Blog category: reviews

Managing negative online reviews

By Des O'Mahony | On Wed, April 16, 2008

With Travel2.0 and the rise of customer generated media and content, Bookassist has been providing the option of showing genuine reviews as part of the Booking engine services, by genuine I mean reviews from people who have actually booked online and stayed at the hotel. We highlighted the growing need for this sort of “openness” online in the Bookassist Seminar on April 9th in Dublin in particular.

Hotels though are justifiably worried about putting reviews online, especially anything with negativity. This is understandable, but as we have pointed out in many different forums, these reviews are going online anyway whether you like it or not, so it is better to row in behind it and actually put them on your own website also so you can manage them appropriately.

Here’s a brief article from Marketing Pilgrim about managing negativity online that gives some pointers. See Marketing Pilgrim

Labels: travel2.0, reviews, marketing

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Responding to Tripadvisor reviews of your hotel

By Des O'Mahony | On Wed, May 21, 2008

Aleks Grzegorzak in Bookassist’s Dublin office asks: “Have you checked reviews of your hotel at Tripadvisor website yet? “

Whether you like it or not, your previous guests like to share their opinion with friends, and the same applies to the Internet where social media websites allow them to share their experiences publicly with others. The only difference is that this time your guest shares his or her opinion with millions of people all over the world. The most popular website with reviews on hotels and vacations is http://www.tripadvisor.com.

The good news, however, is that this website allows hoteliers to respond to reviews.

There are already over 15 million reviews at Tripadvisor. Over 20,000 people visit the website daily for advice on hotels and vacation. Reviews online are a very important part of your web presence and it is up to the hotel’s general/sales/reservations managers to either monitor reviews and take appropriate action to control their image online or ignore them and allow themselves to be condemned for the image being created by somebody else.

Think: If somebody insults you in front of others, don’t you respond appropriately? If somebody compliments you, don’t you say thank you? The same rules apply to online reviews so take responsibility and act today. And remember to respond to both negative and positive reviews. It can be a great way of customer relationship management, too! You can do this in a few very easy steps.

1. Go to http://www.tripadvisor.com and write a name of your hotel in the search box provided:


2. It can yield more than one result, so find your hotel on the list and click on the link ‘Reviews of Your Hotel’ (highlighted in blue):


3. The link brings you to your hotel’s profile with reviews below:


4. Below the reviews there is a green frame for hotel’s owner with a link to the owner’s page (highlighted in blue):


5. The link brings you to the next screen with further links. Click on the ‘Respond to a review’:


6. The next page has a few drop-down lists where you can choose options of your choice:


7. Respond!

And remember you can set a Google Alert for your hotel page also so you can be informed when any new review is added.

Aleks Grzegorzak, BookassistAleks Grzegorzak is Internet Support Coordinator in Bookassist’s Dublin office

Labels: travel2.0, tips, reviews, marketing, brand

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Be careful who you link to from your hotel website!

By Des O'Mahony | On Fri, March 19, 2010

Some third party channels suggest that hotels link back to them in a reciprocal link exchange and that the hotels will benefit from this. True, there is certainly a benefit. But there is also a cost that may outweigh that benefit.

Hotels may consider that displaying a link to well known third parties will make them look good in the eyes of a potential customer. But hotels need to be very careful about who they link to or they may end up damaging their direct business by doing so.

The issue relates to what the search engines think, not what the online customer thinks.

About Links
Links between websites are important not just for the convenience of users but because they allow search engines such as Google to determine the relative importance of websites for users.

There are two kinds of links to consider - inward links that link to your website, and outward links from your website to another site. When inward links are matched with outward links between sites, you have reciprocal linking. However the benefit may not be evenly balanced in reciprocal linking.

PageRank (or PR) is Google’s numerical value of how important a web page is and therefore its search results positioning. PageRank is calculated for a site by looking at the quantity and quality of all inward and outward links. The actual way that Google determines relative importance, and therefore position in the search results, is complex. But for the purposes of this article we will take a simplified view and think of every link you make to another site as a vote for that site (though not all votes carry equal weight).

If a search engine like Google sees many different sites all linking to a particular site, then that site seems to have a lot of independent votes and therefore seems to be more important, more relevant, than sites that have less incoming links. It begins to win in the search engine results election. Its PageRank is enhanced.

Little Things Add Up
If every hotel makes a link to some particular third party site, say a booking channel or a review site, then all those hotels are implicitly voting for that third party site to rise in the search engine results.

The third party therefore gathers many small votes together for its single website and significantly enhances its PageRank. But even when it reciprocates links back to the hotels it is spreading the links out across all the different hotel websites, donating just a small share of its vote, or PageRank, back to each individual hotel.



Therefore each hotel is gaining a small slice of PageRank from the third party channel (a small vote), but the third party channel gains all the slices of PageRank from all the hotels (all votes). Even if each of those votes is pretty insignificant, taken together they can add up to a very significant endorsement indeed.

The benefit for the third party website in terms of PageRank is therefore far higher than the benefit for each hotel in receiving a reciprocal link.

Are You Helping Your Competitor?
Whether it is a booking or review site, the third party site is likely to be a competitor of direct business on the hotels’ websites. Hotels are therefore actually enhancing competition for their own sites by linking to such third parties, pushing them up the rankings, and ultimately contributing to diverting more business from their own websites to the third parties.

From an online customer perspective, hotels linking off to third parties makes the hotel site less “sticky”, in that it presents the online customer with an array of options for booking nearby or similar properties even though your hotel may be quite bookable. It also presents your customer with the convenience of booking through a third party that may already have their details saved from a previous transaction. Either way, you are simply reducing your chances of successful direct bookings.

There are many ways to link to other sites without transferring your page rank. You may want to do this because you want to display a link that benefits your online customer, but does not give a PageRank vote to that site. This can be done for example by using links that include the attribute rel=“nofollow” such as:

the link text


But if the external link is to a third party booker or review site that advertizes booking, then the value of the link to a direct customer of yours is minimal anyway. Reciprocal links are important, but they are best if they are non-competitive.

Should You Vote?
So should you vote? The moral of the story is that you need to be very careful who you give your vote to. Just like democracy, you may think that one vote doesn’t really make a difference. But if everyone votes it can make a very big difference indeed, and how you choose to vote can have significant impact, one that you may regret.

Labels: third parties, strategy, seo, reviews, google, brand

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Why You Need Reputation Management

By Des O'Mahony | On Fri, July 22, 2011

Bookassist’s Des O’Mahony outlines why your hotel needs to think very seriously about Reputation Management software and why manual trawling of the web is no longer enough.



Restaurants have lived and died by critics’ reviews for years. For hotels, reviews are relatively recent. And many hotels don’t like them at all. But bemoaning online reviews by customers solves nothing. Hotels need to engage with online reviews for many reasons, not least of which is the incredible opportunity it offers for free marketing and influence.







Bookassist has launched the Reputation Alert service to help hotels deal with their reviews online, to show hotels how to turn information into corrective action plans for negative reviews, and into marketing opportunities for positive reviews. It is one of the most valuable tools available to hoteliers today, and only costs the equivalent of about one room-night per month.



Here are four simple reasons why you need this product.



It’s not just TripAdvisor

The largest volume of reviews for your hotel may be on TripAdvisor, Booking and Expedia. But only concentrating on them is not a good idea. In fact, the sheer “size” of those brands has led many people to ignore them and instead seek what they consider to be more “genuine” or “considered” reviews on smaller specialist sites. After all, if you are a specific type of traveller, it is far more relevant for you to read reviews from like-minded people rather than the mass herd. As a result, these smaller more specialised sites, often in languages other than English, can also have a disproportionately larger influence on your potential guests. But are you monitoring them?



Bookassist Reputation Alert monitors hundreds of sites, not just the top ones, and delivers reviews from them all directly into your hotel administration system. It even trawls Social Media sites to see if there is mention of your hotel. It analyses the wording of the reviews, in multiple languages, and tells you whether they are positive or negative and what areas of your business they refer to. It saves you hours and hours of time, but more importantly it ensures that issues get to you fast so you can take corrective action before they damage your valuable business.




Time Is Money

Being able to assess all recent reviews from hundreds of sites in one single online area is a huge labour-saver. You can focus on action plans to correct issues raised in reviews, rather than spending that time trying to find and assess reviews online. With semantic analysis of the review language built into Bookassist Reputation Alert, you don’t even need to read the reviews but can get an instant assessment of whether they are positive or negative. For any hotelier that values their time and their reputation, it’s a no-brainer.


But you can also collect reviews on your top 5 competitors and see where they are slipping up, allowing you to jump in and fill the gap with website text or special offers directed specifically at their weaknesses. This is very valuable strategic information available at a click.





Actions Count, Not Words

There is little point in monitoring reviews at all if they are not going to lead to action plans. With automatic analysis of ratings and reviews to assess what your customers think of your services across areas such as staff, food and beverage, wellness, lobby, room decor, internet services etc, you can quickly focus on the real priorities and issue action plans to your responsible staff.


Because Bookassist Reputation Alert tracks your average score in these different service areas over time, you can see if your scores are improving or even set targets for scores to be reached by those staff responsible for different service areas in your organization. You can generate weekly or monthly reports on where you stand for use at staff meetings. Improving service levels based on smart analysis of priorities allows you to focus your spend and efforts on the right things, therefore reducing negativity online and increasing your potential revenue. It’s like having an extremely meticulous and expensive brand consultant sitting there with you each and every day - without the associated cost.



Their Opinion Matters, Not Yours

With Bookassist Reputation Alert, you can also see what kind or category of guests are using your hotel. While you may consider yourself as, for example, a business hotel, or a family hotel etc, you may be surprised to find from detailed reviews analysis that the majority of your guests actually consider you to be a city centre hotel first and foremost, or a romantic hotel, or a great hotel for sports events etc. In other words, analysing the guest perception of your hotel from feedback can help you reposition your hotel online, offering packages that suit the majority of your guests and tapping into your real potential. This kind of invaluable insight into your true customer base can only be gleaned from analysing hundreds of reviews automatically and continuously, a critical but costly job to do manually but one which Bookassist Reputation Alert excels at far more quickly and far more cheaply.


If you’re doing well, you should boast about it to your potential guests, by displaying a seal of approval showing your average rating right on your website, automatically updated as reviews are collected and analyzed.


These are just some of the reasons why reputation management can improve your bottom line quickly and effectively. To read more about Reputation Alert, see //bookassist.org/reputation


Labels: tripadvisor, strategy, reviews, marketing, brand

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Playing Catch-up - The Hotel Star System

By Des O'Mahony | On Mon, August 01, 2011

Bookassist’s Paul Dooley discusses hotel rating systems fit for the internet age



Irish hospitality operators, due in no small part to the celtic tiger decade, now preside over hotel stock that is of an exceptionally high standard and is rated as such. However service, delivery and the intangibles in many cases either exceed or fall below the hotels’ designated star-rating. Far from being alone, worldwide the anomalies are even more stark. However Europe is playing a lead role in changing the status quo and seeking alternatives to the traditional approach to start rating.



The System Is Broken

The question of Hotel Star Ratings has always been a contentious subject among hoteliers and consumers alike. Too often the criticism from both parties relates to the fact that current star-ratings place undue emphasis on the physical product (buildings/facilities) and too little on subjective criteria related to ambience, charm and the service element.



Hotel star ratings are general quality indicators and should be regarded as just that - broad guidelines in measuring a hotel’s general quality, amenities, and customer satisfaction. Ratings are not meant to be perfectly precise critiques. All of the amenities and services that a property offers may not necessarily be reflected. Due to differing parameters and criteria from hotel to hotel, along with the incredibly wide range of customer preferences and individual expectations no system can guarantee exact accuracy in every element of all ratings.



A failure over time to fully appreciate the fact that consumer expectations have undergone a fundamental shift has led to the undermining of the current star rating system. A number of factors have contributed to this disconnect.



Consumers don’t understand how they are determined

The process behind hotels getting evaluated is not very clear and in most cases known only to hoteliers.



Many Ratings systems just tick boxes

Old habits die hard and hotel rating systems even now continue to put great emphasis on ticking off big checklists resulting in a star rating. What matters to today’s consumer is very different than what general factors ratings organizations assume will matter. The meaning of “standard” has changed. Arguably, free Wi-Fi has more appeal now than whether a property has two restaurants or a lift.



Ratings Systems are fragmented

Accreditation systems can come from a wide variety of sources, including the government, tourism bodies, commercial industry organizations and sometimes even the operators themselves. How and by whom the rating standard is applied varies widely as there is no global standard despite an attempt through the World Hotel Rating (WHR) project, which notably aims to set international classification standards and rating criteria along the lines of a world star-rating system.



For example, here is the state of play in some of the main world regions:

Asia - No Common Rating system.

Latin America - Government ratings in many cases are for life or hotels are self rating.

USA - No national rating standard

Europe - HOTREC as an umbrella organization in Europe has attempted to bring order in hotel rating to the continent through it’s European Hospitality Quality Scheme (EHQ) and has accredited the existing national inspection bodies for hotel rating. Under the patronage of HOTREC the hotels associations of several european countries have created the Hotelstars Union whose classification system has now been adopted by 10 European countries. The harmonized criteria set by the Hotelstars Union is based on customer research and combines traditional offline and modern online criteria. See http://www.hotelstars.eu



Disparate Specifics are used

While adherence by accreditation bodies to the general principle of written standards or established criteria regarding the property’s facilities and services is the norm, the specifics vary greatly.



Star ratings have been devalued

There is a recent worrying trend of hotel marketing departments trumpeting the fact that they are 6,7 star (or even one 10 star hotel in the Middle East) even before opening their doors. As no organization or formal body awards or recognizes any rating over five star deluxe such claims are meaningless and predominantly used for advertising purposes.



Service is not properly assessed

A lack of clarity in measuring the “service” provision by hotels has always been the failing of ratings systems. They usually assess service in a formal and out-of-date way. Fussy overly-attentive service standards have been exchanged in all types of hotels for informal, friendly, non-intrusive service. In most cases this change is being driven by a customer-centric focus from the hotel.



Guest reviews or a single inspection?

If hundreds of recent guest reviews tell you how a hotel is performing, isn’t that more convincing than the fact that an inspector ticks a checklist annually at best?



Social Media - The real game changer

Since the advent of social media, the way consumers make decisions has changed dramatically. Increasingly consumers are not accepting hotel marketers spin or officialdom (in the guise of hotel star ratings) at face value. Instead, they are turning to peers - other travelers and third party-retailers - for information and advice, particularly in relation to the “service” aspect of their hotel experience.



The void left by the undermining of hotel rating systems is increasingly being filled by the consumer. Hotels must now revisit how they are perceived and proactively manage their reputation through social media channels and review sites.



It’s not enough anymore to simply “Join the Conversation”. Hotels should be tracking feedback, RoI and conversions with insight tools such as Facebook Insights, TripAdvisor’s Owners Center and Google Analytics among others. The next level up is a social media monitoring tool which collates and analyzes reviews across the web. TrustYou is one such analysis tool which Bookassist has integrated into its Reputation Alert suite of services. Used properly, a social media monitoring tool will help you turn guest feedback into a competitive advantage to be used to improve daily operations, organizational culture and best practice.



Conclusion

Where hotel star ratings certainly have value is in validating if a property maintains its quality standards or not over time. Whether this is aligned or otherwise with the new direct sources and weight of independent evaluation of services, facilities and most importantly user experience is the key.



The ultimate measure of a hotel’s quality may perhaps be assessed by posing the question “would you be willing to recommend it?”. Are the current star rating systems best positioned to answer this or do guest review sites by their nature deliver a more compelling reply?



Star ratings may be outdated but that doesn’t mean that a better system could not be designed which incorporates the best of both worlds, merging objective criteria with user generated reviews. The industry body in Switzerland, Hotellerie Suisse, is already following this dual path. A radical overhaul announced only last month of the star classification system by the Organization of German Hotels & restaurants (DEHOGA) will now also include a mixture of expert opinion and customer reviews.



Earlier this year the UK’s Tourism’s minister stated that the UK Government is considering phasing out government-sanctioned star ratings of various lodging accommodation in favour of traveler-written reviews. The idea may be a little before its time but it’s a clear sign of the change that’s afoot.



In today’s ever-changing competitive world, hotels need above all else to rapidly elevate the visibility (offline or online) of whatever credible ratings and reviews that do exist for their businesses, along with the established star-rating they have earned. The customer is no longer just assessing your rating, the customer is actively determining it.



—-



Paul Dooley is Director of Client Services for Bookassist in Ireland

Labels: tripadvisor, social media, reviews, reputation, marketing, brand

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