Gone are the days when hoteliers had to physically visit their competitors’ establishments or send their friends over to “spy” on them. With the advent of online review sites and online travel agencies (OTAs), your competitors can see mountains of information about you, your strengths, your weaknesses and how you deal with guests just by doing a bit of research online.
So how much can they actually learn about you just sitting inside their offices? Quite a lot, actually – if they know where to find the information, how to interpret it and what to do with it. Here are just a few of the things that they can see raw data about:
- Your overall scores on review sites
- How guests rate your rooms
- If your cleanliness is up to guests’ standards
- How guests feel about your location
- What guests think of your service
- Whether guests think you provide value for money
- If guests are happy with your facilities
- How guests rate your food
Of course, looking through all the different review sites takes time. Your competitors would have to wade through hundreds of reviews on all the important review sites. They would have to find a way to compare scores left by guests on different sites with different evaluation criteria, and they would have to take into account the reliability of the review sites themselves. If they are doing all this, then you needn’t worry, they might get plenty of information, but they will never have the time left over to interpret it and act on it.
However, to make it easier for competing hotels to know what the others are doing, there is software that can look through review sites automatically and provide overviews of competitor’s scores in different areas. Clever software even takes into account the fact that different review sites measure different aspect of hotels’ offerings on different scales, and that different sites are more reliable than others, and so uses algorithms to analyse and aggregate the data.
It’s a scary thought – your competitors can, at a glance, see overviews of how your guests all over the world have rated you in different areas of guest satisfaction on multiple different sites. From a very general perspective, if competitors know where you are doing better than them, they know that if they want to rank better on review sites and OTAs, they just need to up their games in those areas.
The world of online reviews, however, has even more specific and actionable insights to provide. When your competitors know what you are doing well, they can better use the more detailed insights that guests give away in their reviews.
Recently, we had a look at what hoteliers could learn from TripAdvisor’s top-rated hotel. We came away with six insights that are actionable in almost any hotel anywhere in the world – and we weren’t even looking for anything specific.
If your competitors know that whatever you are doing with your rooms is really impressing guests, all they have to do is go through a couple of your reviews, looking quickly for mentions of your rooms. They will find out what exactly it is that guests appreciate so much and will be able to copy your ideas – or even improve upon them.
What can you do about all this?
The first step is to be aware of what the competition knows. You need to be monitoring your online reputation, keeping track of reviews and analysing your performance on different scales. If you know what is being said about you, you will know what you can capitalise on, what your competition might try to emulate, and where you are falling short.
Capitalise on your hotel’s strengths
No matter how hard your competition tries, there are some things they won’t be able to copy – you need to know which unique aspects of your offering your guests love. If you know where your unique appeal lies, you can capitalise on that.
Are travellers constantly mentioning your view in their comments, but no one ever mentions your competitors’? Good, unless the competition is planning on moving their hotel or building some more storeys, they can’t compete. Now you know that you should be highlighting your view on your website, social media, OTA listings and other promotional material.
Level the playing field
If competitors are finding information about you online, you can find the same information about them. Start monitoring your competition so that you can find out what you could be doing better. When you have identified areas where they are doing better than you, delve into their reviews for insights on aspects of their operations that are impressing guests that you can copy or improve upon.