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.
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)