In today’s day and age, few tasks rank higher on a hotel’s daily checklist than maintaining a healthy and responsive online review profile. Informed hoteliers know that the majority of all consumers — 95%, according to a study by New York University and TrustYou — will read a customer review before booking, and that consumers — 91%, according to a 2018 BrightLocal survey — trust online reviews as much as a personal recommendation. Most importantly, they’re keenly aware that negative reviews can prevent consumers (40%) from interacting with their brand.
What may come as a surprise, however, is that customers don’t just look to review sites like TripAdvisor, Facebook, Google and Yelp for positive reviews of a hotel. According to the BrightLocal study, 85% think local reviews older than three months are no longer relevant. This means they’re also looking for recent reviews.
Given the what-have-you-done-for-me-lately nature of online shopping, this raises an important question for hoteliers and marketers alike: How can we keep a steady stream of new (and positive) customer reviews flowing to our hotels’ local listings?
Besides the obvious — providing outstanding service that moves a guest to share their experience — here are five ideas to fill the funnel:
1. Send a post-stay email.
One of the easiest, most natural ways to get new reviews is to include review links within your hotel’s standard post-stay “thank you” email. Not only will the stay be fresh in the guest’s memory, but your message will also feel like a logical request that doesn’t reek of desperation. It’s an ideal opportunity to inspire a review and doesn’t require much additional effort from a marketing standpoint.
2. Embed local listing links within your website and email campaigns.
While this sounds obvious, too many hotels forget the low-hanging fruit of placing prominent review links on their website and email campaigns. If your emails get sent out to 50,000 people or your website receives 20,000 visits per month, successfully reminding just one or two of your past guests to write a review can make a monumental difference for your hotel’s online reputation.
3. Instruct your employees to ask satisfied guests for feedback.
Because many review sites will penalize brands that openly solicit reviews, hotels need to be very selective when requesting feedback during a guest’s stay on the property. Asking too many guests to write reviews in-person will generate a disproportionate amount of submissions from your hotel’s own IP address, which raises flags that could potentially put your brand at risk for sanctions.
That being said, asking only your most satisfied guests to write a review is a great strategy to keep your local listings active and positive. This is best done at the front desk when your hotel associates ask guests about their stay during the routine checkout process. If a guest responds enthusiastically, have your staff encourage them to share their thoughts on TripAdvisor or Yelp. To make it even easier, display your review sites (and their QR codes) in the hotel reception area to make it simple for guests to find your profiles online.
4. Incentivize ‘checking in’ at your hotel.
A great way to incentivize reviews without being flagged for solicitation is to ask guests to “check in” to your hotel online. This works well on both Facebook on Yelp, where checking in prompts an automated message (a day or two later) asking guests to submit a review.
Both Facebook and Yelp encourage brands to incentivize “check ins,” giving you complete freedom to engage your guests on Social Media. Upon checking in at the front desk, maybe you offer guests special amenities (free Wi-Fi, welcome drink, etc.) if they also check in online. Or maybe you run a Social Media campaign asking guests to check in to your hotel online, submit photos of their stay and use your branded hashtag. However your hotel likes to offer incentives, this is your chance to get creative.
5. Leave your guest with a keepsake gift or postcard.
Seconds after checking out of your hotel, today’s consumer will be inundated by hundreds of other brands vying for their attention. Giving your guest a small checkout memento (or sending a physical postcard) is not only a great way to stay front of mind but also a clever tactic for requesting a review. On the back of the item, which ideally features a beautiful photo of your property, write something along the lines of, “Thank you for staying at Hotel X. If you enjoyed your stay, we would greatly appreciate your feedback on one of our online review sites.”
Much like the reception example above, adding a QR code to these items will make it as simple as possible for guests to look you up online. As with any of these strategies, anything you can do to make writing a review feel quicker and easier for guests should be of utmost priority.
At the end of the day, managing your hotel’s online reputation is paramount in maintaining a healthy, well-rounded digital strategy. And based on recent findings, a healthy review profile is not just full of positive feedback, but recent feedback. Even if you have hundreds of positive reviews in the past, a lack of recent reviews (i.e., within three months) might lead a consumer to choose another property over yours. Given the budget you’re allocating to marketing to that consumer in the first place, losing a guest right before they cross the finish line is not a risk you should be willing to take.