posted on October 09, 2014 11:28
The following article appeared on HospitalityNet.org on October 3, 2014:
New Orleans, LA - Let me tell you about this place. The elevator was slow. The breakfast selection was crummy. Check-in wait was over 10 minutes! The carpet didn't look clean. For what we paid, for what we expected staying at a place with such a strong name, we were incredibly disappointed. We'll NEVER go back.
As every hotel operator knows well, it's all too rare that guest comments say anything overly flattering. And with more and more guests using various social media platforms to blog, rate, review, rank, pontificate, critique and evaluate their hotel experiences, staying responsive to every thread of guest discontent has become one of the latest requirements of strong hotel management.
So, how effectively is the hotel industry dealing with the daily tsunami of guest commentary? Are there any silver linings in the "Pandora's Box" of guest reviews?
For most strong hotel management companies, dealing regularly with guest comments is a "front and center" activity, said Billy Finnorn, Corporate Director of Revenue Management at New Orleans-based Expotel Hospitality Services LLC. "Unless you have someone worrying over it everyday, listening carefully and reacting to what your guests are saying, you'll develop a poor reputation that no amount of static brand image can overcome. Guest reviews are a game changer now."
Finnorn believes the leisure travel segment has become especially "obsessed" with guest reviews just in the last two years as more platforms have come online. "A few years ago, a friend's personal recommendation about where to stay was all it took. Now, the leisure traveler goes online for two things - price and reviews. Even if they find the right price with a brand they generally respect, unless that property is backed up with strong, current reviews now available from a multitude of sources, they'll keep searching elsewhere.
"When I think about how fast this new sales paradigm has established in our industry, I'm shocked. The new power of the guest in the hotel sales process is massive, and we all better recognize it now."
Finnorn uses an online service that "listens" to all of Expotel Hospitality's hotel guests' commentaries and provides a daily digest of what the reviews are saying. In order to stimulate more guest reviews, he said his hotel managers ask guests at checkout about their stay. If they had a great stay, then guests are asked to write a review online.
Finnorn said guest reviews provide two overriding benefits: they offer management with immediate insights over what areas of operations need attention, and they have become especially relevant when negotiating with prospective hotel owners about expectations.
"If we're considering buying or managing a new property, analyzing the history of guest reviews is as important as poring over the financials. It provides a realistic indication of what size mountain we might have to climb to turn a property around."
Finnorn believes the hotel industry isn't alone but clearly at the vanguard of a revolution in which customer experiences that are easily and widely communicated dominate consumer purchase criteria.
"Who tries a new restaurant or purchases a new product today without looking at online reviews? I think this consumer purchase trend is just at its earliest stages. Soon, we'll be making decisions in healthcare, education, and retail and everywhere by habit based essentially on what other people are saying online about their experiences.
"In our hotel industry, that future is right here, right now!"