By Carolyn Murphy on August 13, 2015 at 8:30 AM
As hoteliers, we often focus so much on delighting our guests while on-property that we forget about our pre-arrival impression. Guest satisfaction begins during the information gathering stage, where prospective guests consult hotel websites, social media, online travel agencies (OTAs) and online review sites to ask for advice or validate recommendations. How your hotel is positioned across these sites and how you communicate with prospective guests is critical to capturing the initial booking and beginning your relationship with your guests. Here are 4 steps to improving your guest satisfaction, even before the guest arrives on the property.
Step 1: Manage Staff to Metrics
We hear about the importance of guest satisfaction, but does your staff know what this metric really means or how to measure it? Guest satisfaction can be measured by your Net Promoter Score (NPS) captured by a private post-stay survey. It can also be measured by your online review rating on a website such as TripAdvisor, Booking.com, or Expedia.
To keep performance tracking simple, pick one metric and make sure your staff knows how important this metric is to your business. I recommend using the TripAdvisor Popularity Index as the primary Key Performance Indicator (KPI).
Once you’ve decided to commit to improving on TripAdvisor, your entire staff needs to buy into the idea that online reviews are critical for the health of your hotel. Your staff needs to understand that every guest has the ability to make or break your reputation with an online review. Hotel management can enforce this by reviewing positive and negative reviews in daily stand-up meetings. You can also and reward staff members that are mentioned by name in reviews. The hotels that I have seen make great strides when it comes to online reputation have incorporated online review metrics into management team bonuses and overall hotel key performance indicators (KPIs).
Step 2: Create a Reputation Action Plan
The TripAdvisor algorithm for the Popularity Index takes into account review volume, freshness (i.e. recent reviews) and review quality (i.e. scores). With this algorithm in mind, you should create an action plan that includes ways to improve both your review quality and your review volume.
When it comes to improving your review quality, you need to make sure that your operations and training teams are deeply involved. By listening closely to what guests praise and what they complain about in online reviews, you can make operational changes that please your guests and drive more positive reviews.
Step 3: Solicit and Distribute Feedback
To drive more online review volume, there are a couple of tactics that have proven to be successful for hoteliers. The first is simply to put programs in place to ask guests to write reviews. If your staff isn’t actively requesting reviews from happy guests, you should start training them on how to drive more review volume through natural conversations with guests. TripAdvisor provides free business cards that can be handed out to guests to remind them to write reviews, or you can create your own that represent your brand.
Second, share your feedback. Revinate Post-Stay Surveys customers who submit their surveys to be published on TripAdvisor see an average increase of 407% in review volume. They also see an average of 15% increase in Popularity Index ranking.
Third, encourage honest communication with guests. Today, with so many people reading online reviews prior to booking, hotels must be transparent and truthful. Make sure to set honest expectations with your guest via pre-arrival communication.
Here’s an example of a pre-stay email from the W Hollywood. Notice how transparent the hotel is about what guests should expect if they visit during a weekend.
What I love about this pre-stay email is that it ensures that guests aren’t disappointed when they arrive at the hotel and find that it’s too noisy for their taste. In fact, this hotel would rather lose the booking than disappoint their guests. This example really speaks to the impact of social media and online reviews on the hotel experience.
Step 4: Create a Social Media Presence
To drive guest satisfaction during the information-gathering stage of travel, hotels should be active on social media and in online travel communities. Consumers regularly turn to social networks to get advice about places to visit and things to do. In fact, Eye-For-Travel reports that over half of travelers will even change their travel plans after consulting social media sites.
You know your cities better than anyone. Become active on these channels, monitor for people looking for advice, and build the reputation of being a hotel that is a great ambassador for the city. TripAdvisor, for example, designates active contributors to the forum as ‘market experts.’ Without being sales-y, you can show your prospective bookers that you care about travelers to your city whether they stay with you or not.
[fa icon="quote-left"] Guest Satisfaction Starts Before the Stay [fa icon="quote-right"]
In summary, make sure your entire staff is aware of how their performance can impact guest satisfaction before, during, and after the guest stay. Once your hotel is centralized around the importance of your TripAdvisor Popularity Index ranking, your staff can take action to drive online review volume, gather feedback, and become social media ambassadors for your hotel and geographical region.
Additionally, gathering this information before the stay allows you to learn more about your guests, which helps your hotel to differentiate in the competitive hospitality environment. Hoteliers can use actionable data insights to deliver personalized experiences that create valuable relationships and lifelong customers.