they don't do it on TripAdvisor (like Dialogue).

If that easy-to-use mechanism is Review Express it will be used by all your unhappy guests to post direct to TripAdvisor, so it's definitely not something we would recommend.

Tuesday, 28 May 2013

Getting reviews - a little bird told me...

Dialogue + email = great reviews...

Dialogue + email + prompt card = more great reviews

Here's an example from a client who uses just such a card to great effect...

Read this in conjunction with the Secret of Dialogue's success.

Friday, 24 May 2013

The importance of responding to reviews

Couldn't wait to get to 100?

A locksmith in San Francisco issued a press release yesterday, proud that they had received 95 five star reviews on Yelp. So we had a look at their Yelp page...

Why, oh why, would they not bother to respond to the negatives (and thank the positives)? Doesn't this give potential customers a better impression...

Wednesday, 22 May 2013

Managing reputational risk


All prudent businesses manage risk. It's part of the daily role of management. The risk that sales forecasts won't be met; the risk that suppliers will increase prices; the risk that customers will default, the risk that key staff will leave...

But what about the risk to their reputations? A business's reputation can be harmed in a multitude of ways, and it's every business's core asset: if your reputation is put at risk, all other forms of risk become relatively insignificant. But how many businesses have a strategy to manage this 'reputational risk'?

Here we examine that key question. And the answers are many and various, but they basically break down into internal or external...


Covers such aspects as:
  • Training - initial and ongoing
  • Compliance - with the businesses' own rules and the laws/regulations imposed on it
  • Management reporting


Just one thing matters here:
  •  Customer satisfaction 
In the past, if 80% of your customers were happy, that was considered a good result. In all but the most exceptional circumstances the 20% 'dissatisfieds' would be drowned out by the majority of 'satisfieds'...

But not any more, not since the web came into being. If your business has just 100 customers, the 20 'dissatisfieds' can make enough noise to bring down your reputation, causing permanent damage to your business.

This bears closer examination:

Any one of those twenty can post anywhere on the web, not just once, but as many times as they feel inclined to. Google will pick up their views and they will be displayed in Google searches. You have 1000 customers? The odds increase exponentially: the chances of one of the two hundred 'dissatisfieds' being the kind of person who will have the energy to post multiple times increases, and research shows that the more negatives are published, the more other 'dissatisfieds' are likely to join in...

And we haven't even mentioned disgruntled ex-staff or unscrupulous competitors yet.

Your strategy
  • Ensure your management and staff - all your staff (remember Miss Irhlweg at United Airlines?) - understand the implications of reputational risk.
  • Ensure you have a credible mechanism for harvesting positive comments from your satisfied customers so you have them to weigh in the balance when something does go awry (and it surely will, even in the best run business). It will be too late when the negative noise starts.

Yelp - issues with their filter

This is not an issue confined to Yelp - TripAdvisor has a secret algorithm by which it determines a hotel's ranking too. We think this clip from the Washington Post is worth watching...

Tuesday, 21 May 2013

Light relief - TripAdvisaargh!

You may have noticed that Yahoo bought Tumblr for $1.1bn yesterday. Some may be asking 'What's Tumblr?' We'll leave the broad answer to that in the capable hands of Google and focus on its relevance for our clients:

If you're looking for design ideas there'll be Tumblrs. You may even consider your own. One has an interesting take on the Premier Inn logo (good taste forbids that we publish it here)

Anyone can set up a Tumblr page - it's like a mini-Blog. Here's just one example...

It's not all about the negatives - in fact some of our favourites are the positives...

Like this...

 And this...

But the serious message remains the same as ever: if you don't claim your online reputation, there are ever-increasing ways that your customers, and the proliferation of websites which host user-generated content, will do so.

Thursday, 9 May 2013

Dynamic Display - an important update

Dynamic Display driving business

We didn't expect to see results flow so quickly - but when we heard, we weren't entirely surprised. Why? Because Dynamic Display ensures that every visitor to your website sees great reviews.

What is happening? 

Potential customers are seeing Dynamic Display and it's drawing their attention to your reviews. Where before they had to click through to read reviews, now they are reading them as soon as they arrive on your home page...

The result:

More enquiries, more direct bookings, higher visibility! If you are a client and you haven't adopted Dynamic Display yet we'll give you a 3 month free trial. 

Karen or one of her client services team will contact you soon; if you can't wait, contact her at

Success secrets - Hotels

Now that Dialogue has been working for clients for a meaningful period (since 2011) we have conducted a survey of those that have had the most outstanding results to ask them what, in their opinions, are the 'secrets to their success'; some of what we detail below may be obvious, some less so, but what we can say with confidence is that if you follow these guidelines you will...

  • Get a great response rate 
  • Achieve your objectives: a substantially better image on TripAdvisor, and the other OTAs and on social media - Facebook, Google+, Twitter and review sites like Yelp as well as more direct bookings
  1. Engage with your guests early on (at check-in if possible): tell them that you will be inviting a review after their stay, tell them that their review will be published
  2. Get their email address - some clients are now achieving near 100% success at this
  3. Make sure all your staff are 'on board' - that they know that the guest will be writing a review and that they should refer to this at appropriate times
  4. Ensure that all guests are invited to post reviews - this is core: cherry-picking will not deflect negatives away from public view
  5. Invite reviews as soon as possible - as close to check-out as possible. We have clients who do this on the morning of check-out and are therefore able to refer to the invitation at check-out
  6. Personalise the invitation - response rates are demonstrably higher if the invitation is signed off by a member of staff (preferably the GM) rather than simply the XYZ hotel
  7. Identify extra-happy '5* guests' during their stay and make an extra effort to ensure they will respond to the invitation - this works really well
  8. Think about rewarding guests for posting reviews through Dialogue - you must offer the reward for all reviews, not just positives
  9. Respond to all reviews - this really impresses potential guests. It also has a proven impact on the quailty and star rating of subsequent reviews. If this is a problem think seriously about using Feedback Manager to do this for you
  10. Speak to your Business Member Advisor at HelpHound (no 'live help' here!) - they have access to a massive store of expertise and experience
From the above you will gather that the key is to embed reviews into your guest experience from start to finish (is the journey ever truly finished? - we hope not!). If you do this, all your expectations will be fulfilled.

Tuesday, 7 May 2013

Dialogue - managing OUT the negatives

Resolution working for a client

You've read the words - now see the chart. This is a live screen grab (in other words, by the time you see it it will already be out-of-date) of our in-house client monitoring system. We are showing it here because it drives home the effectiveness of Resolution...

The left-hand chart shows published reviews - the right hand chart shows reviews that were posted (by us) into Resolution over the same period. 

31 (just over 14% of all reviews received) went into Resolution. 5 - 2% - of these resulted in a published review - one 1*, one 2* and three 3*s. 

We cannot be sure that all (or any) of the 31 'negatives' would otherwise have resulted in a negative review elsewhere, but we do know that the number of 1* and 2* reviews posted on TripAdvisor for this hotel has fallen by 75%. And that's good enough for us!

Thursday, 2 May 2013

Dialogue - its value for your customer

Much of this blog focuses on what Dialogue can do for a business - and rightly so, but today we are going to focus on its value for your customers (guests/clients)...

visual from Olery

Reviews are trusted. All recent research points to this. But should they be? The answer to this bears some detailed examination; on both sides of the fence: those who write the reviews and those who publish the reviews. We'll take hotels as an example (everything holds good for other kinds of businesses)...

Who writes the reviews?

We dealt with behaviour here, so today we'll simply focus on the numbers. Very few guests ever write a review of any kind - it varies between one in 700 to one in 1500. So, when a potential guest looks at the reviews (or simply the score/ranking) they are taking the opinion of a tiny minority, and that tiny minority are too often from the polar ends of the experience - very happy or very unhappy.

What about the review sites?

They all 'play the numbers game'. The web is a huge help to them here - a page of reviews may contain only 10 customer opinions, but, because it fills the screen, it looks authoritative (imagine a hotel showed you its guest book and there was only one entry a month). They make much of the total number of reviews, but they helpfully grey out the dates so as not to draw attention to the fact that a 100 bed hotel may only get one review a week (one from maybe 500 guests).

Note: scrolling technology - where a web page can be of infinite length - has been around for years, so why isn't it used? The conclusion we might reasonably arrive at is: because they don't want to make it easy for their users to see past the 'first ten reviews'.

And moderation - why don't they moderate their reviews? (OK, some claim to have sophisticated 'algorithms' and technology which will 'identify fake/rogue reviews' - we have human moderators, and we would be sure to replace them with software if it came even close to working).

How about verifying their users? Oh no - that would be a violation of their freedom of speech (or freedom of something, anyway). 

So what are we left with? Unmoderated reviews written by a tiny minority of unverified reviewers who are polarised in their opinions. And people like this dedicated user of a well-known review site...

Are we the only ones who think he might have done just as well blindfolded with a pin?

Our solution:
  • Verify the reviewer - make sure they are a real customer of the business being reviewed
  • Moderate the reviews - so everyone really benefits from the final published review
  • Have a system that gets the 'silent majority' to write reviews - by promising to publish everything, and having an independent agency operating the system

Then the consumers gets...
  • Real reviews they can trust
  • From a statistically meaningful sample of your customers

And you get...
  •  Customers with an accurate and reliable perception of the service you provide

Wednesday, 1 May 2013

Linking to review sites can harm your business

We all know the feeling - you've got great reviews on TripAdvisor/AllAgents/Yelp and you (and/or your web designers) think "We'd benefit from a link to those", but...


Below we show two real life examples of reviews (not just any review: the first review at the top of the list*) shown when we've followed those links...


Estate Agents

And in some cases those links are even being paid for! 

It's just another case for retaining control of your reputation on the web - on and through your own website

*This is key - up until the day you link all the reviews may be great, but that's no guarantee that future reviews will be positive. By using Dialogue you ensure that your retain control of your major business asset - your reputation.