MEMPHIS, Tennessee—Members of the “Managing your reputation” session held during the recent Southern Lodging Summit at Memphis came up with these 21 tips on managing a hotel’s online reputation.
Panelists included: Allyson Cataldo, Hostmark Hospitality Group; Travis Flee, Hilton Worldwide; Wendy Norris, Valencia Group; and Jamie Pagel, Circos Brand Karma. The list is not ordered by importance.
1. Don’t create profiles on social spaces if you don’t have the time and resources. There’s nothing worse that can damage your reputations than when you get into social spaces and you can’t manage it.
2. Start slow—and that could mean just listening to what people are saying—and respond when appropriate.
3. Be where your guests are. The GM can get the most valuable feedback by being in the lobby or the breakfast room, talking to guests. There are hundreds, maybe even thousands of social media sites—it’s your job to know the ones important to your guests and where the most influential reviews are posted.
4. Be transparent. If you have something to hide, then you probably shouldn’t be using social media.
5. Tailor the reputation-management program—and the approach to social media overall—to your hotel. For example, airport properties need to have more up-to-the-minute information and responses available because of their ever-changing nature (delayed, canceled or missed flights).
6. Embrace social media as a learning opportunity. No one likes to receive a negative review, but if you use it to correct an issue, you will have an overall better property.
7. Responding to negative comments tells your guests that you know there are problems that come up, that things can go wrong and you are doing your best to fix those problems.
8. Follow up your original responses to negative reviews to trumpet recent accomplishments. For example, if you received a complaint about the lobby being outdated, don’t be shy about circling back at a later date and saying, “By the way, did you know we just had a $6-million lobby renovation? We invite you to come back and check it out.”
9. Think before posting a response, especially when the situation has the potential to be combative. Take a short walk, stop and think before hitting “send” for a message that could be misconstrued or upsetting. But the response should be sent within an hour or two of receiving the negative review.
10. Know the social media platforms that are delivering revenue to your property. Know what channels people are using to book reservations, and make sure your reputation on those channels is good.
11. There are many inexpensive—some even free—tools to monitor revenue traffic. Resources include a number of vendors to the industry that provide effective solutions. A search for “hotel reputation management vendors” can start your list of possibilities.
12. Encourage your guests to provide reviews—good or bad. This can be done with in-room collateral material or a simple reminder at checkout.
13. Don’t get caught up in social media-speak in your responses. Lingo such as “U R” or “LOL” isn’t always appropriate, so it’s best to stay away from them altogether. Be professional and treat everyone in a respectful manner. Communicate with them as if they’re guests in your lobby.
14. Remember the nature of social media guarantees your response will never go away.
15. Don’t rely solely on your brands for reputation management. They often provide basic approaches but don’t always provide the best answer. Know all of the tools the brand offers, and then fill in the blanks with your own program.
16. Steer clear of using templates for responses. If you are taking the time to be on social media, take the time to personalize your responses—especially to those who appear to be angry, highly complementary, or from users who have a lot influence on their platforms.
17. It’s OK to apologize to a guest who had a bad experience. Write a response that includes something about what the guest said so he or she knows it’s genuine and you read what was written.
18. Offer specific solutions in an offline environment—via email or even on the phone. Don’t get into a back-and-forth with guests online. Invite them to call you at the hotel and promise you’re going to make it right.
19. A public promise to make the situation right is completely fine. However, never offer compensation, particularly free rooms, online. Always do that in a secure, private setting.
20. The best solution for hoteliers who are tight on time and/or resources is to take a team approach. But, while it’s OK to have a group of people involved, always have a leader who can make decisions and set guidelines.
21. Don’t obsess over return on investment. While there are tools and vendors that allow you to track ROI-related measures, there isn’t always going to be a direct revenue opportunity. Sometimes the payback might come two years down the road when a guest satisfied with your response makes another reservation at your hotel.