These days, it’s common to hear someone has discovered your restaurant or hotel through an online review site. There are dozens of them on the web today; Yelp self proclaims to count 183 million unique visitors each month, each capable of accessing 127 million reviews. TripAdvisor is the leading review site in the travel and hospitality industry, hosting some 500 million reviews of 7 million hotels, restaurants, and attractions. The chances are good that your business is one of them.
Anyone who works in the hospitality industry knows how gratifying it feels to receive a good review. Unfortunately, many hospitality businesses have also experienced the flip side of this coin: a scathing review of your business, its staff, and everything that you’ve worked so hard to achieve.
Reviews like these can give business owners pause. Do you message a review site and demand the comment be removed? Do you post your own snappy reply, or ignore the review altogether? In our opinion, the best approach for your business is to actively moderate your reviews.
How Reviews Influence Consumers
Before we get into why self-moderating reviews is an important task, we first need to understand how reviews influence consumers. They carry substantial weight.
In the past, reviews for the hospitality industry primarily came from word-of-mouth: friends, family members, and loyal customers who wanted to share their experience. Thanks to the internet, any person can provide an anonymous personal recommendation. BrightLocal’s 2016 Local Consumer Review Survey found that 84 percent of consumers trust online reviews as much as a personal recommendation. The same study also found that 74 percent of respondents claimed positive online reviews made them trust a local business more and that 90 percent of consumers read fewer than 10 reviews before making a decision about giving that location their business.
The two key takeaways are:
● Online reviews matter and they matter a lot;
● It doesn’t matter if you have hundreds of old five-star reviews. If the first 10 comments a consumer sees are negative, they’re not going to give your business a chance. A single bad review has been found to drive away one-fifth of customers; three negative reviews can cut your customer number by more than half.
Positive online reviews also directly impact a hotel’s value. The company claims that for each 1 percent increase in a hotel’s online rating score, the average daily rate of that accommodation climbs by nearly 7 percent.
Making Online Reviews a Priority
There is no question that online reviews matter, as does the way your business manages them. If you aren’t already, make the moderation of online reviews a priority for your hospitality business. Most companies are starting to appreciate this, with reputation management becoming a growing priority for hospitality owners. As many as 93 percent of hoteliers understand that online reviews play a vital role in the future success of their business.
Online reviews are not a one-way channel of communication. Consumers leave comments, and businesses should actively moderate and respond. Replying to customer concerns may take some swallowing of pride, but it’s an invaluable way to show you’re listening to what the reviewers have to say.
Responding to a negative review can even turn a sour situation sweet. Cornell University research into hotel performance found that responding to negative reviews positively impacted a consumer’s view of that accommodation and raised the hotel’s online rating score overall. The rule also works in reverse — if you ignore negative feedback, you run the risk of lowering your score.
How to Moderate Your Online Reviews
At this point in your business’ life, you probably have a good sense of your market. The next step is selecting and targeting your market on review sites.
If you don’t have the capacity to respond to much negative feedback, focus instead on comments left on heavy-hitter sites. Yelp, TripAdvisor and Expedia make up 62 percent of online travel review traffic.
Now, onto the specific data.
Baby Boomers
Baby boomers dominate the online review space. Customers aged 45 and over account for the heaviest traffic on travel review sites, and the sites they gravitate toward are not always the heavy hitters mentioned earlier. If baby boomers are your top customers, focus your game plan on Travelocity,, and While these platforms are more reservation portals than conventional review sites, each one allows users to leave comments on different accommodations, and these areas should be carefully monitored.
Generation X
The tendencies of this demographic are a split between baby boomers and millennials. Travelocity is the No. 1 site that Gen-Xers use for online reviews, with Priceline and next in line. This is a small but well-off part of the population, one that values having as much information as possible and receiving a truthful response from businesses.
Millennials are well represented across the major online review sites, with Yelp, Priceline and TripAdvisor being marginally more popular than the rest. However, because your consumers are spread out, your business should take a full and sweeping approach to address comments. We understand you can’t do everything, so specify a period for which you’ll go back and respond to feedback (i.e., respond to every comment from the past three months) and once you’re caught up, make it your mission to reply to feedback within a two-week period.
Generation Z
The market born between 1995 and 2014 may not have a lot of disposable income yet, but by 2020 these consumers will make up a whopping 40 percent of the market. Research found the 18-24 age range relies a lot less on online review sites, second only to age 64+ customers. This doesn’t mean you can skip online moderation altogether; it just means you have to do it on the platforms where these customers dwell: Instagram, Snapchat, and other social media networks. Make sure there is someone on your team who understands these platforms, how business feedback is shared (usually through hashtags), and knows how to respond to those comments.
Some other interesting facts from our company’s research:
● Customers in the southern United States are 10 percent more likely to use online review sites than those in the rest of the country;
● Most consumers do their online research using only a PC, with smartphones as the second-place platform. (This is particularly the case for the online review sites listed as popular among baby boomers.)
Moderating online comments can be a full-time job. While customers respond best when feedback comes from a general manager or hotel owner, this is not always a task hoteliers can add to their plate. Train a trusted staff member to help moderate reviews and send flagged negative feedback your way.
Online reviews have a huge impact on your business, especially if you’re in a space with a great deal of competition. Moderating your online comments will present your best online self and grant you the opportunity to meet more customers in the real world.