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Building a strong online reputation on review sites like TripAdvisor has become essential to maintaining a profitable hotel. Hoteliers around the world have experimented with various tactics to generate a large quantity of positive reviews, and one has found success in achieving a strong ranking: the Four Seasons Hotel in Austin. The Four Seasons was able to jump more than 20 spots on TripAdvisor’s Popularity Index to become the highest ranked hotel in the city in less than two years.

To find out how the Four Seasons was able to see such significant increases in their online rankings, Taylor Short of Software Advice, a company that researches hotel management software, decided to research their strategy. During his investigation, he sat down with their general manager, Rob Hagelberg, to hear what activities led to the success it had achieved in such a short span of time. We've asked Taylor to share a few highlights of his research. Following are a few best practice tips regarding TripAdvisor.

1. Why has maintaining a strong rating on review sites like TripAdvisor become so important in the hospitality industry?

Maintaining a high ranking on sites is a key component of a robust marketing strategy for hotels. TripAdvisor has approximately 62 million unique monthly visitors and has compiled more than 75 millions reviews. These types of engagement metrics are simply hard to ignore. There have also been numerous studies that show user generated reviews are considered to be highly valuable to consumers. If a hotel has few reviews, or has numerous negative reviews, it will ultimately hurt their reputation and general revenue. For this reason, hotel representatives must make a habit of responding to online customer reviews. Also, it’s important to note that responding to user reviews encourages more users to submit their own comments. Compiling a large quantity of reviews is critical to maintaining a high rank because TripAdvisor’s Popularity Index is based on quality, quantity and recency of customer reviews.

Simply put, having a high rank on TripAdvisor means millions of potential customers will view your brand in a positive light, and will be more likely to stay at your hotel.

2. What best practices can help a hotel earn and maintain positive reviews online? 

General manager of the Four Seasons Austin, Ron Hagelberg, has worked in and around the hospitality industry for two decades, and has had a heavy hand in the activity that took his hotel the number one spot in the city on TripAdvisor. He provided several examples of his responses to customer reviews on TripAdvisor that have helped contribute to his success. Here are the key elements Hagelberg recommended to include in a response to negative reviews:

  1. Thank the customer for their time writing a review
  2. Acknowledge any positive comments
  3. Apologize for the specific complaint or issue
  4. Explain a specific, forward-looking plan of how the hotel will fix the problem
  5. Invite the customer to come back

Finally, hotels should develop a specific structure and style for their replies.  Apologizing and thanking guests helps demonstrate that the hotel staff values customer feedback, and that they are willing to take steps to address their concerns. Also, his strategy to provide specific ways the hotel addresses the problem helps highlight that the hotel staff is committed to providing the best possible experience, all of which are characteristics customers want to see.

3. How can hoteliers leverage listening technology to manage their online reputation? 

An important part of maintaining a positive online reputation for your hotel is knowing when and where you have been reviewed. With dozens of hotel reviews sites, and just as many social media networks, keeping up can be a daunting task for hoteliers. That’s why many hospitality businesses, like the Four Seasons in Austin, have turned to online reputation management software.

These reputation management tools track and notify hotel management when their hotel is mentioned or reviewed on TripAdvisor, Google+, Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and dozens of other applications. These applications can also provide in-depth metrics like the number of reviews the hotel has received in a given period, the number of responses to reviews, the number of Google +1s, Facebook shares and tweets. These reports can help hotel management analyze their reputation and exposure on the Web, and develop a plan of execution.

Online reputation management software can also help to increase a hotel’s response time. This is critical since the sooner a hotel responds to a customer review, the more likely the customer is to see it. Also, the real-time notifications provided by these software solutions give hotel management enough time to investigate the complaint and provide a thorough response to the customer’s complaint.

These types of software are very helpful, but hotel management still needs to make sure to enforce deadlines and specific guidelines for responses.

4. Are there any practices that hotels should avoid at all costs? 

The worst thing hotel managers could do is argue or contest the reviews of past customers. When replying, the goal is never to convince a guest that their opinions or memories of the experience were wrong, but to be gracious and proactive in accepting feedback. There can be occasions on travel review websites in which a reviewer is abusive or makes untrue or inappropriate claims. Those situations can be handled between the hotel and website. For the most part, however, the old "customer is always right" philosophy still stands.  Arguing and challenging customers on reviews sites can not only hurt your ranking, but it will hurt reputations, and ultimately, your revenue.

Taking this one step further, Hotel-Online ran a story several months back sharing one general managers experience on creating a cycle of success with TripAdvisor. We encourage you to revisit this article. His suggestions are excellent, and if utilized, will assist you in climbing the TripAdvisor rankings. Please visit: 

http://www.hotel-online.com/press_releases/release/one-general-managers-story-how-a-high-trip-advisor-ranking-creates-a-cycle

About Taylor Short

Taylor Short has worked as a reporter and writer for six years, focusing on local coverage of city governments, businesses, schools and police. After earning a bachelor's degree in Journalism from the University of North Texas, he worked for newspapers in Denton, Dallas, Argyle, Cleburne, Killeen and Austin. Taylor freelanced for Reuters News Agency before joining Software Advice where he focuses on covering the hospitality and not for profit industries.

Contact: Robert Bellovin

robert@softwareadvice.com / 512-582-2330

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