Serge Chamelian, managing partner of h-hotelier, looks at how best to address this modern phenomenon customers may hold various views on your organization’s reputation, and this is why marketers must ensure that organizations have a good reputation and manage responses in an ethical manner when things go wrong.
How you’re perceived is everything in the world of business. The digital era has made managing an organization’s reputation an even greater challenge, from the speed at which it needs to respond to comments to the sheer volume of feedback received.
Most importantly, reputations, online or offline, can be cultivated, and paying attention to creating a ‘good’ reputation may help your organization to weather difficult times.
Over half of today’s travelers will not complete their booking until they have first consulted user reviews, with the majority reading between six and 12 before forming their opinion of a property. A recent Harvard Business Review study demonstrates that a difference of just one ‘star’ in the average rating leads to a difference of between 5 and 9 percent in revenues. Pages featuring user reviews tend to be ranked highly in search engine results and have better prominence amongst customers searching for a solution to their travel needs.
Booking.com has now become the dominant player in the hospitality review space, hosting 39 percent of all reviews worldwide. Indeed, because of consolidation in the online travel agencies (OTAs) space, the Priceline Group, which owns Booking.com, Agoda and OpenTable, now hosts 43 percent of all online hospitality reviews, while Expedia Inc., with Expedia.com, Hotels. com, Orbitz, Travelocity and Wotif, only controls about 10 percent. TripAdvisor. com remains highly influential, with 600 million unique visitors per month searching for hotel, travel and leisure solutions. Google grew its review volume as the world’s third-largest purveyor of hotel reviews.
In fact, there is a high correlation between listings with large quantities of review data and the travel page’s subsequent positioning on search engine result pages. This is particularly true in Local Search (where results are shown on maps), which is becoming a critical part of search engine marketing, since more customers prefer to use their mobile devices as their primary way of searching for information.
Online review management
Online reviews have evolved into a make or break issue for hotels. How you are represented on major review sites casts a strong reflection on how you operate your business. While this cannot be controlled, it can be managed. A well curated page, with timely, thoughtful and well-crafted management responses to reviews, helps reassure potential customers that you care. However, as hard as you try, it is impossible to keep everyone happy all of the time. Unfortunately, social media has become the go-to destination for disgruntled customers. Whether it is a disgruntled guest, a former employee or an anonymous troll, a hostile person can today broadcast negative content to large volumes of people with just a few clicks. Everyone is a critic, and in this online show-and-tell world, everyone can communicate their opinion, no matter how misguided, with a high degree of credibility, to an incredibly broad audience. In the past, we used to say that a satisfied guest tells a single person, while a dissatisfied one tells 10. Now, thanks to the power of social media, both of these figures can quickly grow from small numbers into hundreds or thousands – sometimes even entire online communities – in a heartbeat.
Thus, reputation is not static and organizations’ reputations can change, depending on their behavior and responses. This is happening faster than ever in the digital age, due to increased access to information and the speed with which people can now respond. Just as your internal reputation with employees will affect how you are perceived by the media and your customers, your online reputation directly affects how people view your organization overall. There is no separation between offline reputation and online reputation. The organization’s reputation and customers’ expectations need to be managed, especially when operational issues are highlighted in reviews. Hence, they need to be investigated rapidly, with:
• Solutions implemented to prevent the same problem from subsequently reoccurring
• A good management response promptly composed and posted to reassure anyone reading the review in question that they will not face a similar issue.
• Afterwards, the problem itself needs to be actually addressed, whether by changing processes or making investments, so as to ensure that the same problem does not occur again.