Responding to hotel reviews can be a daunting task. New online feedback – praises or complaints – keeps on piling on. There seems to be no definitive way on how to handle responding to guest reviews. In this article, I will go through what we learned by analysing 100.000 responses from hotels to guest reviews on TripAdvisor, Google & Booking.com. After reading this, you will be better equipped on how to respond to hotel reviews.
These responses are from 400 hotels around europe and include both positive and negative reviews. Our goal by analysing these responses is to identify common mistakes and extract new insights.
We started our analysis process by defining the goals for any response to an online review. The main goals for responding to reviews are to:
- Convince other guests to book your property by highlighting your strengths or by clarifying things about complaints or negative mentions
- Show appreciation to the guest who review your property, both for negative and positive feedback
By following industry best practices and by focusing on the above goals, we concluded that a high-quality response should be personalized, relevant & well-written. We analyse all these aspects in the following ways.
Level of personalization
We analyse whether or not the response is personalized. This includes how the response is opened (e.g. by greeting the guest), how it is closed (e.g. personal signature) and other personal details it may contain. This aspect of a response is important to show appreciation to guests and for other readers to know that a human being paid attention to the review. The goal is for readers to feel like a genuine and personal “conversation”.
Relevance to the original review
We measure the relevance of the response to the original review. The most important factor when it comes to convincing other guests to book with your property, is to highlight topics from the original review in your response. This means that if a guest has specific complaints or praises, they need to be addressed. In the case of positive reviews, it offers you a chance to highlight your strong points and promote your services to prospective guests. When it comes to negative reviews, it is highly important to address issues that the reviewer mentions so that readers won’t be swayed away.
Quality of the text
We measure the quality of the text in terms of readability and grammatical correctness. Reviews and responses are read by people around the globe, so you need to make sure that your responses are easily understood by anyone.
Common mistakes in responses
Many responses are too difficult to read
Our first interesting finding was that around 30% of responses are fairly difficult to read. These responses include sentences that are too long and not enough punctuation is used. This poses a problem, because responses to reviews are meant to be read by a wide audience. Of the responses that are difficult to read, 33% are considered highly unreadable. This means that they contain very long sentences, with little to no punctuation, and are considered difficult to read by anyone. Your aim should be to eliminate this problem by making sure your team focuses on readability and correct language.
Personalization is still lacking in many hotel responses
Many hotel responses are also lacking in terms of personalization. The most common mistake, that can be found in 25% of responses, is a lack of a personal signature. Guests want to feel heard and understood, and not including a signature or using an impersonal signature such as “Guest Relations” or “Marketing Department” hurts your reputation. Responses with a personal signature, for example ones that include your name and title, are far more effective and show that you personally care about your guests.
Another troubling issue is that 5% of all responses did not greet or did not address the guest in a personal way. Addressing the guest in a personal way by using their real name or screen name, is effective in showing that the response is targeted and in no way a copy-paste response.
Most reviews are not relevant enough
Around 40% of responses contained one or zero mentions to relevant topics from the original review. This means that while guests talk about an average of 10 topics ranging from breakfast to cleanliness, the average number of topics in responses is around 2.5. Of course the goal of a response is not to address each topic and mention, but enough topics should be addressed to make the response relevant.
The reason behind this is that many hotels still favor copy-paste responses that don’t talk about any of the issues that guests are mentioning. This doesn’t help convince new guests to select a property though because key issues are not being addressed and strong points are not being promoted. But it’s not enough that copy-paste responses don’t help achieve your goals, they actually hurt your reputation. Copy-paste & non-personalized responses actually hurt your chances of receiving a booking, as guests perceive these responses as disingenuous.
How top hotels respond to guest reviews
Well-written responses almost 100% of the time
One of the easiest things to nail, is to respond using a professional tone and write in a way that’s easy to read and understand. Many 5-star hotels, especially ones that belong to large chains such as Hilton & Marriott, get this right around 99% of the time. The responses are readable and understandable by a wide audience. They don’t use difficult words excessively and they split the response into parts making it easy to read.
Personalization is the way to go
High-quality hotels tick all the boxes when it comes to personalization in 97% of responses. Each such responses greets and addresses the guest in a personal way and the manager closes the response using their full name and title.
Commit to excellence
A detail that is very common in responses of hotels that get it right is a commitment to excellence. In each and every response, the manager that writes the response, finds a way to articulate their vision of maximizing guest satisfaction and offering great services. This detail is especially common in high-quality hotels, but it doesn’t need to be uncommon in responses of budget hotels. Showing your guests that you care is one of the things that can help you stand out the most. Make your focus on Guest Experience stand out by using such statements in your responses.
Here are some examples to help you understand how these statements can be used.
“Guest satisfaction is what we strive for and it is with pleasure to learn that your stay with us was a truly enjoyable one.”
“We make every effort to maintain both high standards in our product and service and I am delighted to see that our efforts have satisfied you”Templates for adding a commitment in review responses
Finding the right content balance
Responding to reviews is an important part of Reputation Management and can bring benefits to your business. But at the same time it needs to be a good use of your time, so that means that you will have to find the right balance when it comes to formatting your response. The rough balance is the following:
- Opening section: 25% of the response
- Addressing positive or negative issues: 50% of the response
- Commitment: 5% of the response (typically 1 short to medium size sentence)
- Closing section: 20% of the response
The important takeaway from this is to focus on addressing issues. This is going to be unique content, tailored to the specific review. The opening & closing sections can and probably will be repeated as they typically state similar things. But highlighting positive or negative topics is going to be the part that needs the most effort. It’s also the part that’s the most rewarding, as it can either convince guests to stay at your property or sway them away.
Talk about the most important topics
When the review mentions a plethora of topics, it makes sense that you don’t need to respond to each and every one of them.
When it comes to negative reviews, high-quality hotels prioritize the topics as follows:
- Serious Allegations & Claims
- Complaints regarding important issues (e.g. issues with cleanliness or service)
- Minor complaints and details (such as a short delay in check-in)
For positive reviews, hotels with a successful response strategy act as follows:
- Address at least 2 or 3 topics that the reviewer is most excited about
- Highlight the hotel’s unique & competitive strengths that are going to convince other readers to book
What you stand to gain by following the best practices
It’s important to note that making responding to hotel reviews a part of your strategy can increase your occupancy rate and revenues. This TripAdvisor Study shows that improving your responsiveness to reviews can increase your Occupancy Rate by up to 6.8 percentage points. At the same time, maintaining a high response rate (over 50%) increases Net Promoter Score by 1.4 points and improves overall guest satisfaction.
This article is a part of an ongoing process of analysing successful responding strategies and helping hoteliers get more from their reputation management. For more, view our Responding Guide for TripAdvisor that contains specific templates and implementation ideas.
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