8 ways to improve guest satisfaction
30 JULY 2014 7:43 AM
Hotel operators should manage carefully social media and online reputation to maximize guest satisfaction, webinar panelists said.
GLOBAL REPORT—An organized and diligent approach to the management of social media and online reputation is a sure way to improve a hotel’s guest satisfaction scores, speakers said Tuesday during a webinar.
“We have very discerning guests with high expectations, so online reputation management is very important in the luxury hotel segment in which we operate,” said Anna Kavelmann, corporate coordinator of digital strategy for Geneva-based Kempinski Hotels, during a webinar titled “Guest satisfaction: 8 best practices,” hosted by ReviewPro.
Kempinski, a chain of 75 luxury hotels in 42 countries, encourages guests to comment on TripAdvisor and other review sites, and it also sends post-stay surveys to guests for additional feedback. Kavelmann said the company’s efforts have produced positive results.
“Most importantly, the hotel staffs are much more confident in handling guest feedback, and that’s an important achievement,” she said. “We’re also seeing an increase in the number of reviews, more positive reviews of our hotels and a lot more positive feedback in how we respond to reviews.”
Kavelmann said Kempinski has a set of corporate policies and guidelines to help hoteliers manage their online reputations on a local level. The corporate team conducts periodic audits of the individual hotels and is available to answer questions and step in to help solve specific issues.
Managing the online presence
Kavelmann presented recommendations for individual hoteliers or hotel companies to better manage their social media and reputation activities:
- use an alert system so feedback, especially negative reviews, receive immediate attention;
- set clear policies and guidelines for management of online guest feedback;
- indentify one person per hotel or hotel department as the main contact for all social media and online reputation issues;
- share both best and worst social media practices with all hotels and key staff members; and
- provide regular training so all staff members are skilled in providing superior guest satisfaction.
Improving guest satisfaction
Daniel Edward Craig, founder of online reputation management consulting firm Reknown, moderated the webinar. Using case studies from several hotels, Craig presented eight keys to improving guest satisfaction through social media and management of a hotel’s online reputation.
1. Optimize your online presence. Of the three kinds of hotel websites—paid content on a pay-per-click basis; owned content, such as a brand website or Facebook page; and earned content, or user-generated material found on Yelp, TripAdvisor and other sites—earned is the most powerful because it comes from consumers and not marketers, Craig said.
“The lesson is having a website is not enough,” he said. “To maximize visibility and conversion you need to carefully manage your presence on a variety of types of sites—everything from (online travel agencies) to review sites to social networking sites.”
2. Manage guest expectations. The days are gone, Craig said, when travelers respond to “fantasy photos and fairy-tale descriptions on a website. If you don’t deliver on your promises, guests will be disappointed and that leads to backlash.”
Craig cited the Casablanca Hotel in New York as an example of the importance of truth in website content. The hotel’s website describes its rooms accurately and without hyperbole. The Cozy Classic room, for example, is described as the smallest room type in the hotel and doesn’t have a street view. Because of the size of the room, it is not recommended for couples on long stays.
“They’re managing expectations by being painfully authentic so guests know exactly what to expect,” Craig said. “This kind of reality market is the next generation of marketing.”
3. Be true to your brand. Craig said it doesn’t matter whether operating a 2-star, 3-star or 5-star star hotel, it’s important to strive to exceed expectations. He said all guests arrive with expectations, so operators have a choice.
“Meet those expectations and guests become passives. They might come back or not. They might recommend you, but the reviews will be lukewarm,” he said. “Fail to meet expectations and they become detractors who will never come back and warn others to stay away. Exceed expectations and they’ll become advocates who come back and recommend the hotel to others.”
4. Ask for and track guest feedback. In a survey taken during the webinar, 80% of listeners said they use online reviews, 55% electronic surveys and 46% printed comment cards.
Craig said in the past, hotel front-desk agents could ask guests about their stays, but because fewer guests check out at the front desk, it’s also important to conduct post-stay surveys and to encourage online reviews from guests.
5. Analyze guest feedback. Through online reputation management software and other techniques, operators should gather and review all forms of feedback the hotel receives.
“The real key to measuring guest satisfaction is to have what in essence is a real-time focus group that helps you measure and analyze with clarity and actionability what guest are saying,” Craig said.
6. Use feedback to guide decisions. Improvements in guest satisfaction come through continual advances in levels of service from a hotel’s staff. Craig said guest feedback can be used to help operators make decisions in all areas of a hotel—from staff recruitment and training, to sales and marketing messaging, to investments in new services and upgrades and more.
7. Respond to guest feedback. Carefully crafted responses to guest reviews give operators the chance to show they’re listening and that they care about their guests.
Craig said the response should show appreciation for the review, reinforce the positive aspects of the guest’s stay, apologize for any issues, show care and specify actions the hotelier will take to follow up, offer to contact the guest directly and invite them to return to the hotel. The response should come personally from the hotel GM.
8. Provide social service. Craig said hotel operators should use the full range of social media and social networks to provide customer service.
He cited Loews Hotels & Resorts as a chain that engages with guests and potential guests as they research, plan and book reservations, while they are on property and once they have left. Last year, Loews launched capability to book rooms through Twitter.