Ever watch someone under 30 book a hotel room? They fire up the internet and go to a site like expedia.com or hotels.com and do a search of the city they are traveling to. Then they narrow their choices to a handful of hotels that fit their budget. Then the fun really starts. People who have spent the last decade on the internet know how to get the most out of it. No 25 year old is going to trust that 4 star rating that Expedia gave your hotel. They don’t believe that your hotel was ‘hotel of the year’ for the last five years as stated on your website. They are going to see what actual people (well, internet people anyway) have to say.
Their decision to stay at your hotel starts with a quick review of your website. Does it have a pool? Check. Steakhouse? Got it. Gym? Ok. They take your hotel into consideration. But is it better than the hotel down the street that has the similar rates?
A quick Google search will tell them what they need to know. They read the reviews on tripadvisor.com. Maybe they check out yelp.com or read your Yahoo Travel ratings. Oh, Mary from Iowa says your staff is rude and your food is lousy. Three people say that your hotel lost their reservations and two people say that they were overcharged during their stay.
You just lost a reservation.
This is why you must have someone on your property that is managing your internet reputation! The great thing about sites like tripadvisor.com or yelp.com is that they allow you to contact the person who posted the complaint. They also allow the complainer to amend their review if their opinion is changed. You should be emailing everyone who posts a review of your hotel and thanking them for posting the review as well as resolving any complaints.
Customer Service 101 has told us all that someone who has a bad experience will tell 15 people while someone who has a good experience will tell 1 or 2. This really gets magnified on the web. I found one angry guest who posted his gripes with a hotel on more than 5 websites. Who knows how many thousands of potential guests saw this review. His complaint? The hotel charged him a no show even though he stayed for 5 nights and would not issue a refund. If the hotel was managing their internet reputation, they would have seen the review, contacted the guest and resolved the problem before any more damage could have been done.
Web 2.0 is changing the way that people use the internet and your hotel should be keeping up with changes. We are not saying that your hotel should have its own MySpace page but there are many new areas that you must manage. Start with these suggestions:
Set up a RSS feed to notify you of any blogs or sites that use the name of your hotel. Here is a good article on how to set one up: http://www.practicalecommerce.com/articles/393-Video-Tutorial-Creating-an-RSS-Feed
Review your ratings on the big websites like expedia.com and travel.yahoo.com. You may not be able to do anything about your past reviews but you can at least improve your future reviews. You will probably find many complaints that are easily fixed for future guests (ex. Not telling the guest in advance of your parking charge).
Embrace sites that encourage user participation. Tripadvisor.com and hotels.com allows users to write a review as well as upload their personal pictures and videos of their trip! One hotel we looked at had almost 300 reviews and 70 photos and videos on tripadvisor.com and another 200 reviews on hotels.com.
Build an owner page on tripadvisor.com. You can build a page, post your own photos and videos. You can also be automatically notified of every review posted about your hotel and even respond to the review! If your hotel is on tripadvisor.com, you really need to have an owner page. You can probably do it in about 10 minutes. You will get more room reservations if you do it right!
Consider updating your hotel’s website with new Web 2.0 features. We have seen a few hotel sites that allow their guests to upload their pictures of their trip. People love to brag. Let them brag about the great time they had at your hotel. It will get you more reservations! This would be especially fun if you are a hotel near a theme park or other vacation destination! Trip advisor even has a widget that you can add to your website that displays reviews from your guests.
You may have to adjust your strategy depending on the type of hotel you have. For example, boutique hotels and vacation destinations should focus more on the web 2.0 features. Business hotels and hotels that are part of a large chain may want to focus their efforts on pleasing guests who post unsatisfactory reviews and performing damage control.