In an age where every guest can blog, tweet or post, managing your online reputation has never been so important.
Many of you will have seen the problems that accommodation providers face when customers turn to internet review sites to vent their complaints and frustrations. With the potential for an uncontrolled, unmitigated flurry of feedback about your business, it is no wonder that we can feel threatened by such sites.
TripAdvisor now has more than 100 new contributions every minute, although has more relevance with hotels and restaurants than self-catering accommodation. Many other review sites are out there now and many cottage companies are using sites like Feefo to their advantage to try and ensure they have some element of control over their feedback, whilst still utilising independent reviews. Independent review sites are seen as increasingly important as they are used by Google and other search engines to judge your search engine ranking and also give you the ability to show stars in your search listing.
As well as utilising independent online review sites, many companies also have a questionnaire for holidaymakers to fill out after their stay, which gives them some very useful and detailed feedback about the property and the service they have received. We did some time ago build in the functionality into tabs to manage these questionnaires, but this functionality is not being further developed and will be retired when we launch tabs2.
Today reputation management is much more than providing good service and placating disgruntled customers in person. It involves the monitoring of online reviews and social media and responding in a way that ensures customers know that you care, without letting them walk all over you. In the past if you received a bad review it was usually between the business and the customer, but with the advent of public online review sites, the dialogue has become exposed. However just because a bad review has been posted, it is not necessarily all negative…
From threat to opportunity
By making the dialogue public, there is now the opportunity for you to do much more than when it was previously just between the business and the customer.
You can and should apologise if the customer didn’t enjoy their stay, but don’t roll over like a kitten. If you reply, you can endorse something by repeating or explaining it. Keep it simple but business-like. Use the reply to sell what you want to sell – it then becomes another way to market that property or your service. By using the reply to reinforce some of the more unique features of your business that may not necessarily be to everyone’s taste, you will instantly attract those who seek that type of service and deter those who don’t. Put simply, if you are confident in the audience you are trying to target, then you should not be deterred by complaints from those who fall outside this market.
Online review sites can be a blessing in disguise, providing real-time intelligence about what guests love and hate about their visits and the service they have received. Cottage agencies who actively monitor review sites are in a better position to make changes to policies, services and amenities based on customer needs. More sophisticated software is now available to help providers with all elements of online reputation management.
Feefo and TrustYou are two such sites that collate customer reviews, providing you with detailed insights to help guide your business development. However customers don’t want to be hounded, especially if you also collect feedback in another way through a different questionnaire. So be careful and remember they have enough to do without filling in lots of customer reviews.
Keeping things in perspective
At the end of the day, online review sites are for the holidaymaker and not the business and so you must keep a level head when approaching bad reviews. There is usually something valid in a complaint and business owners must recognise this. You should also realise that 95% of the complaints are utterly subjective and guided by personal opinion and that users of these review sites are also able to use common sense when reviewing online critiques of your accommodation. A few bad reviews scattered among swathes of positive feedback are unlikely to transform the decisions of most holidaymakers. Readers will dismiss old reviews and those that are out of sync but they won’t ignore a rude business owner! Therefore the timbre of your reply is everything to the reader of the reviews and you have to answer everything, not just the ones you like. Not replying suggests you don’t care.