When the Coaching Inn Group set its sights on being the best independent operator of regional hotels in the country, the group's leadership knew that they needed to be managing the online reputations and guest experience of their inns and hotels across the United Kingdom.
As Mat Charity, Commercial Manager, explains, “Before, if you upset a customer, they would just tell a friend. Now, if you upset a customer, they will put it up on Facebook and put it up on TripAdvisor and the exposure is so vast that I think a hotel not taking it seriously is really at risk of having their brand damaged.”
The dark age of comment cards
In 2014, the Coaching Inn Group was still using comment cards to collect feedback. These weren’t helping them to get positive results online, and having a member of staff tied up for hours on end trawling review sites for online feedback wasn’t practical.
“We had to source reviews from the individual review platforms while also trying to compile guest comment cards from the individual hotels,” says David Campbell, Operations Director. “Bringing them back centrally into a platform was just too cumbersome.”
Finding a way forward
According to David, the group’s need to reduce the time and human resources it took to collate comment cards and manage online reviews is what drove the Coaching Inn Group to seek out a guest feedback and reputation management solution.
“Before, if you upset a customer, they would just tell a friend. Now, if you upset a customer, they will put it up on Facebook and put it up on TripAdvisor and the exposure is so vast that I think a hotel not taking it seriously is really at risk of having their brand damaged.” – Mat Charity, Commercial Manager, Coaching Inn Group
To ensure that GuestRevu’s online reputation management and guest feedback technology was the right fit for the business, the Coaching Inn Group began its journey by piloting the GuestRevu technology in just two properties.
The results spoke for themselves: One property’s review volume increased by more than 300%, and, in just four months, its average rating on TripAdvisor went from 4.0 to 4.43. The second property’s rating rose from 4.13 to 4.29. The resolution to roll out the system to the rest of the Coaching Inn Group properties was, according to CEO Kevin Charity, “a simple decision”, and was made within months of the pilot.
That was back in 2014, and since then the Coaching Inn Group has used the technology to effect positive changes in online reputation management procedures throughout the group.
They use automation where they can
Online reviews of Coaching Inn Group properties are automatically collected from multiple review sites and can be viewed and analysed individually or collectively within property and group dashboards.
All of this happens with very little manual effort from any of the Coaching Inn Group team. “Effectively, it’s an efficient way of doing it rather than employing a manual resource at Head Office or tying up someone’s time to administer it,” says Adam Charity, Group Operations Manager.
Additionally, because the group’s existing property management system, Guestline’s Rezlynx, is so well integrated with GuestRevu, the process of gathering direct feedback from guests could be easily automated.
They offer guests a chance to communicate before writing a review
After checkout, the Coaching Inn Group invites all guests to complete a survey asking them to rate various aspects of their stays. The surveys are customised so that they bear the branding of the individual hotel, and thanks to the integration with the group’s Rezlynx PMS, surveys are sent to guests automatically.
By giving guests the opportunity to communicate directly with management, guests feel that hoteliers care, and that their grievances have been heard. Therefore if their expectations weren’t met initially, they are more likely to give hoteliers the benefit of the doubt and leave a more positive review.
They drive more reviews to TripAdvisor
The feedback surveys that Coaching Inn guests receive are integrated with TripAdvisor, so that they have the option to easily publish a review to the site directly from their questionnaires, bypassing TripAdvisor login. This convenience greatly increases review volume.
“You can’t please everyone, I know, but we’re going to try our best to please as many people as we can and encourage them to shout about it” – Mat Charity, Commercial Manager, Coaching Inn Group
Since TripAdvisor’s algorithm calculates ranking based on review volume and recency, as well as actual review scores, encouraging more guests to post reviews helps to improve TripAdvisor ranking. Additionally, by proactively asking for reviews, the group has encouraged satisfied guests who might not otherwise have gone out of their way to write online reviews to contribute their positive ratings (and experiences) to TripAdvisor.
While Mat admits that it can be daunting to offer every guest the chance to directly share their comments in TripAdvisor (whether good or bad), he stresses that the positives far outweigh any negatives. “You can’t please everyone, I know, but we’re going to try our best to please as many people as we can and encourage them to shout about it,” Mat explains. “In terms of our TripAdvisor score, as a group we embrace it, and see it as a good marketing tool.”
They encourage management responses
One of the most direct ways any business can impact its online reputation is by engaging in the conversation around the brand online. The Coaching Inn Group strives to empower individual property General Managers to be active players in their online reputation by encouraging them to respond effectively to TripAdvisor reviews. The use of GuestRevu's software has vastly simplified and improved management’s ability to do this.
“Our GuestRevu system is a one-stop shop in terms of intelligence conversations” says David. “What we try and do is to empower our managers and instruct them that they must respond to all feedback. You have to measure that somehow and GuestRevu allows us to measure that in a central point. Just by having GuestRevu, we’ve now been able to see if certain hotels haven’t been fulfilling that.”
“Our GMs won’t sit behind their desks on a computer day in and day out, but at least now we know we have a process in place that within 24 hours we should be responding to those hot alerts.” – David Campbell, Operations Director, Coaching Inn Group
The group’s management team are also aware that time is of the essence when it comes to responses for reviews, and they use the real time information supplied by the software to address any neglected reviews with hotel GMs immediately. As David says: “I can have these conversations within days or weeks to get our managers into the habit of replying. It’s about tracking our managers to make monitoring and responding to reviews a daily task.”
The group also makes use of “hot alerts” to simplify the process of responding to reviews for the hoteliers on the ground. When the system picks up negative feedback, a hot alert is created, and an email is automatically sent to the relevant GM and other relevant parties.
“It reminds them that they must deal with that hot alert immediately,” says David. “Our GMs won’t sit behind their desks on a computer day in and day out, but at least now we know we have a process in place that within 24 hours we should be responding to those hot alerts.”
Coaching Inn Group's holistic success
While the Coaching Inn Group has undoubtedly had great success with its online reputation and guest experience management thanks to the use of GuestRevu, the group has also used the system to enhance operational and management procedures in individual hotels, and at a group level.
In the past few years, the group has used insights gained from the software to inform investment and budgeting decisions, operational procedures, and improve staff motivation.