Tuesday 27 August 2013

TripAdvisor Ranking - biggest ever weekly jump for a client

Eleven (Yes - 11) places. 

In the crowded London market - 1073 hotels - this is a massive increase in a single week. 

Here we examine how it was achieved...

First - they had no new negative reviews

Second - they had nineteen positive reviews (15 five star, 4 four star) and only one average (3 star) review

Third - they did better by comparison with their immediate competitors 

Fourth - the average review - 4.7 - was much higher than their long-term historical average (which is 4.17).

We know that TripAdvisor disregards historical reviews (our educated guestimate is that reviews over 18 months old are no longer included in TripAdvisor's ranking algorithm - recent comment by Brian Panea of TripAdvisor indicates that this may be as short as 6-12 months; he stressed the importance of (a) volume and (b) recent reviews. So: replacing reviews with an average score of 4.17 with reviews with a higher average score means - all other influences being equal* - a higher ranking.

*The main influences on a hotel's TripAdvisor ranking fall into two categories:

Those the hotel can influence: 
  1. The quality of their own reviews
  2. The volume of their own reviews
Those the hotel cannot directly influence:
  1. The quality of their competitors' reviews
  2. The volume of their competitors' reviews
So - the strategy for an ever-higher ranking has to be:
  • Run a great hotel - with every effort focused on a great guest experience
  • Encourage satisfied guests to post reviews to TripAdvisor
  • Encourage dissatisfied guests to communicate directly - not via TripAdvisor

Our client (black line) against its two nearest competitors over the last 3 months - and the news would have been even better if their PMS hadn't failed to email for a week at the beginning of August (see down-tick above). We'll keep you posted on progress.

And this is just what the hotel in question has done with Dialogue

Thursday 22 August 2013

Estate Agents: are your potential clients reading your reviews? - 2

One excellent benchmark is the number of 'helpful' votes:

And here's just one recent review for a client:

This client has had 96 reviews from vendors since they joined last October. And those reviews have been voted 'helpful' by over 400 visitors to their website since then.

Why would someone vote these reviews as 'helpful'? It has to be because they have given them the confidence to at least consider contacting the agent. 

One secret of this agent's success is the prominence they have given to Dialogue (and Dynamic Display) on their website (another is their commitment to getting their clients to review them). 

They are proud of their reviews (as they have every right to be - read them here) and they recognise that showing credible reviews are one of the most significant factors in influencing potential clients to take that crucial first step - contact.

To see how radically they re-designed their website to display these reviews, go here. The fact that their site remains the same some 6 months later speaks volumes.

Tuesday 20 August 2013

Just one example of guest retention

As our clients know, HelpHound is about much more than just online reputation. A big part of Dialogue's role is to enable our clients to know if any of their guests is unhappy with any aspect of the service they have received.

Here is a recent example of the interchange between the guest, the hotel and HelpHound through Dialogue...

The guest (a frequent stayer) responds to the 'invitation email':

"...We woke up at 7.30 am with workmen outside our windows cutting into concrete - this made a huge racket so we had to close our windows and shutters for the privacy and noise. We were unable to rest in the afternoons after spending all day walking in London so all in all we weren't as happy as we usually have been in the past." And: "...We are booked in again on the 18th until 21st August when we leave to return home to South Africa."

HelpHound responds...

"Thank you for your review which has been placed in Dialogue. This is a process that we use to allow [hotel] to respond to the points you have made in your post before it goes live, after which you will be invited to make a final post.

We will make sure that [hotel] reservations receives notice of your review before you return to the hotel."

The guest responds...

"...we have had a really restful night. Both my husband and I appreciate your constructive intervention and it has restored my faith in [hotel]. We will definitely return."  

And there's more...
It is interesting to note that in seven out of the last ten reviews for this hotel the guest refers (unprompted) to their intention to stay again:

"...want to come again"

"I have stayed at the [hotel] about 15 times now and I believe that the service is better than ever before. Next time (next week) I hope I can tell the same as today."

"Unable to find fault at all. All services were excellent, looking forward to a return."

"Very enjoyable stay. Would stay here again."

"We have tried other hotels, but the [hotel] works best for us."

"All in all, good experience and would stay there again."

"See you in three weeks."

Saturday 17 August 2013

Dialogue for hotels - a performance update

Here we compare Dialogue's up-to-date performance against the benchmarks we (and our clients) set:

The effect on our clients' online reputations
  • Negative posts to TripAdvisor have been reduced by an average of 73%
  • Positive posts to TripAdvisor have been increased by an average of 8%
  • Negative posts (scores below 7) to Booking.com have been reduced by 54%
  • Clients are averaging an internal TripAdvisor CSI of 92% 

The scores for our clients through Dialogue

and even better for 'Staff'
  • Our client hotels are scoring an average of 4.6 (out of 5) on 'overall opinion'

Managing negative posts in private (guest retention)

To make these figures easier to understand we have put the number per 1000 reviews in brackets
  • Clients are averaging 23.8% negatives through Resolution (238)
  • Less than 1% of those posts are resulting in a published review in Dialogue (2.4)
  • Less than 8% of that 1% are resulting in a negative review to TripAdvisor (0.2)
  • An average of 1 in 3 result in a (privately) written comment indicating the guest's willingness to revisit the hotel (79)
Taken from just one (private) response in Dialogue (hotel name redacted)

 Reports from clients indicate...

"Repeat bookings"
  • Increases in rates of return stays

"Direct bookings"

  • Increases in direct bookings
  • And increases in valuable feedback

"Valuable feedback...prompting them to book directly with us"

The bottom line...

Membership of Dialogue is not just about gaining control of your online reputation, it's about the effect that gaining that control has on your bottom line...

A great online reputation = increased profitability

Thursday 15 August 2013

TripAdvisor's CSI - thumbs up?

TripAdvisor's customer service index (CSI) is set to become the most important benchmark for your hotel. Why?

Because it provides an easily understood indicator for potential guests, whereas rankings can be misunderstood or even meaningless: 

Hotel A has a CSI of 95%, Hotel B has a CSI of 63%, but hotel A is ranked 6 out of 55 hotels in its area and hotel B is ranked at 1 (albeit out of 4). Booking.com has been scoring hotels for years now because it's so much more helpful to guests (and fairer to hotels in the end).

Not quite sure the thumb is the right way up!
 What will the effect be?

The following is ever so slightly tongue-in-cheek, but with a definite warning to hotels that don't take heed:

CSI - up to 50% - it's a big building with a sign saying 'hotel 'on it

up to 60% - it is definitely a hotel, but there has to be a better option

up to 70% - it will do if there isn't an alternative within 15 miles (500 yards in London)

up to 80% - it will do if there isn't an alternative within 5 miles (250 yards in London)

up to 90% - book it - before the room sells to someone else!

over 90% - travel miles to stay in it

over 95% - don't bother, they haven't got a room until 2015

Wednesday 14 August 2013

Dialogue users re-posting to TripAdvisor

This review was first posted in Dialogue, yesterday:


The reviewer responded immediately to our request to go on to post to TripAdvisor:

What is particularly good news for the hotel client is that the reviewer has amplified their original review, and done that in an extremely positive way. 

There are some other interesting (and encouraging) aspects to this: the original review was posted immediately on a mobile device (as was the re-post to TripAdvisor) and already (in less than 24 hours) another TripAdvisor user has voted the review 'helpful'.

This is just one of four re-posted 5 star reviews in the last seven days for this client.

Tuesday 13 August 2013

You don't need to know you're great!

There's not a hotelier on the planet who looks at a five star review of their business and doesn't feel that special glow; but this post focuses on the value of negative reviews

We all know that the cost of acquiring a new customer as opposed to the value of retaining an existing one is massive. And that's where negative reviews become critical: they give you the opportunity to repair your relationship with your customer. And that's where a major part of Dialogue's value lies.

You know that far more guests than just those who post to TripAdvisor won't be choosing your hotel again (for any one of many reasons). The statistics bear closer examination. Let's use one top ranked London hotel as an example:
  • 0.1% of their guests have written reviews to TripAdvisor in the last 12 months - let's call the headline figure 500
  • Less than 5% of those reviews are negative - let's call that 25
We calculate (and that calculation is based on our experience of moderating thousands of private negative reviews) that every negative review posted to TripAdvisor represents the tip of a very large iceberg indeed: every negative posted to TripAdvisor represents up to 100 guests who have no intention of staying in that hotel again; they just couldn't be bothered to write a review to TripAdvisor. That would mean 2500 (out of 40,000) guests not returning.

If the hotel could find a mechanism that would ensure that a large proportion of those guests could communicate the reason why they wouldn't want to stay again, and, more importantly, what the hotel would need to do to change their minds, then there is a big incentive to use it.

Dialogue enables just that kind of guest to communicate with the hotel, and the hotel to do whatever it takes to retain their custom. And they do, unseen by anyone except the hotel management and our moderators at HelpHound. 

Here are two excerpts from the private interaction between one of our clients and one of their guests, a great example of a negative review turned round by the hotel: 

Hotel name redacted
Dialogue - winning back guests

Hotels - Guest Retention - some very interesting numbers

Regular readers of this blog will know that one of the major focuses of Dialogue is on ensuring that guests have a channel for communicating issues to our clients so:
  1. They don't post negative opinions to sites like TripAdvisor (and Booking.com and anywhere else that may detract form a hotel's reputation)
  2. Just as importantly: the hotel has a chance to turn a guest from 'I won't stay with you again' into 'Thank you for explaining [the reason for whatever issue I had with my stay], and reassuring me, I will stay again.'
Gaining repeat stays (guest retention) is a big part of any hotels' marketing efforts. Here we look at how effective Dialogue is in helping our clients do this.

We analyse all our clients data very thoroughly (both pre- and post-joining), so we can be sure Dialogue is working at maximum effectiveness...

First, some numbers (these are up-to-date statistics for a client):

Before implementing Dialogue:
  • Reviews to TripAdvisor: one review per 1296 guests
  • Positive reviews: one per 1074 guests
  • Negative reviews: one per 6048 guests
After implementing Dialogue:
  • Reviews to TripAdvisor: one review per 1076 guests - an increase of 8.3%
  • Positive reviews to TripAdvisor: one per 934 guests - a rise of 8.6%
  • Negative reviews to TripAdvisor: one per 22096 guests - a fall of over 75%
  • Negative reviews through Dialogue: 79
  • Negative reviews through Dialogue - resolved in private: 74*
Two very important things emerge from these numbers: that Dialogue is getting more positive reviews and less negative reviews posted to TripAdvisor (impacting on the hotels' ranking and their CSI - the 'thumbs up') and that the hotel is resolving a significant number of guest issues - privately - to greatly enhance the prospect of that guest returning.  

We gain confidence when watching the 'private conversation' that takes place between the hotel and the guest in Dialogue (and our moderators watch and report on every one), and this gives us a very accurate idea of the chances of guest retention. Here are some generic examples (London hoteliers will recognise them!).
  • "I wont stay again because the room was too small". Response: "We'll allocate you a larger room next time you stay."
  • "I didn't like the view from my room". Response: "We'll give you a room with a view [of] next time you stay."
  • "My room was noisy." Response: "We'll allocate you a quiet room."
So: not only did Dialogue choke off these reviews form being posted to TripAdvisor (with the attendant issues - putting future guests off booking, damaging ranking etc.) but it enables the hotel to do its very best to ensure a repeat booking from each guest concerned.

*Keen eyes will have noticed that this figure (dissatisfied guests posting through Dialogue) is massively higher than the figure for negative posts to TripAdvisor (either before or after Dialogue). Dialogue is giving this hotel - and all our clients - a crucially important (and previously unavailable) channel to engage in a conversation with one of their most important categories of guests: those who may not otherwise return.

The key point:

Dialogue is enabling all your dissatisfied (potentially non-returning) guests to 'speak' to you so you can turn them around. And that number is massively higher than those who bother to post a negative review anywhere at all.

Monday 12 August 2013

Dialogue: charges in perspective

For Hotels:

For some time now we have been calculating (and quoting) our hotel clients in terms of 'pence per room night'. This makes it easy for them to understand the cost of Dialogue, and they can then easily work out how many more rooms they need to sell to pay* for it (remember: we always stress that Dialogue should be seen as a tool for generating profit, rather than a drain on resources).

Here are some examples:
  • A 250 bed hotel charging £100 per night: 5.1p per room/night (5.2p when Dynamic Display is included)
  • A 100 bed hotel charging £250 per night: 6.6p per room night (6.7p when Dynamic Display is included)
One of Dialogue's key strengths is in the area of guest retention: another way of looking at (and valuing) Dialogue is savings on OTA commissions: converting from those bearing commission to direct bookings requires between 5 and 8 extra rooms to be sold each month to fully fund Dialogue. 

The other is in the area of what we term 'killer reviews'. A 'killer review' is a review that has the potential to massively impact on revenue if posted on a site like TripAdvisor. Dialogue massively increases your chances of being able to manage such reviews in private.

For Estate Agents:

Here our headline charges are a maximum of £125 a month (£170 including Dynamic Display), reducing to £85 a month for agencies with over 20 branches. So how many more properties does an agent need to sell to pay for Dialogue?

The average UK house price was £239,000 in June. The commission on a sale at that price would be:
  • £5975 @ 2.5%
  • £4780 @ 2.0%
  • £3585 @ 1.5%
So: with Dialogue (including Dynamic Display) at £2040 p.a. for a single branch agency: the cost is covered by less than half a property a year at 2.5% and just over half a property a year at 1.5%.

But that's not all; Dialogue can pay for itself in one review: we encourage all our lettings clients to send the 'invitation to review' to their landlords at regular intervals. This is so they can address any issues before the landlord decides to change agents. Recently an estate agent client had just such a response, along the lines of 'I'm not happy, and I'm considering appointing another agent.' The agent in question was alerted by the review and able to restore the landlord's confidence. What was that single review worth to the agent?

*As all our clients know, we don't ask you to sign a contract for six months, and we haven't lost a client yet, so there's probably a message there somewhere. The six months with 'no contract' allow enough time (and experience) to reassure clients of the purely financial benefits that flow from membership of Dialogue. You can read what our clients say here.


Saturday 10 August 2013

Reviews are the 21st century's testimonials

Arbitrage is the practice of exploiting financial anomalies between markets, for profit. There's no exactly equivalent term in marketing; but it is possible for marketing anomalies to occur as well - and to profit from them. It's the art of learning from other industries to get a lead on your competition.

An example:
The Mac "that saved Apple"

Apple started selling computers in the late seventies. They made good computers, but so did a multitude of other companies. Then, in 1998, Jonathan Ive (now Sir Jonathan) designed the iMac. 

What was learned from other industries? The key here was Jony Ive's background - he was a designer, not a techie. It was the revolutionary design of the first iMac, not it's technical wizardry, that drove sales into the stratosphere; the genius at Apple was to effectively arbitrage between two different disciplines. It seems so simple and so obvious now, but it hadn't occurred to IBM or Dell in 1998.

So what's this got to do with reviews?

As most of our clients know, we cover the whole business spectrum, so we're able to take the lessons learned and proved in one sector and apply them to another. Here we're going to examine what other businesses can learn from the hospitality industry.

Hospitality - at the forefront of the review revolution

Up until the turn of the millennium hotels did their own marketing - they advertised, and they used testimonials; sometimes from celebrities, often just plain comments from 'Mr and Mrs P'. These testimonials were displayed on their websites.

Then, in January 2000, Steve Kaufer founded a consumer review site called TripAdvisor. User-generated content was the new buzzword (sometimes called 'Web 2.0' for short). He invited guests to comment on their experience with hotels.

At first hotels ignored TripAdvisor, but soon guests started referring to it. The hospitality industry continued to dismiss TripAdvisor as an irrelevance, until it was too late. TripAdvisor swiftly established a monopoly on guest comment. Testimonial marketing in the hospitality industry began to wither and die.

You will search far and wide to find 'Mr and Mrs P' type testimonials on a hotel website these days, for one simple reason: those in hospitality marketing recognise that, given the alternative, consumers will always opt for 'real' consumer reviews. 

The massive downside for the hospitality industry in not taking independent reviews seriously at the start of the Web 2.0 'revolution' is evidenced by the stranglehold that Tripadvisor and review driven online travel agencies now have on their market. Hotels have little option but to pay commissions to these agencies because they didn't seek out an alternative offering for their customers, they sat back and allowed TripAdvisor to fill the consumer demand. 

So what lessons are there here for other businesses? Is there any potential for 'marketing arbitrage'?

The key is to embrace the lesson learned by the hospitality industry: that testimonial marketing is over. Consumers want reviews they can trust. They want them to be verified and credible (TripAdvisor is weak here, but they are so firmly entrenched as the 'go to' travel site it doesn't really seem to matter to them). They don't want 'Mr and Mrs P' any more. And they certainly don't want to be spoon-fed testimonials by businesses.

And businesses won't want to find themselves in the same financial headlock with review sites that hotels now find themselves in with TripAdvisor.

Learn the lessons of the hospitality industry before you're being charged 15% commission for every new customer!

So: businesses should act now, before they walk into the office one day and find the smaller 'TripAdvisors*' in their marketplaces have a similar monopoly on consumer opinion. 

*Potential 'TripAdvisors' in other sectors? Time will tell, but you can be sure of one thing: the inexhaustible consumer appetite for reviews will drive them: estate agency - AllAgents? - medical - WebMD? - financial services - moneysavingexpert? - lawyers - LegallyBetter? - trades - RatedTradespeople? And then there are the big daddies: Google Local and Yelp

Your reviews on TripAdvisor - the better they are the better they'll get - official!

A research team at MIT in the USA has recently confirmed what common-sense always told us:

That if your reviews are already great it will influence subsequent reviewers to write better reviews.

Read this article in today's Mail online.

For our clients:

Dialogue, by (a) minimising negative posts to TripAdvisor and (b) getting more of your guests to post 4 and 5 star reviews, makes this aspect of human nature work in your favour. If you look at your TripAdvisor reviews (and Booking.com and the other OTAs), both pre- and post-implementation of Dialogue, you will see this syndrome working for you.

If you would like to see what other hoteliers are saying about this issue read the Linkedin group discussion here.

Thursday 8 August 2013

Dialogue - value for money

Dialogue will:
  • Make you feel great
  • Make your staff feel great
  • Make your hotel look great - all over the web
  • Make your hotel look great - on your own website
  • Make your hotel look great - against its competitors 
  • Prove you care about your guests' opinions
  • Get your TripAdvisor ranking up
  • Get your Booking.com (and other OTA) scores up
  • Get great feedback from guests
  • Deflect negatives from TripAdvisor
  • Deflect negatives from Booking.com and all the other OTAs
  • Deflect negatives from Facebook, Google Local and Twitter
Dialogue will do all the above, but that's not why the overwhelming majority of our clients first invest in Dialogue. They buy Dialogue because:

  • They want repeat bookings
  • They want direct bookings

In a word: they want to improve profitability

Let's examine those last two points in more detail:

Getting repeat bookings

In order to be sure of welcoming a guest back to your hotel you need to sure that they are happy. Experienced hoteliers have a 'feel' for a happy guest, but they all admit that they can never be sure. 

With Dialogue you can be sure - the overwhelming majority of guests, given the opportunity to let you know (in private) that they "would stay again, if..." will do so through Dialogue.

Getting direct bookings

Many, many guests book through OTAs for one simple reason: they were led there by sites like TripAdvisor after they first visited to read reviews

If you show credible guest reviews on your website you will satisfy that need.

With Dialogue you get repeat bookings and you get direct bookings

With Dialogue you get increased profitability

Dialogue - results just keep on getting better

As our clients learn more and more about how to make Dialogue work, the better their individual results get.

The hotel below has now been a client for nearly six months...

So what does this chart show us?

First - that they are doing very well at getting their guests to write reviews. Then: that Resolution is working fabulously for them - out of 217 reviews posted only 5 (yes, five!) 3* reviews went on to be posted on their Dialogue module (out of twenty-seven 3, 2 and 1 star reviews that were originally posted into Resolution). NONE of the nine 1 and 2 star reviews was published.

In addition we were able to identify 14 more reviews posted to TripAdvisor - all 4 and 5 star, as a direct result of Dialogue. The number of 'poor' and 'terrible' reviews posted to TripAdvisor over the same period fell by over 75% compared with the same period last year.

Dialogue doing what it says on the tin!

Wednesday 7 August 2013

Dialogue - getting the best response from your invitation to review

Far too many hotels (and their CRM software) simply send out post-stay emails expecting a response. Their open rates are poor, their unsubscribe rates are high and their response rates are negligible*. Why?

Because the email is not integrated with the rest of the guest's experience. 

A conversation between our CEO and a US hotelier in LinkedIn's Hotel Industry Professionals Worldwide group

Here we are going to let you in on the success secrets of our hotel client with the highest response rate of all (averaging over 11%). What are they doing right?
  1. The guest checks in - they are asked to confirm their email address and simultaneously are told why: "Because we will be sending you an email after your stay to invite you to let us have a record of you experience." To this is added "Please feel free to speak to me or any other member of staff during your stay, the email is so we can be sure." 
  2. At any stage during their stay individual members of staff, when complemented, have been trained to say "Oh, it would be wonderful if you could mention that when we send you the email."
  3. On check-out: "We really value replies to our email - it does so help future guests decide whether or not this is the right hotel for them to choose."
Do all of the above (in your own way) and the invitation to review will be welcomed - and you will get a great response.

*Large hotel groups understandably like CRM questionnaires; they give head office great data to compare hotels within (and outside) the group. But there is a downside: response rates (as an overall percentage of guests staying in each individual property) are often very low, so the data can be misleading. It is important not to confuse this type of data collection with review management. The two can be combined (and we do so for some of our clients) but it is a difficult act to pull off. Speak to Karen Hutchings if you would like more information.

Tuesday 6 August 2013

Understanding the psychology behind TripAdvisor reviewers' behaviour

To effectively manage your reputation on TripAdvisor it is first important to understand why (and from whom) you are getting reviews.

TripAdvisor reviewers break down into many subgroups, but the two main ones are:
  • dedicated TripAdvisor reviewers: who review every hotel they stay in
  • unhappy guests: who rarely, if ever, post unless they were not satisfied
Here are some representative examples taken from a single hotel's positive reviews over the last month:

And here is a sample (again, representative) of the same hotel's negative reviewers:

There are two very strong messages here:
  1. Regular TripAdvisor reviewers will post a review of your hotel - come what may
  2. Guests who have never posted to TripAdvisor before will post a negative review if they are not happy
There is overlap: some, like Victoria JK, will post both positives and negatives:

 But a significant number (like j80jsd) will only post when they're not happy:

This goes a very long way to explaining why Dialogue works so effectively:
  • Guests like 'j80jsd' are captured by Dialogue and will bring their complaint direct to you in private. Why? because they don't post to TripAdvisor to help their fellow travellers find great hotels, they post because they are unhappy (do you think 'j80jsd' has only ever stayed in 5 hotels and has been plain unlucky)? They just want the hotel to know that their expectations weren't fulfilled.
  • Guests like 'VictoriaJK' are also highly likely to respond through Dialogue, but are even more likely to go on to post any positive reviews they write through Dialogue to Tripadvisor afterwards. Dialogue stands a very good chance of choking off any negative review she might have been considering writing
  • Guests like 'Mme_X', who review every hotel they stay in (and write overwhelmingly positive reviews) are also highly likely to re-post the review they write to you through Dialogue to TripAdvisor...

One final point: note how many 'helpful' votes the negative reviewers get, compared with the lovely 'Mme_X' above; it's so important to divert these negative reviews, not just to keep your ranking up, but to prevent potential guests being put off booking your hotel. One negative review does so much more harm than just impacting your ranking.