Everyone and their aunt can do marketing. All you need is a Facebook account, right? Maybe throw a tweet or two in there as well, and you’re good to go! What sets smart marketers apart from the crowd of want-to-bes is how they use all the resources available, including guest reviews.
Whether it’s online reviews or direct feedback through surveys, with great guest feedback can come great insight. We look at some ways that smart hotel marketers use feedback and reviews to manage guest expectations, discover differentiating factors, analyse trends and build trust.
They find out what guests expect – and do not disappoint
Whether you provide lavish luxury at rates only slightly cheaper than a black-market kidney, or simple stays that even the down-at-the-heel student can afford, it's all about meeting (or even exceeding) your guests' expectations. Every guest will have expectations based on what they have seen online — whether on your website, your social media, or your listings on online travel agencies. It is what encourages them to book with you over anyone else. You need to make sure that what you promise matches what your guests actually get in terms of accommodation and service in return for their money. This is why smart marketers focus on analysing value for money scores. Here are some things to bear in mind when thinking of value for money:
- It’s not about lowering prices or making guests feel like they got a great deal by staying with you. In fact, despite cost being one of the biggest considerations for travellers, most are willing to stretch their budgets if they believe that the experience that they get at your hotel will be worth it. What it is about is making sure that your cost and the experience that your guests get are in line with one another.
- You can use your guest feedback to pinpoint exactly where you have fallen short of their expectations. Whether it’s about your decor, customer service, or simply the way that your guests feel throughout their stay, you’ll have a better idea of areas that can be improved upon for future guests.
- Keeping an eye on your competitors will also help you to understand what it is that guests expect for the price that they’re paying. What do other hotels offer, and at what price? If travellers can get a far better experience elsewhere, and at a similar cost, it may be an indication that what you offer, or what you charge, could be reconsidered.
They discover their differentiating factors – and market them better
Keeping an eye on your competitors won’t just help in getting your value for money spot on. By reading competitors’ reviews in tandem with your own, as a smart marketer, you can spot trends and find out exactly what sets you apart and what it is that makes guests want to stay with you. Once you know where your hotel stands out from the rest, it can be easy to use it to your advantage.
Say, for example, you find from going through your feedback that the way you welcome your guests is what sets you apart. Maybe you have cocktails on arrival, or maybe it’s the friendly staff at reception, who make checking in an absolute breeze. Perhaps there is something small in your rooms that makes your guests feel at home as soon as they walk in. Whatever it might be, if your feedback is telling you that you are getting your welcomes right, you can use that in your marketing materials and make sure that travellers are aware that if they choose to book your hotel, they’ll feel at ease as soon as they walk through your doors.
What sets you apart might not be your welcome. Maybe it’s your exceptional customer service, your fantastic location, or your connection to your community. Whatever it is that makes guests pick you over your competitors will come across in their reviews, and give you the chance to flaunt it.
They analyse trends in guest feedback – and use them to inform operational decisions
Knowing what makes your hotel unique is all well and good, but often your direct guest feedback won’t only be telling you what you’re getting right, but where you can improve. Taking note of this is just as important to smart marketers as knowing what they can sell.
"We’re constantly comparing the current scores to last month, 3 months ago and 12 months ago. This gives us a constant metric of where we are excelling and where we’re falling short. It’s allowed us to react quickly when needed." – Chris Roberts, General Manager, Oceana Beach and Wildlife Reserve
Deciding where budget should be spent is tricky, even for the most seasoned hoteliers. You can never spend on everything that you’d like to, so where would money make the biggest difference to your guest experience? As David Campbell of The Coaching Inn Group points out, guest feedback can be invaluable in helping to decide which properties need investment and where it should go.
“Without information, you’re hamstrung in terms of making intelligent decisions around your business," David explains. "If you have an intelligence platform that’s telling you that 65-70% of your guests are saying that you need to spend money, you need that information so that you can make that informed decision. For example, we knew we had a problem with some of the bedrooms and the cosmetics at one of our hotels, and we spent a six-figure sum refurbishing the bedrooms primarily because our guests were telling us the rooms were very dated and you can see that from their feedback.”
By using your guest feedback as the basis for budget allocations, you’ll find that not only will the reviews themselves improve, but your guests will feel as though their feedback is taken to heart, and your guest experience should improve overall.
They encourage guests to leave reviews online – and use them to build trust
Finally, smart marketers don’t just use reviews to gather information. They know how valuable reviews are for building trust and using social proof to their advantage.
In the hospitality industry, consumers are at a disadvantage because they don’t know for sure what they’re going to get. For travellers that haven’t stayed with you before, choosing your hotel is a leap of faith, so making sure you have a good online reputation will give them the confidence that they need to make their booking.
Showing potential guests how you deal with great and, more importantly, not-so-great feedback gives them a sense of what they can expect when they come to your hotel even more than the reviews themselves might. In fact, 80% of TripAdvisor users believe a hotel that responds to reviews cares more about its guests. If you are responding in a friendly, positive way, even to negative situations, it builds a sense of trust in the reviewers themselves and in those that are looking over them later, when considering your hotel.
Whether feedback is good or bad, smart hotel marketers know how to look deeper into reviews and find where your hotel is getting things right, where it needs improvement, and how to make the most of your marketing.