How to get the best from reviews

write a review - margaret ornsbyOne of the issues we return to time and again on theBandBer is online reviews. They’ve come to dominate the thoughts of many accommodation providers. The good ones give you a warm glow. The bad ones keep you awake at night. The fake ones send you into a rage.

When we first started covering this topic, there was relatively little good, consistent advice out there on how best to respond to feedback on review sites like TripAdvisor and various social media channels. With this in mind, we’ve frequently tried to offer helpful tips ourselves, in order to bring some clarity to the issue.

Now, the issue of reviews seems to be going mainstream. Recently Cornell University even published the first detailed report, with stats, on the positive impact of online reviews on hotel performance. What’s more, an accepted standard of good practice seems to be emerging. A lot of its elements are exactly what we’ve been saying on theBandBer for the ages: solicit reviews in a tactful, non-pushy way; don’t encourage guests to write reviews when they’re still on-site; respond to online reviews promptly and take the discussion off-line as quickly as possible if the guest seems unhappy.

None the less, there are always new things to learn. Writing for Tnooz, Aaron Zwas, of Digital Marketing Works, makes some valuable points that are less often discussed. In particular, he reminds property owners that it can be possible to “over-respond” to reviews, with unfortunate side effects:

reviews_ElvertBarnes_blue“Responding an “appropriate” percentage of the time can lift the quantity of incoming reviews by up to 35%. We also learned, however, that responding too often can have a noticeably less beneficial effect. Why is this? Can hotels really over-respond to reviews? We don’t tend to think of it in these terms, but the review page for a given property on, say TripAdvisor, is a social space in its own way […] If the host of the party (the hotel) is crowding out the conversation with a lot of jabber, it appears to turn people off from participating in the conversation, with the end result of guests writing fewer reviews.”

Zwas is also good on the importance of not filtering reviews on your own website: “Remember that bad reviews legitimize the good ones. Especially important when you consider that brands are among the least credible sources of information in consumers’ eyes. Operationally, it requires much less manpower to enable an unfiltered stream of reviews vs. seeking out good ones to publish manually. An unfiltered stream also keeps the content fresh.”

Some of Zwas’s predictions (per-venue reviews, personalised reviews) might elicit a “hmm maybe, maybe not” response from many readers. But one thing is certain: online reviews aren’t going away any time soon and you can’t afford to ignore them.

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