The popular review site Yelp is trying hard to crack down on review fraud. They are actively looking for businesses that are trying to buy reviews and alerting visitors to Yelp! of the potential fraud. This is important because it enhances the integrity of the review process. Yelp's actions offer serious lessons for hoteliers trying to encourage guests to leave positive reviews and deal with potentially false reviews of their establishment.
What Yelp is doing
If Yelp suspects that a review is fake, it will alert users with a warning box. This box offers the option to see the evidence that Yelp used to come to this conclusion. In one instance, there is a Craigslist ad offering $75 for positive reviews of a business. The evidence may also include the email exchange between Yelp representatives and the business.
Yelp's business is offering users objective reviews. If the reviews are fraudulent, then users can't really trust Yelp to provide authentic reviews. Yelp is taking steps to protect the integrity of the reviews so consumers can feel confident when using reviews to make buying decisions.
Lessons for Hoteliers
Online reviews are already very important for generating hotel bookings. Studies show that 80% of people look at 6 - 12 reviews before booking a hotel. This means that it is vitally important for hotels to have positive reviews that users can trust.
Never pay or offer other compensation for reviews. If you are caught doing this, your online reputation will plummet. Yelp is already penalizing this kind of fraud and other reviews sites may soon follow suit. You can let your guests know that you have a profile on a review site. You can also let guests know that they can help fellow travelers by leaving a review. Finally, you have a post-check-out email that suggests leaving a review. But you cannot offer any compensation for reviews.
You also want to be vigilant for fake reviews that are posted about your hotel. Here are few tips for spotting and dealing with fake reviews.
Monitor review sites. You want to know immediately when someone reviews your hotel. There are services that can do this for you.
Look for extremely negative one-sided reviews. You are going to want to respond to most reviews. But extremely bad reviews are potentially fraudulent.
Do your research. Use your property management system to identify the guest and the dates of stay. Talk to your staff to collect background information. This will help you respond to the review.
Flag the review as a potential fake if you cannot identify the guest or have no record of the guest staying at your hotel. Provide your information to the review site so that they can consider removing the review.
Respond appropriately to legitimate negative reviews. Be sure to point out any positive feedback and thank the reviewer for the input. Let people know that you have taken action to remedy the problem. Finally, invite the reviewer back for another stay to see the improvement.
Getting positive reviews is vitally important to your hotel's revenue stream. Protecting your online reputation by removing fraudulent reviews is equally important. Yelp is taking action to protect the integrity of its reviews. Other review sites may follow suit. This is good for honest hoteliers like you who try their best to offer excellent service. It means that when one of your satisfied guests offers a review, other travelers will see it and recognize its credibility.