An important part of running a successful hotel is reputation management. While your hotel may have professional, attentive staff and nice amenities, if it doesn’t have good ratings or a positive online presence, occupancy will suffer. Part of reputation management involves responding to negative feedback to proactively avoid turning a mistake into a full-fledged PR nightmare.
All major hotel chains have experienced some degree of negative press, and understand the importance of ensuring that negative reviews are responded to in a direct, professional manner. While it’s inevitable that your hotel will make mistakes, you should also work to learn from high profile blunders to ensure that your property does not receive the same level of scrutiny as other corporations. Social media can be unforgiving, but you can learn from the lessons of those who made mistakes before you and use reputation management skills to recover. Here are some tips that hotels should take into account.
Respond Quickly and Sincerely
United Airlines faced one of the most high profile PR nightmares in recent history on April 9, 2017, when a passenger was forcibly removed from an overbooked flight by airline staff. It was caught on video by other passengers and spread like wildfire across social media. Oscar Munoz, the company’s CEO, made an indirect statement that apologized for having to re-accommodate the passenger, but that did not speak to the severity of the event or the injuries that the customer sustained. In fact, it took four apologies until Munoz promised a change to United Airlines’ behaviour by claiming that the airline would no longer use law enforcement to forcibly remove passengers. While the company eventually released a 10 point plan to improve the customer experience, the company’s reputation had already taken a substantial blow.
What can be learned from this event? First off, if you find yourself in the middle of a PR nightmare, don’t delay in apologizing: own up to your mistakes right away. Secondly, remember the old adage that “actions speak louder than words”—tell your customers the actual steps you will take to ensure the same mistake doesn’t happen again, and then follow through with them.
Don’t Make Light of Customers Complaints
In 2014, the Union Street Guest House in Hudson, New York, received national attention when they told a couple getting married that they would be charged $500 for each negative online review posted by their guests. The owner of the hotel responded to the widespread media coverage by issuing a statement saying that it was “intended as a joke”. Unfortunately, people weren’t laughing. Their statement antagonized web users into posting a number of 1-star reviews to the property’s Yelp page, resulting in a terrible star-rating.
If your hotel receives a bad comment or review, it is important to have established steps in place to reply in a prompt, professional manner. Rather than argue with or intimidate your clientele, you should address the reviewer with a positive, upbeat tone and issue a call-to-action, such as inviting the guest back to your property at a discounted price for a more positive stay.
The power of online reviews can be greater than you realize—in fact, it has been proven that hotels that respond to online reviews within a day see an increase in their occupancy rates. Hotels should welcome and encourage guests to leave reviews, through interfaces such as GoMoment, which allows guests to text immediate feedback to the property, or through customer satisfaction surveys. Both methods allow the guest to communicate any issues to the hotel directly, rather than taking to public forums.
Be Strategic About Who Responds Online
In February, following a stream of bad publicity, a driver captured Uber CEO Travis Kalanick in an angry outburst on tape. The video soon went viral. Uber is known for their PR team’s expert ability to explain away mishaps, but this required a unique response. Kalanick sent out a company-wide email that was soon shared across social media channels. “By now I’m sure you’ve seen the video where I treated an Uber driver disrespectfully,” Kalanick wrote. “To say that I am ashamed is an extreme understatement.” Kalanick agreed that he needs to grow as a leader and intends to seek leadership help.
While Uber still needs to work to regain the public’s trust, this vulnerability was arguably more effective than disputing or downplaying the issues at hand—particularly because the statement came right from the top, rather than being issued by another member of the company. Furthermore, the fact that Kalanick’s statement was posted online made it easy for others to read and share across the web.
If your hotel receives negative press or reviews, you should carefully consider not only what you will say to the public, but also who will be saying it. If your general manager takes the time to respond to a guest, chances are they will feel more appreciated and heard. Knowing when to involve your most senior employees is an important part of managing your online reputation, and can have a huge impact on how guests regard your property overall. The right PMS will help hoteliers track online reviews across multiple platforms—so that you can stay a part of any conversation happening about your property.
Reputation management in the age of social media can be difficult to navigate, but with the right tools you’ll be ready to respond sensitively and successfully. A PMS that integrates with social media, reputation-management software and third-party review sites is fundamental to strong reputation management.
Having a good reputation is essential to running a profitable hotel. Learn more about the power of online reviews and how to encourage positive guest feedback.