10 DOs & DON’Ts for Managing Good (& Bad) Reviews

There are good + bads ways of dealing with guest reviews.
There are good + bads ways of dealing with guest reviews.

We’ve all been there, whether we’re accommodation owners or not. We’ve all imagined we’ve done something well only to be brought up short when we’re told we haven’t. It leaves us feeling baffled and hurt – especially if we imagined we’d done our best.

If you’re the owner of a B&B, guesthouse or cottage and you receive a less than glowing review, the feeling is even more acute, because your property is your home – it’s not just a building where you go to work every day. The temptation is to take any negative feedback personally and react instantly. But if you allow yourself to do so, it can result in real damage to your online reputation. And in the modern digital world, where there’s so much scope for people to review absolutely everything, that’s something you want to avoid at all costs. What you need to do is take a deep breath, count to 10 and keep these (appropriately enough) 10 DOs and DON’Ts in mind…

1. DON’T Ignore it, no matter how unjustified or unfair it is. You might imagine that you’re maintaining a dignified silence, but to other users of the site (e.g. TripAdvisor) it’ll look as though you don’t care enough to respond. The review in question will therefore acquire unearned credence.

2. DON’T Respond in a defensive way that personally attacks the reviewer. You’ll do just as much harm as you would by ignoring it.

3. DO Thank the reviewer for his/her contribution.

4. DO Highlight any positive aspects mentioned in the review first.

5. DO Express surprise and disappointment that the reviewer had an experience that was in any way negative (thus implying that it was extremely unusual.)

6. DO Point out any factual inaccuracies in the review, but politely. By being polite and expressing regret you not only show that you care about your guests’ experiences. You also take the higher ground.

7. DO Take the conversation off-line: suggest that the guest contact you at your private email address, thus defusing the possibility of a public row.

But it’s not just negative reviews that require a response. Positive feedback on review sites is an incredibly useful free marketing tool, so it needs to be acknowledged too…

8. DO Once again, thank the guest for taking the time to write.

9. DO Highlight any specific aspects that they praised – if it’s good, it’s worth repeating.

10. DO Make sure your response includes details of your website, making easier for any fans of your property to pass on those details and book again.

reviews_cbowns
Think before you respond to reviews

With the huge increase in the number of people using social media, a guest’s opinion of your property is no longer limited to whatever site it originally appeared on. Reviewers can now also link back to their opinion on Twitter or Facebook. Other Twitter/Facebook users can then retweet/share it, allowing it to gain more and more traction online. You can’t afford not to be part of this conversation. But by getting involved in a dignified, circumspect way, you can turn it to your advantage and defuse its potential threats or get added value from the positive.

What’s Your Unique Selling Point?

USP_photosteve101
USPs can be powerful sales tools

USPs are all the rage these days, because they make you stand out in an increasingly crowded marketplace. Given how full of character – and, yes, “quirky” even! – B&Bs and guest houses can be, they’re in a great position to sell themselves in this way.

Having said that, figuring out your USP can sometimes be a bit of a head-scratcher, so here’s some food for thought.

For one thing, the great advantage that all independent properties have is that they’re unique in relation to chain hotels: they’re smaller, more intimate and offer a more personalised service. But, as the owner of a bed and breakfast or guest house, how do you distinguish it from all the others in the area? Here are some things to think about…

  • Are you family-run?
  • Do you grow your own fresh produce?
  • Do you have a herb garden?
  • Do you do some home baking?
  • Are you pet-friendly?
  • Do you have a log fire?

If you can think of something, you’ll find it a lot easier to attract customers and get extra bookings,

Mind you, it’s not just a case of being unique; it’s also important to be unique in the right way. If you’re looking for a unique attribute that you can use to sell your property and nothing comes readily to mind, it might be a good idea to start by looking at your recent customers:

  • Who has booked your property in the past few years?
  • What kind of people are they? What are they interested in?
  • Have they written reviews on your website, or on TripAdvisor? If so, what have they said?
  • Have any of them told you that they booked your property for a special reason?
  • Has a certain local event or landmark brought them to your area?

In terms of finding something unique, customer feedback can be your most valuable resource.

USP_ebookIf, having done all this, you still feel that your property still doesn’t have an obvious unique attribute, there’s always the option of creating one. If you’re in an especially beautiful part of the world, you could study some local history and offer walking tours that focus on that. Seasonal unique selling points are another great way to keep business coming in all year round: you could focus on an outdoor facility, like a patio garden, in summer, and an indoor facility, like a real log fire, in winter.

Once you’ve settled on a unique attribute that you’re confident about, the other most important strategy is not to undersell it. Make sure it’s prominent on your website and try to complement it, if possible, with the best possible photos.

How do the Changes at TripAdvisor affect accommodation ?

TripAdvisor is changing into a Rate Comparison and Booking website. How does this affect accommodation owners ?

Some accommodation providers could lose bookings from TripAdvisor as a result of these changes, others will gain. Here are a couple of videos to help you understand where you stand.

First Video about the changes, how they look to potential bookers

 Second Video about how you can deal with them

Another couple of blog articles might help you understand the changes. Official TripAdvisor is a Rate Comparison engine. And also 8 Things you need to know about TripAdvisor

 

 

 

 

TripAdvisor is becoming a Booking Website

8 Things You NEED to Know about the TripAdvisor Changes

Are you up to speed with the changes at TripAdvisor? Not knowing could lose you bookings.

TripAdvisor is Changing into a Booking Website. If you don’t have online booking you can lose bookings that you used to get from TripAdvisor.

  1. TripAdvisor is now a booking website, you can check live rates and availability.
  2. TripAdvisor will soon be advertising on TV just like other booking websites.
  3. The TripAdvisor home page (Image Below) now asks for a destination and your travel DATES.
  4. If you are on TripAdvisor looking for somewhere to stay they will show you availability and rates from Booking.com, LateRooms, Expedia, your property etc….
  5. You can now advertise your own direct availability on TripAdvisor next to the OTAs(Video Below)
  6. If you don’t work with any of Booking.com, LateRooms, Expedia and you don’t advertise your own availability on TripAdvisor you will lose bookings you used to get from TripAdvisor.

What do you need to do to get your rates and availability on TripAdvisor ?

  1. You need an online booking system that can connect with TripAdvisor.
  2. Alternatively you need to work with an Online Travel Agent (OTA) like booking.com that will advertise your availability on TripAdvisor.

TripAdvisor Show Prices button

Here is a short video to show you how to add rates and availability to you TripAdvisor page using your booking system.

Click Here to see the Video

As TripAdvisor grows their booking strategy you can expect more and more links to the booking process. It is likely that more of the page space on TripAdvisor’s website will be devoted to directing the customer to rates and availability.

This is a copy of the TripAdvisor home page, as you can see its asking for a destination, arrival and departure dates so they can show you rates and availability.

TripAdvisor HomePage

TripAdvisor Pay Per Click advertising
TripAdvisor Pay Per Click advertising

 

 

TripAdvisor book now button for direct bookings

Direct commssion free bookings on Trip Advisor

Just mention the name “TripAdvisor” to independent businesses and you are guaranteed to get some interest. Businesses have to take a pragmatic view when considering what tools and partners they need to make themselves more successful.

TripAdvisor book now button
TripAdvisor Show Prices button can link to your property

TripAdvisor is without doubt a very powerful influencer for your customers because it helps them gather information from other customers i.e. people just like them. Lots of studies have shown that people value and trust the advice of friends and family far more than anything else. That’s not new, since time began we have always asked for the advice of those closest, those who you trust.

Like most things on the internet it’s not perfect but that doesn’t lessen it’s importance to your customers. Good businesses engage with their customers, listen to their feedback and react accordingly and TripAdvisor provides one of the platforms to do that. Time invested in that is money well spent because it’s highly visible and highly searchable. Managing your reputation is critical in this increasingly connected world.

Many businesses rely heavily on their reviews to attract new customers and now there is a way to get direct bookings, not just referrals, from your TripAdvisor page. It’s not free but then TripAdvisor is not a charity, it provides a service to you and your customers.

You can place a direct link to your booking engine on your profile and every time a customer searches your availability you pay TripAdvisor – a Pay Per Click (PPC) advertising model where each search is a click. The service is currently only offered on a wholesale basis i.e. individual properties can’t do it themselves they have to go through a service provider and properties do not need a business listing.

The direct link is valuable because customers are usually at the end of their purchasing cycle when they are looking at your profile….so they are ready book. When you consider all the marketing that has preceded that point i.e. providing a service that encourages reviews, advertising in different places etc. you can see that you are about as close to “closing the sale” as you will ever be. That’s where you have to make it easy for the customer…..search and book here!

The service is offered on a 3 month trial basis. TripAdvisor will give you a cost per click and estimated budget required for those 3 months based on their history of your page. How do you know you’ll get value for money? Well, you don’t at the outset, but at freetobook we will track and monitor every search and booking to give you a definitive return on investment. It’s that level of information that gives you the control to make a 100% informed decision on your marketing spend. If you have already invested heavily in your marketing this is well worth a try.

How To Manage Your Online Reputation – Part 1

 

Iain shares some thoughts on the best ways to engage with your customers online and how to turn good service into sales.

Everyone seems to be talking about ORM. You could even say that right now ORM is one of the most popular TLAs (three letter acronyms) in the business world! The official, rather stuffy, definition of ORM is, “the practice of monitoring the Internet reputation of a person, brand or business, with the goal of suppressing negative mentions entirely or pushing them lower on search engine results pages to decrease their visibility.”

That makes it all sound a bit sinister and corporate. I think the true definition of ORM is more positive and is best expressed by former Vancouver hotel manager and ORM consultant Daniel Edward Craig: “…Online reputation management is the process of tracking and responding to online reviews and commentary and using feedback to guide improvements. It’s about actively participating in social networking to build awareness and shape impressions.”

Spot on. Online reputation management isn’t about anything so crude and cynical as gaming the system. It’s about developing an on-going relationship with your customers, responding to their opinions and showing that their feedback, whether positive or negative, matters to you. So what follows are some personal thoughts about ORM that have emerged out of my own wide experience of managing an online travel company and communicating with customers on a daily basis:

1.                  Managing your online reputation

Why bother?

  • People now research trips, make decisions and share experiences online via social media.
  • 75% of customers now cite reviews as being influential.
  • More and more people are using social media platforms, like Twtter and Facebook, so review information moves at ever greater speed.

Evidence suggests social media is currently used primarily as a service channel rather than a direct sales channel, so if your customers are using it they will expect you to be on it and may want to connect with you via social media.

Sales and service are linked and there is absolutely no doubt of the link between service and loyalty, so service and reputation are a great place to start. The transactional “sales” side of social media may not be that strong, but I don’t believe it will be long before large businesses make it happen….just like they did with the Internet! Indeed large companies are building these social media platforms into their service models.

When you come right down to it, using social media is really just about working with your customers in a way that they find most convenient…and isn’t that what good service is all about anyway?

We built the customer review process into “freetobook” right at the start so every customer using our online booking engine receives a review email a day after their stay….and 29% of our customers complete reviews for the properties (voluntarily).

2.                  Where does your independent property start?

  • Audit first, find out what’s out there and what people are saying…or not saying.
  • Understand what you want customers to say and where you want them to say it.
  • Monitor, react and encourage feedback: these are all “first principles” of service… wherever you are.

(These are just some of the tips I have picked up from various places, but if anyone has any comments or examples of situations I would be glad to hear of them: iain@freetobook.com).

Customer Reviews – Bite Sized Winning Strategies (2of10)

Customer Reviews – How to win at the reputation game.customer reviews bite sized winning strategies

Customers trust reviews above promotional material and nothing you can do will change this. Reviews are extremely important for your sales, over 75% of your customers will form an opinion of you based on browsing a set of reviews. Managing your online reputation is now a critical marketing activity, so arm yourself with some winning strategies.

1) Responding to reviews both positive and negative will show that you are looking at customer feedback and taking note. Customers want to know you care, what better way to show it than by responding positively to everyone that took the time to post a review. If a bad review is left without a response to it looks like you don’t care.

2) Get control of your own reviews, if your booking system sends out reviews you will quickly generate lots of reviews which you know are genuine. These are an asset and they will be the best way to counter or dilute bad reviews some of which may be beyond your control.

3) When you get your own reviews, a winning strategy is to send out a “thank you” to those great reviews asking if they would post it on Trip Advisor (give them the link). Making the most of great reviews is important.

4) Good: Have as high a rating as you can but remember very few properties will have a 100% score. Customers do not expect you to have perfect scores all the time and it may even look suspicious if you do. Accept you’ll have the odd bad review and be prepared to handle it.

5) Bad: It can be very personal and disheartening to see a bad review but the last thing you want to do is make it personal. No matter how untrue the review is respond in a constructive way and move on. We are not all perfect 100% of the time and before you know it the odd bad one will get buried in time.

6) Ugly: Never be tempted to reply in kind to an ugly review it only escalates and magnifies the negative side of the review. Customers know that ugly reviews are often more representative of the reviewer than of the service. It is critical to respond in a constructive way and keep the high ground.  Take some time out to consider your response or ask someone else to help, it helps take out the personal element.

You never win by attacking a reviewer, it always makes you look worse.

Reviews need to be monitored and managed. They are a wonderful source of information on how your business is performing in the eyes of our customers. Don’t just “manage” your reviews use them to genuinely improve and develop your business to exceed your customer’s expectations.

Read more detail on our blog : http://blog.freetobook.com/2012/03/managing-your-online-reputation/

(look out for next weeks bite sized winning strategy “How to win with laterooms and booking.com”)

 

 

Booking and traffic leaks

Drip by JRonaldLeeGetting prospective customers to your website can be an expensive process. Once you have them, you need to keep them there and focused on the booking process.

A leak is an unintended entrance or escape. Make sure visitors are not leaking from your website, as it could be costing you bookings and or commission.

Continue reading “Booking and traffic leaks”

Boost sales by displaying your best reviews

With freetobook, you can now choose to publish reviews alongside your search results and to control which reviews you display. Early evidence shows that it can definitely help to increase your conversion rates.

Some properties are already benefiting from being able to do this, as you can see:

booking page with reviews

If a prospective customer clicks on the “reviews” box on the right hand side, they’ll be able to view a full list of guest reviews.

To activate this new functionality, log in to freetobook and go to the “Reviews” subtab.