Thursday 28 March 2013

TripAdvisor rankings - some research

We conduct a lot of research on behalf of our clients. This week we're focusing on TripAdvisor rankings - the inner workings of which are something of a mystery to most people outside TripAdvisor we suspect. One factor you would expect, and this is partially borne out by our research, is 'the better the average review, the higher the ranking'. Let's look at some figures:

We took London, partly because it's our home city and we know the hotels well, and partly because, with over 1000 hotels listed on TripAdvisor, it gives us statistically meaningful figures. 

We examined the hotels ranked at 1, 10, 25, 50, 100*, 150 and so on up (or down!) to 1000. We then took the number of votes for Excellent and Very Good and divided these by the Poor and Terrible votes. What did this show us?

The bare figures: The top hotel has been voted 'poor' or 'terrible' by less than 0.1% of the number of guests who voted it 'excellent' or 'very good'. The number for the hotel ranked 25 was 0.2%, at 50 it was 0.7%. By the time we get to 200 it's just over 10% and at 500 it climbs to 35%.

So - the conclusion seems to be pretty obvious - and some of you may say it was already! - maximise the great votes and minimise the negatives. But then why are so few hotels managing to do just that? Is it bad customer service, or is it simpler than that - a lack of accurate focus and a mechanism to manage negatives before the less satisfied guest** is left with no option to post on TripAdvisor? 

With a little effort in-house and some help from Dialogue any well-run hotel - large or small - ought to be able to address one end of this see-saw: the negative end. And by simply reducing the negatives you can see from this pretty basic maths that your TripAdvisor ranking will improve.

(Oh - by the way, for those of you thinking 'volume': 6 of the top 25 hotels in London have less than 300 reviews).

*There was an anomaly at number 100 - a hotel with no 'poor' or 'terrible' scores at all. Maybe someone at TripAdvisor might like to enlighten us? Feel free to use the comment button below.

** while many positive (excellent/very good) reviews are posted by hard-core reviewers who write reviews wherever and whenever they stay (and whatever their experience), a vastly higher proportion of negative (poor/terrible) reviews are posted by people who don't write reviews at all unless they are unhappy - we estimate this proportion at roughly 15:1. Look after your unhappy guest and you look after your online reputation.

Dialogue and ReviewPro/Revinate

This post will explain how Dialogue works with services like ReviewPro and Revinate. First, let's look at the excellent value this type of service can add for those in the hospitality industry...

  • Benchmarking - analysing performance against your competitors
  • OTA performance and review aggregating: analysis/social media monitoring - knowing what's being said about you online - up-to-date and with great analytical tools
  • Service analysis - helping management and staff focus on areas for improvement

So - where does Dialogue fit in?

While these services report (as they are designed to) Dialogue enables you to be proactive in influencing your online reputation... 
  • by heading off negative comments before they're posted
  • by actively inviting your customers to post reviews to sites like TripAdvisor/Google/Yelp
So, if you're a client of a service like this you will see the effect Dialogue is having across all the areas that they report to you about. They'll highlight areas for improvement, and we'll make sure that improvement is reflected in your online reputation - on TripAdvisor and the OTAs, Google+ and other review sites and social media that matter to you.


The net effect? Your improved online presence impacts directly on your bottom line.

Tuesday 26 March 2013

Horror Stories - 'Falling Down'

Michael Douglas in 1993 - one of the HelpHound team twenty years on; has customer service improved?

11.35 am in Greggs Earl's Court: "May I have a bacon and cheese turnover please" - answer "No, we stop serving breakfast at 11."

Now - this is fine as far as it goes, but the stumbling block was when the Greggs staff were asked "Why?" (Earl's Court is full of shiftworkers - hotels, London Transport etc. Some are even Greggs' staff!) and they were only able to answer: "Company policy"

The staff in Greggs were great - and our colleague left with two turnovers for the price of one. But why, oh why, don't managers brief their staff on the reasons behind 'company policy'?

BTW - if you are in customer service (and who isn't?) and you haven't seen 'Falling Down' it's a 'must watch'!

Monday 25 March 2013

Shock/Horror - Dialogue clients look better!

We won't deny it - our clients look better on the web. So - a key question: are we enabling them to have an unfair advantage?

Our answer is a resounding 'NO', and here we explain why...

Customer service (and its offspring CRM) is not new. Businesses have been seeking better ways to engage with customers since the beginning of time, for their own benefit and for the benefit of their customers.

It started with simple face-to-face interaction: "Can I help you with anything else?" which let to more formal 'customer surveys', in-store questionnaires, focus groups and so on...

Then came the web. And more specifically 'Web 2.0' (an overused term which simply meant that the web had evolved into a two-way discussion). For the first time customers had a mechanism to communicate, not just with a business and their immediate friends and acquaintances, but with anyone and everyone.

Hot on the heels of Web 2 came review sites. And these were a new animal for businesses: for the first time customers could post opinions to be seen by potential customers - all potential customers who had access to the web, with anonymity.

This led forward-thinking businesses to ask themselves how they could reclaim the conversation with their customers, which, until then, had been personal and (in relative terms) private.

Dialogue, as our clients know, is a big part of the answer. It enables businesses to have a private conversation with their customers, which includes managing issues that might otherwise have been posted on these review sites and lead to reputational harm. So - back to the central question we posed at the beginning of this post: 'unfair advantage?'

It's only 'unfair' if you take the view that businesses shouldn't be able to communicate with their customers in private. A HelpHound client using Dialogue will be able to resolve consumer issues in private where one of their competitors without Dialogue might have to manage the same (or similar) issue in public. It's the business's choice.

The fact that Dialogue enables businesses to resolve issues which might otherwise harm their reputations if aired in public helps the business and the consumer - both benefit; the business resolves the issue (and retains custom) and is alerted to potential flaws in service delivery, and the customer gets the issue resolved.

It might reasonably be claimed that a business that uses Dialogue is, by definition, a business that takes customer service more seriously, and therefore deserves to benefit - deserves a better reputation.

So -  Dialogue doesn't give our clients an unfair advantage any more than any other sophisticated CRM tool would - it just happens to be very effective, and that's something we are proud of!

Reputations aren't built (or repaired) in a day

As all hoteliers know - a great reputation isn't built overnight. Ironically almost the opposite can be true of online reputations (TripAdvisor rankings and scores). Let us explain...

All OTA ranking and scoring systems are essentially pretty simple. Scores and ranks are the product of simple mathematical equations (often called 'algorithms'): they amalgamate the individual guests' scores and calculate these over a period of time. And it's this 'period of time' that can work in favour or against a hotel's online reputation.

In favour?

A new property starts from scratch, and these days, when most hoteliers know the issues, effective CRM can encourage guests to post positive reviews and some negatives can be managed. But the single greatest advantage is that there shouldn't be any reason for guests to complain about the physical structure of the hotel - no 'tired rooms'. 'worn carpets' or 'ancient plumbing'.


It has taken a while for some hoteliers to understand just how important their TripAdvisor ranking or score is to their ability to maintain RevPAR. When they do, they often face an uphill struggle to mend the historic damage and don't completely understand why it takes so long.

The answer?

All OTA ranking and scoring algorithms include an historical element. While they (TripAdvisor and the OTAs) don't publish the full extent of this, logic dictates that it has to be about 18 months. This means that even if a hotel addresses its ranking (on, say, TripAdvisor) immediately and totally effectively, it will take about 18 months for any historical negatives to work their way through and be excluded from the algorithm (and thus their ranking or score).

So, with this knowledge you can see how urgent it is to adopt a positive strategy if rankings and scores are to be addressed. A month's delay simply means 19 months before the hotel's online reputation is completely 'clean'.

Some notes with special reference to Dialogue™...

Our clients know just how effective Dialogue can be in achieving this. But it is critical to note that for Dialogue to be truly effective it must be given a chance to work - and that means (a) harvesting the maximum number of email addresses and (b) sending those emails as soon as possible after the guest checks out. 

If 10 guests check out and one is unhappy enough to resort to posting a negative on TripAdvisor or an OTA and the hotel has all 10 email addresses there's a great chance that the dissatisfied guest will respond to the hotel, and not post a public review (thus damaging rankings and scores). If only 5 email addresses have been harvested, then there's a 50% chance that 'Mr or Mrs Dissatisfied' will post in public. If the guest receives the email days after check-out it may be too late. It's as simple as that.

Thursday 14 March 2013

A better online reputation

Below is a chart of a client's ranking on TripAdvisor since January last year - in January this year they began emailing a significant percentage of their guests with the invitation to post a review through Dialogue, and since then we have been monitoring their ranking on a weekly basis.

We think the results, even at this early stage, make interesting reading...
The slide was due entirely to the hotel not having an effective ORM mechanism until Dialogue was implemented - in other words the hotel has not undergone any fundamental changes in the last 15 months. Dialogue has put the brakes on this slide and is now enabling the hotel to climb back to where it should be in relation to its competitors. 

Dialogue is enabling them to deflect negatives away from the OTAs and back to the hotel, where they can be managed offline (and the guests' custom retained).

We will keep you posted.

Thursday 7 March 2013

Dialogue clients top 'Magic 7'!

What's the first thing someone does when they're thinking of selling? While there are many answers to this question - from 'get industrial cleaners in' to 'ring the agent who sold me the property', increasingly, whatever else they do, they google [estate agent] + [location]. So?

It's important, in a very crowded marketplace, to rank in Google natural search. Shepherds of Hertford adopted Dialogue in the summer of last year. They incorporated Dynamic Display in December. This involved a pretty radical rethink of their home page; so where, now in March 2013, do they rank in the Google Magic 7? Answer: right at the top...

Castles in Farnham were hot on their heels...

Now, were not going to take all the credit - after all they both have great websites (and are great agents - we know, because we've read the reviews!), but something is making Google love them. And you would be amazed at how many people on the Clapham omnibus think that this Google ranking is based on 'how good they are.'

Some might say that the combination of this and the evidence Dialogue provides to their potential clients when they click through to their websites is worth the fee alone. 

Tuesday 5 March 2013

A Guide to the HelpHound Blog

Blogs, by their very nature, can be problematic to navigate. Ours is made more difficult by the variety of clients we have and the differing ways in which you are using Dialogue. Here we will try and make an easy to navigate guide, so you can find the posts that are relevant to your business and the way you use Dialogue...

But first - if you haven't subscribed yet - enter your email address (and those of your colleagues who you think will benefit most - you may enter multiple addresses, one at a time) in the box at top right.

Specifically for Hotel/Hospitality clients

Understanding the two distinct types of TripAdvisor review writer

Comments from our hotel clients

Results achieved for our hotel clients in 2012

Boosting rankings on OTAs 

Does Dialogue give our clients an unfair advantage?

How long does it take to improve a hotels online reputation? 

Getting the silent majority to write reviews

Inviting reviews - best practice

Making money in 2013

Our clients win on

Why ranking hotels helps no-one 

The difference between Dialogue and systems like ReviewPro 

Feedback Manager™ - doing all the work for you! 

Describing Dialogue 'in a nutshell' 

Learning from the Top 20 Hotels 

Profiting both ways - occupancy and rates

Specifically for Estate Agency clients

Comparing the value of Dialogue with other estate agency marketing

Comments from our estate agent clients

Getting clients to write reviews

Clients top Google 'Magic 7'

Why ranking estate agents helps no-one

Dynamic display working for estate agents

Describing Dialogue 'in a nutshell' 

Keep an eye on Yelp 

For all our clients

Making Dynamic Display look great

An introduction to Feedback Manager™

Dialogue v. Conventional CRM - why it works so much better

Resolution™ - how and why it works so well

Our charges - explanation and overview  

Membership 'badges' 

Posts of general interest

Credible reviews - the strongest message your website can deliver

Making your website as good as you are 

Learning from the Top 20 

Killer reviews - what are they and how to deal with them

Linking to external sites - a warning 

How does the 'helpful' button help you?

Worth a look if you have the time

Horror Story 4 - financial services

Horror Story 3 - restaurateur jailed 

Horror Story 2 - smashing guitars

Horror Story 1 - Ferrari

Last, but not least - if there is a topic that we haven't blogged about, but you think we should, please let us know - and do comment on the individual posts...

Sunday 3 March 2013

Why Dialogue works - part 2: analysing reviewers' behaviour

A little research can often go a long way. We recently analysed the experience of one of our larger hotel clients on TripAdvisor, focusing on pre- and post-implementation of Dialogue. What did we find?

Firstly, that their TripAdvisor ranking began to improve. Well, that's not particularly newsworthy in itself, all our clients who operate Dialogue as per the manual have seen their rankings rise. But when we looked more closely we did find something interesting:

That their reviewers broke down into two distinct 'types', let's call them 'Type 1' and 'Type 2'...

'Type 1' - is the habitual TripAdvisor reviewer. They post reviews whenever and wherever they stay...

'Type 2'- rarely, if ever, post reviews unless they are dissatisfied

Let's look at the raw data:

We looked at reviewers scoring the hotel 5 stars. They had posted an average of 11 reviews on TripAdvisor and they were overwhelmingly 'Type 1'. Then we looked at the 1 star reviewers. They had posted an average of under 3 reviews each - they were almost all 'Type 2'.

We then went on to strip out the 'habitual reviewers' who had posted a 1 star (for this purpose we counted reviewers with more than 20 reviews as 'habitual') the average came right down to 1.4.

  • Habitual TripAdvisor reviewers will post a review whatever...
  • Dissatisfied guests who wouldn't normally dream of posting a review will post a review on TripAdvisor if they are not given a route they prefer*...
Dialogue is giving our client's dissatisfied guests a route they prefer. They actively want to communicate with the hotel, they want the hotel to given an opportunity to apologise/explain and, in the overwhelming majority of cases, to retain their custom.

We know Dialogue works, now we (and you) know more about why it works.

*Look at the 'helpful' votes - aaarrgh!