We have been talking about hotels managing their internet reputation ever since the days of MySpace. Yes, that long ago! One of our recommendations was to allow guests to post reviews directly onto your own website, instead of a third-party site like TripAdvisor. Finally, a hotel company has gotten it right! Starwood.com will now allow guests to post reviews (good and bad we assume) after check out. Guests can post a review for a visit within 18 months after logging in and verifying that they were a guest of the hotel. They currently have the following guidelines for posting reviews:
- Keep your review focused on the hotel
- Contact us if you have an issue that requires immediate assistance
- Refrain from mentioning competitors or the specific price you paid for the hotel
- Do not include any personally identifiable information, such as full names
Will Starwood’s new online reviews be effective? We believe so. The most important thing that the reviews will do is to allow Starwood to address any negative publicity before it gets posted all over the internet. Most guests who have a problem with a stay typically try to resolve their issue on property. If that does not work, they will try and resolve it with the Corporate Office. If that is a hassle, they like to post their negative comments anywhere they think someone will read it. And we mean anywhere! We often see the same negative reviews posted on dozens of websites. Starwood’s new approach will hopefully give them a chance to resolve the complaint before it spirals out of control.
Will people trust Starwood’s reviews? Probably. We have to keep in mind that people going to Starwood.com are people who probably have positive experiences with Starwood and want to stay at a Starwood property. If they are not brand loyal, they would probably shop at Expedia or one of the other sites that compare all hotels. They may check the Starwood site, but probably only after they see something they like on Expedia. We also expect that many of these guests are going to be Gold and Platinum Preferred guests who often travel and often stay with one brand.
Time will tell if Starwood’s approach will be successful. We will definitely keep an eye on it and check back once they have a few months of reviews posted!