/*** Social share ***/
Once upon a time, travelers depended not on what friends and family told them about a destination. They paid no heed to what strangers wrote on social media about a hotel or looked at photos on Instagram. In the not too distant past, there was no such thing as social media and the closest thing to it was the internet chat room where you would ask things like a/s/l to people you would never meet in real life. There weren’t any review sites to tell you whether or not the beach was too sandy at a hotel either. Back in the olden days, travelers trusted travel agents - people who were actually paid to plan and book vacations and who acted as experts on our behalf.With the rise of the internet and the democratization of trip reviews, the booking process looks almost unrecognizable compared to the travel industry of old. Travel and hotel brands now face the challenge of tactfully and gracefully dealing with hotel reviews that often come from travelers who are far from objective and sometimes borderline insane.As much as many hoteliers probably wish they could ignore these ignoramuses, the data is clear - reviews matter. They REALLY matter actually, and hotels that practice successful brand management are almost four times as likely to receive a booking than a hotel that does not.On the other end of the spectrum, a great review speaks volumes about what your brand is doing right. Other travelers hold this kind of content in a much higher regard than they would the copy on your website. It is an unadulterated look at what the guest experience is really like as opposed to a well-curated, well-edited view designed by your marketing department.So how can you make your brand reputation management strategy work for your hotel or resort? It may seem obvious, but the first step is to ask for reviews. If you aren’t soliciting reviews from your guests then it is likely that only guests who feel strongly one way or the other will actually leave them.Ensuring that you have reviews from a bigger chunk of the sentiment bell curve safeguards you from one or two reviews destroying your brand’s reputation. It shows consistency and gives guests a more complete picture of what a stay at your hotel might be like.There are three common ways to ask your guests for reviews that won’t make you feel like you are awkwardly asking your high school crush to the prom.As part of the checkout process: Integrating review requests into the checkout process is dually beneficial for your brand. First, it allows you to negate the effects of a negative review by calming a guest who may have had a bad experience before they get the chance to get to a computer. Secondly, if a traveler tells staff during checkout that they had a wonderful time, it opens the door for the front desk person to suggest that they share their experiences in a review.In a “thank you” email: In some cases, your hotel might not have a formal check out process, but it is important that you continue the conversation with your guest. Including a link that goes directly to your TripAdvisor page with a request that customers leave a review is quick and easy way to generate guest feedback. If you still think this might be asking too much, include a discount on their next stay in exchange for a review - a great way to simultaneously drive loyalty.A widget on your website: Embedding a widget on your website is not only a great way to encourage reviews but also just to showcase the reviews that you have already received.Sometimes the power of suggestion is all you need.Now that you have started generating reviews for your hotel, what’s next?First, you have to actually respond to your reviews. If you are neglecting to respond it all, guess what that says to potential customers? That you don't care about what they have to say, and you won't generate any business by ignoring the needs of your guests.Make sure that you should have an established tone for your brand when responding to reviews that reflects your location and target audience. Appealing to a more refined group of elderly travelers looks very different compared to how you would speak to a younger, more budget-friendly audience. The last thing that you want to do is have canned responses for every review. Take the time to speak to the unique compliments and concerns presented in each review.Assigning only a handful of people on your property who are responsible for responding to reviews cuts out the margin for error with brand tone. It also allows you to properly train responders on handling sensitive situations that might arise in a review. Simply saying you’re sorry isn’t going to cut it. Negative reviews require finesse that doesn’t always come naturally especially when emotions are high.The anatomy of a great review response acknowledges the concern of the guest in a constructive way. Gracefully admitting fault is not enough. You must also include a plan of action to prevent a similar complaint from arising in the future, and I’m not just talking about lip-service. If you want your brand to remain relevant, you have to mean what you say and put actionable changes into motion when it comes to service pitfalls.Does this sound like too much effort? What if I told you that 87 percent of TripAdvisor users agree that an appropriate management response to a negative review improves their impression of the property, and 62 percent agree that seeing hotel management responses to reviews generally “makes me more likely to book it (versus a comparable hotel that didn’t respond to travelers)?”Still not enough motivation? Maybe I can bribe you with some green. Simply improving your review score by one point (on a five-point scale) means that you could increase your price level by 11% while maintaining the same occupancy and market share.At the end of the day, yes, they might be a pain to deal with, but hotel reviews are a powerful tool. They are a direct line to how your guests feel about your brand and give you an unprecedented opportunity to improve your property and quality of service.In this brave new world of hotel marketing embrace your reviews, learn to love them, and make them work for you.