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HSMAI Section: Manage Your Online Reputation for Continued Success

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October 25, 2017
Jim Sichta

©2017 Hospitality Upgrade

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In today’s internet-fueled world of social media, your customers will make buying decisions based on other people’s opinions. Before social media took hold, you could interact with customers on a more regular basis, effectively cutting inefficiencies off at the pass. With the evolution of social media, it’s rare that we can engage in quality face time with consumers, and therefore online reputation management needs to be at the top of its game.
If you haven’t paid much attention to your reputation online, now is the time to start. If you find that your reputation isn’t as great as you thought, it’s not hopeless. You can take steps to repair it through some care and consideration.
First, determine the key areas of the poor reputation and address them immediately. Let’s take bad reviews left for your hotel – one of the most common online reputation issues. Brief steps to rectifying the issue include: 
• Read the reviews carefully and take ownership of the issues. 
• Work with your team to fix the issues.
• Once the issues are corrected, respond to the reviews, acknowledge the complaint in an authentic way and show reviewers what you have done to correct the issues.
• Invite negative reviewers back to share in the improvements. There is a chance they will update their review after seeing the effort you took to remedy the situation.
Once you start to turn around your reputation, remain consistent and continue to improve the guest experience to manage and maintain your online presence.
Managing, Maintaining Your Reputation
There are several best practices to keep a consistent online reputation that will drive more customers to your door.
1. Go Above and Beyond. Providing a great guest experience is a surefire way to ensure positive online reviews. Surprise guests to show them you are willing to go above and beyond the call of duty. This can be anything from offering a small in-room amenity, personal attention or extra services. When guests’ stays are accompanied by personalized experiences and great hospitality, it will be reflected in their reviews.
2. Respond to All Reviews. Positive, negative or neutral, you need to respond to all guest reviews online. Some hoteliers will only respond to negative reviews and complaints while ignoring rave reviews. The danger in ignoring your fans can be huge. Guests who have positive experiences stay up to 10 to 20 times at properties, so ignoring your loyal guests can hurt your repeat business.
When responding to reviews, personality is key. You don’t always need to take a high-level, professional tone in every correspondence with guests. Let personality shine in your responses – it’s more authentic and relatable. Have you ever researched a hotel to see a GM responding to all reviews with the same three scripted sentences? These scripts will turn off guests who crave personal and genuine communication. 
Reviews should be responded to within 24 hours, so having more than one person take ownership of responses will allow every review to be acknowledged in a timely manner. Additionally, responses from those with different job titles can lend credibility to the interaction. For example, if a reviewer complains about a housekeeping issue, why not have the executive housekeeper respond? 
It is worth noting that if you truly believe a review was inappropriate or not accurate to the service provided, make sure you challenge it with the review site.
3. Don’t Manage It Alone. Managing your hotel’s reputation can be a big job, and it would take a great deal of manpower to assign someone to monitor the countless review sites all day. That’s why great software is key to the job.
Look for software that allows you to sort and search reviews. For instance, if you notice numerous negative comments about the hotel’s breakfast, you can search for the term “breakfast” within the software and begin to look for patterns that will help you fix the issue.
The software also can alert you to new reviews so that you can respond in a timely manner. Remember that the longer you wait to respond, the less credibility you have. Good software will ensure you’re on top of your game.
Jim Sichta is the vice president of operations at Charlestowne Hotels, a leading full-service hospitality management company with more than 41 hotels in 12 states (U.S.). www.CharlestowneHotels.com

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