A new study conducted by PhoCusWright revealed more than half of respondents will not book a hotel that does not have any reviews on TripAdvisor. Just as important as getting the reviews to begin with, is the fact that travelers expect hotels to respond to the reviews on the site. Those that choose not to participate in this dialogue do so at their own risk and may be losing a chance at future business.
It's important to keep in mind this survey was commissioned by TripAdvisor and the participants were selected randomly on TripAdvisor.com. This is key because the sample audience is made up of folks who are already using the site and relying on online travel reviews. However, there are still some important take-aways for hotels since TripAdvisor is the largest site of its kind and has more than 60 million visitors each month.
You can read the full release here, but one of the main points hotels should be paying attention to is the fact that respondents expect properties to respond to reviews that have been posted.
1. 57% say seeing a hotel response to a review makes them more likely to book that property vs. a comparable hotel that did not respond to reviews.
2. 84% of users indicated that a response to a negative review improved their impression of the property.
3. 78% said seeing a response to reviews made them feel the property cared more about guests.
4. 64% of users indicated that aggressive or defensive management responses to a negative review made them less likely to book that hotel.
Reputation management is nothing new for hotels, but if a hotel's leadership chooses to ignore online reviews it does so at their own risk. It doesn't make the reviews go away. It doesn't fix the deficiencies that caused the negative experience. And based on this survey, it alienates the millions of users of one of the largest travel sites on the web.
Managing responses to online reviews is not easy. It's time consuming and there are many sites and channels that require attention. But the huge benefit is that the reviews bring to light challenges that hotels can address and fix. Plus, it gives them a chance to participate in a dialogue with guests that can lead to correcting negative perceptions and turning a bad situation into a positive.
In what may be a bit of a surprise, 74% of respondents said they wanted to share their reviews because they wanted to share a positive experience with others, which may be opposite of the perception that the reviews are motivated by people just looking to complain. In addition, nearly 60% of users said they ignore extreme reviews and comments.
In the end, you can have the best marketing in the world, but the on-property experience still has to be a positive one. Instead of looking at online reviews as a hassle, hotel management should embrace the opportunity to use these reviews as a resource to identify issues, correct the shortcomings, and engage in a dialogue with guests to explain how you've proactively addressed the situation. Today, this is a must if a hotel is going to deliver on its brand promise.