5 ways to improve responses on TripAdvisor
5 ways to improve responses on TripAdvisor
22 MAY 2015 8:50 AM
Hoteliers approach more approaches to TripAdvisor reviews than I can count. For the right approach, I went straight to the source.  
It’s funny observing the disparate number of policies hoteliers employ regarding reviews on TripAdvisor. Company A insists on responding to every comment, while Company B tells its managers to reply only to the bad. Company C takes a different tact entirely: It doesn’t respond to any. 
Those are the broad buckets. Nuances and further variation exist at each stage along the spectrum. And each company that employs them insists theirs is the only and obvious approach. 
Some variety might be warranted. One hotel is often not like the other, so I understand a degree of unique plans that appeal to unique bases of demand, product offerings and location types. 
But clearly there are some hoteliers who, despite their best intentions, are engaging with guests on TripAdvisor in a manner that could prove potentially harmful to further review rankings and thus future bookings. 
In cases such as these, I find it’s best to go straight to the source for the prescribed best practices. In this case, that would be TripAdvisor—or more specifically, Heather Leisman, business VP of industry marketing. 
This topic was top of mind for her. TripAdvisor recently released a report which examined why travelers write reviews. The top reason? “To share useful information with others” and because “they find reviews helpful, so they want to give back.” (Who knew the TripAdvisor online community was so altruistic?)  
The three most important things travelers look for in reviews are:
  1. a concentration on facts;
  2. a lot of detail; and
  3. timeliness (i.e. the review recounted a recent experience).
Understanding what motivates travelers in the online review sphere informs some best practices for hoteliers, Leisman said. 
“The key takeaways for hoteliers are that travelers want the facts when reading reviews and they respond well to balanced views,” she told me via email. 
Leisman also offered five tips to make responses more effective:
1. Respond in a timely manner: “It’s important to check often for new reviews,” she said. “In fact, 60% of global business owners who responded say that they check their reviews ‘whenever a new one comes in.’ When they do come in, write a thoughtful response as soon as possible.”
2. Thank them for their feedback: “It’s always important to let them know the hotel appreciates their feedback.”
3. State the facts: “Provide a detailed response and explain the hotel’s side of the story just as if they are at the front desk,” Leisman said. 
4. React, if appropriate: “Take action to make necessary changes to your property or service if reviews are consistently highlighting the same issue. (Seventy percent) of surveyed businesses (globally) say they have improved their services as a result of a review.”
5. Write with TripAdvisor’s 340 million visitors in mind: “Other travelers will read your response, so it’s important for the hotel to make a good impression.”
As to that age-old question (in Internet terms, of course) as to how many reviews hoteliers should respond, Leisman offered this guidance: 
“The key is to make responding to traveler reviews a habit and to respond to both negative and positive reviews. This shows travelers that the hotelier cares about guest service,” she said. 
Leisman cited data form a Phocuswright poll of the TripAdvisor community of travelers that found 84% of U.S. users agreed that an appropriate management response to a bad review “improves my impression of the hotel.” Six of 10 users (62%) said seeing hotel management responses to reviews generally “makes me more likely to book it (versus a comparable hotel that didn't respond to travelers).” 
Give it to us straight, Leisman.
“I don’t think hoteliers have to respond to every single review, but potential guests want to see that hotels care about their guests’ experience and are actively engaging with other travelers online on a regular basis.”
There you have it folks. Rewrite the TripAdvisor policies and let’s get on the same page. If nothing else, Company A, stop wasting time responding to every review. And Company C? You better get started. 
Now on to the usual stuff …
What’s making me happy this week?
Sending our new special report, “Digging into Hotel Development,” to the printer. The next edition from our Roundtable Series, this report provides some fantastic perspective from some of the industry’s most agile and active developers. It’s also chock-full of all the data you’ve come to expect from such HNN endeavors. 
It’s a labor of love that required more proofs and line-item edits than I can count. (My eyes still hurt.) We just hope you enjoy the finished product when it posts 1 June. 
Stat of the week
65%: Annualized occupancy for the U.S. hotel industry as of April, which is the highest on record, according to HNN’s parent company STR
Quote of the week
“One hundred hotels either open or under construction (by 2018), right, Pep?” 
—Choice Hotels International President and CEO Steve Joyce
“That is fit for print.”
—David Pepper, senior VP, global development for worldwide lodging at Choice
A fun little exchange regarding expansion of the Cambria brand between Joyce and his right-hand development man, Pepper, during Choice’s annual conference in Vegas last week. https://www.choicehotels.com/about 
Reader comment of the week
“TripAdvisor would be wise to form a product where hotels can review guests as well... separate from TripAdvisor, this could be a webpage we can log into after guests check out, rating guests, and offering comments for other hotels to read, with a nice disclaimer of course... we recently had a guest vomit into a nightstand drawer, which took a room down for a while as we replaced an entire headboard and dual nightstand unit... of course they disputed their credit card charges for damages... so now it’s a matter for the civil courts. 
“It’d be great to have a two-way system to warn other properties and allow us to refuse bookings based upon this data as a high-risk guest. Same goes for those who yell, scream, and worse at our employees. How about for those who expose themselves to housekeepers, or worse, sexually assault a housekeeper? Sure, once arrested they become a sex offender and have to register as such for the rest of their lives, but nothing’s stopping them from staying in hotels... 
“sadly, many offenders with money who would normally have to register as a sex offender in their neighborhood with a public notification system (such as we have in Phoenix) to all neighbors via US mail instead just get monthly rates at hotels and stay in hotels for a few years until they no longer have to register...”
—An interesting idea from Reader “benbethel” shared after reading “Get caught up on TripAdvisor's Instant Booking.”  
Email Patrick Mayock or find him on Twitter.
The opinions expressed in this column do not necessarily reflect the opinions of Hotel News Now or its parent company, STR and its affiliated companies. Bloggers published on this site are given the freedom to express views that may be controversial, but our goal is to provoke thought and constructive discussion within our reader community. Please feel free to comment or contact an editor with any questions or concerns.

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