Wednesday 31 July 2013

DIY reviews - why don't they work (2)?

Some hotels collect their own reviews - so?

We have addressed this point before, but we were doing some background work on a well-known hotel group recently and one of our researchers noticed a trend: the reviews posted through the group's own review-gathering service (and the resulting scores) were worse than those on TripAdvisor, so we mined deeper. 


Hotel 'A': TripAdvisor 4/5; group's own system: 3.7/5

Hotel 'B' TripAdvisor 4.5/5; group's own system: 4.1/5

Hotel 'C' TripAdvisor 4.5/5; group's own system: 3.9/5

Why? We mined down a little further; and this is what we think is happening:

The group has made a tentative entry into the world of reviews (this is understandable) and so they (again, understandably) thought it would be a good idea if they initially restricted invitations to post reviews to their 'loyal' frequent stayer guests.

So why would their 'frequent stayer' guests rate them lower than all their guests on TripAdvisor?

To find the answer we read the content of the negative reviews. As with many large multinationals they rely on corporate contracts for a large proportion of their business, especially in popular business locations. And this is where the problem (at least in part) lies. If your employer dictates where you stay it would seem you are more, not less, likely to be critical.

We came across many reviews along the lines of "I wish I didn't have to stay in [name of hotel]." or "It wasn't my choice." Interestingly, these reviewers were much more likely to give 'location' a low score: they would rather have been somewhere else in the city (and some of them would probably rather have been tucked up in bed at home)!

There was another subset as well: weekend stays from frequent business stayers using loyalty credits for a leisure stay. They often commented that their significant other was disappointed. Staying for business and staying for pleasure are not the same thing. Comments like "it's OK during the week when I only need a bed for the night, but [unforeseen issue] arose when [my wife and I] stayed at the weekend."

These reviewers are using the hotel's in-house review offering to vent. And not only against the hotel, but against their employers as well. The trouble is it's the hotel's online reputation that suffers.

The first thing this group needs to do is open up its invitation to review to all its guests. Then they need to completely re-evaluate the concept of in-house reviews.

Why re-evaluate?

Because our extensive experience and research shows that independence is a key criteria:
  • in the mind of the guest being invited to post a review; they feel encouraged by the fact that the review and the whole system is being overseen by an independent agency (after all, that's what makes TripAdvisor so popular), and it's a big part of why response rates to Dialogue are so high

  • and just as importantly, in the mind of the potential guest being shown the review - independence here is critical to credibility (we live in an increasingly cynical world)

Tuesday 23 July 2013

Why has our TripAdvisor ranking fallen?

Important Note: while our clients may reasonably think that this post has been written for the benefit of future clients, we recommend that you note its contents so you understand as much as possible about the way TripAdvisor works.

This is one of the most common questions we are asked (by those who are not yet clients!), and it's a conundrum for many a hotelier. To give you a completely accurate answer would mean that we (or someone else) had cracked the TripAdvisor algorithm, which they understandably guard very carefully.

But it's a bit like the recipe for Coke: we know that it contains carbonated water - we could work that out for ourselves, and vanilla, lemon, orange, cinnamon and nutmeg - either because Coca Cola have made no secret of it, or because it's on the label, but we don't know the exact proportions. 

It's the same with TripAdvisor rankings. 

Some are obvious:
  • Those at the top have a higher ratio of positives to negatives than those at the bottom
  • A negative review hurts your ranking, a positive review helps
  • Lots of negatives hurt more, lots of positives help more

Then there are the 'common sense' ingredients:
  • Recent reviews are more relevant
  • Older reviews are less relevant or even discounted altogether
  • That pure volume of reviews helps

There are the myths (remember that Coca Cola used to contain cocaine?!) which may or may not contain an element of truth:
  • That paying TripAdvisor helps
  • That reviews from frequent reviewers are given a higher value

So where does that leave us (and you)?

We spend a lot of time analysing TripAdvisor rankings. We do this in order that we can as accurately as possible predict what will happen to our clients' rankings. We include the 'obvious' and 'common sense' ingredients and discount the myths (until we have hard evidence for them). 

But it cannot be self-evident, otherwise more hotels would be adopting a strategy to manage it; so here's what any hotel needs to do (a) to ensure it maintains its ranking and (b) to improve that ranking
  1. Get as many positive reviews as possible: we meet many hotels who say "but we are" and then we do the maths - and find that they are getting about one positive for every 1400 guests who stay (that's the industry average). They can do better than that!
  2. Minimise negative reviews: very few hotels have any effective mechanism for intercepting negative reviews before they are posted. We recently met with one famous 5* hotel who said "We've got that covered, we ask every guest if they experienced any problems with their stay": so why the 50+ poor/terrible reviews on TripAdvisor?
  3. Respond to reviews - it does not appear to directly affect your ranking, but anecdotal evidence shows that you're less likely to get negatives if you are seen to care
Finally - anomalies:
  • We have not had any recent negatives, but our ranking has fallen: your immediate competitors have either (a) got more recent positives or (b) seen older negatives fall out of the algorithm
  • We don't get negatives but we are ranking below a hotel that has: they will have proportionately more excellent (5*) reviews and relatively fewer very good/average (4* and 3*) reviews
  • We've just fallen down the rankings and don't see why (we're still getting great reviews): your competitors are getting more great reviews (or a combination of (a) and (b) in the answer to the first point)

We hope this has shone a little bit of light onto what is, for many in hospitality, one of the great unsolved mysteries of the profession. If you would like to understand more please speak to Nigel Cann at HelpHound client services or your business membership adviser.

Monday 15 July 2013

"Why do so few Hotels respond to reviews on TripAdvisor?"

One month ago Robin Bruce, our CEO, posed a question on Linkedin’s Hotels Group Network

"Why do so few hotels respond to reviews on TripAdvisor?"

So far 209 contributions have been received from industry professionals, many of them GMs.

What have we learned from this discussion? 

That good hotels and their GM’s take reviews very seriously, and, given time and resources, WOULD RESPOND to ALL reviews

That TripAdvisor does matter to you 

Like it or not, almost everyone checks TripAdvisor before booking – right across the price/location range, from 5* deluxe to Vanuatu. So ignoring TripAdvisor is not a realistic option. ‘Engagement’ has to be your byword

That good hotels want efficient ways to manage their online reputations

Some of you are already responding to every review posted, but that does nothing to deflect the negative reviews – you need a credible mechanism to do that, both in hotel and post-checkout

That you want to reclaim the conversation with guests from TripAdvisor and all the other external forums

You need to be able to invite all your guests to tell you about their stay. Good CRM goes part of the way, but to be really efficient (credible) the mechanism needs to be operated by a third party

That hotels need to manage their online reputations to achieve good RevPAR/GOPPAR

All the top-ranked hotels on TripAdvisor, wherever in the world they may be, succeed financially as well. In London or New York or Paris being in the top 100 makes life a whole lot easier; occupancy is not an issue, rates are hard, discounting is almost unheard of. Contracts are (re)negotiated from a position of strength

That you need help so you can get on and run your hotels...

Many (but not all) of you mentioned how hard you found it to respond consistently (or, indeed, at all).

Those that did respond to all reviews were still struggling with public negatives, and this was reflected in their rankings.


The ideal solution is a mechanism that:

1.     Gets reviews to your own site

2.     Enables you to respond to negatives in private

3.     Enables your to respond to negatives before they are posted to TripAdvisor (or anywhere else)

4.     Gets positive reviews posted to TripAdvisor

5.     Responds to all reviews on TripAdvisor on your behalf

6.     Works 365 days a year (even when you are on holiday, off shift etc.)

7.     Encourages direct booking

8.     Saves OTA commissions

9.     Puts your hotel in a positive position when negotiating contracts

10. Makes your offers to prospective guests work exceptionally well

Our clients already know the answer, and of course it’s Dialogue.

Friday 12 July 2013

How would you like great reviews like these?

All the reviews that follow were posted to TripAdvisor as a direct result of a client using Dialogue in conjunction with Feedback Manager Plus over a 30 day period. 


And this one...

And this one...

And this one...

 And this one...

And this one...

And this one...

And this one...

What would extra reviews like this be worth to your hotel (not to mention the ability to manage those that brought issues to the hotel in private)?

Tuesday 9 July 2013

Everyone is online - and they all want reviews

"Usage Patterns and Demographics"

Despite its dry title this article should be required reading for everyone in marketing.

Here we highlight just part of one paragraph:

"One such habit that seems prevalent among this demographic is a high reliance on user reviews. An October 2012 study from Ipsos OTX and Ipsos Global @dvisor found that while internet users in Great Britain indexed highly for this across the board, with 81% of internet users saying that online reviews helped them with purchase decisions, that figure was even more remarkable among "high-income" individuals, at 88%."

Thursday 4 July 2013

"Why do so few hotels respond to reviews on TripAdvisor?"

This was the question posed by our CEO on Linkedin's Hotel Group Network. There have now been over 100 comments from hoteliers and others across the globe. 

To read these (and some are very enlightening) or to join in the conversation, just follow this link

Update 10 July -  

Wednesday 3 July 2013

Awards - as good as they are

As all estate agents know, there are more and more awards out there, and this has a potential downside: when there were just a few well-known ones (the Sunday Times is just one example) life, for clients, was simple. with the recent proliferation we were interested to know what your clients thought, so we asked a representative cross-section a simple question...

"You are looking to sell or let a property, you research local agents and on their websites half have awards and the other half have verified client reviews. Which do you choose?"

The key headline answer surprised even us:

"The ones with client opinions." 100%

Some of the comments were interesting. Your clients don't know whether some of the  companies making some of the awards are credible or not, they don't understand the difference between them, and aren't actually that interested anyway. We heard comments like "aren't they working for the agents?" time and again.


We aren't suggesting that awards are worthless, far from it; in a face-to-face situation awards can be incredibly valuable (where you are able to explain the criteria and selection process). And they have to add value in the marketing process.


But we are saying that your potential clients value credible reviews. Don't take our word for it, ask them, and when you have their answers get Dialogue working alongside your award!

Monday 1 July 2013

One more BIG reason to host reviews on your own website


There are many reasons you should be hosting reviews on your own website...
  • To attract new customers
  • To reassure and retain existing customers
  • To get great feedback
  • To enable you to manage customer issues in private
  • Because you know that if you don't they will look elsewhere for them

But there's one that is often overlooked...
  • Reviews add colour - there's no-one better placed to give your prospective customers a really true impression of your business than your existing customers, and they are in a unique position to perform that service. In their own words, in ways that would stretch credibility if you were to say it for yourself - and it's that colour that gives consumers the confidence to buy

Let's look at some examples...

A customer says "The best in the area..." Can you say that?

A customer says "Their staff go the extra mile" Can you say that?

A customer says "Their service beats their competitors" Can you say that?

A customer says "They saved my marriage" Can you say that?!!

Add COLOUR - get Dialogue now!