Online hotel reviews can delight—or damage—hospitality companies. Consumers regularly stop by TripAdvisor or other social media review sites for feedback before planning a family trip. But how are hospitality companies, in turn, using social media to boost their reputations and influence these buying decisions? Below are three areas that hospitality companies should focus on to turn thumbs down reviews into thumbs up insights:
Accentuate the positive
It’s no surprise that favorable reviews build trust and increase booking intentions. Interestingly, potential customers give more weight to the first reviews read online than to latter reviews that are less flattering. Research shows that the negative effect of predominately unfavorable reviews is reduced when the first two reviews in a series of reviews are positive. Numeric ratings may appear as “review summaries” that reduce consumers’ perceived need to read all reviews.
Address negativity to reverse attitudes
An online experiment showed that valuations of a brand were significantly higher when the company posted a response—either proactively or reactively—than when it did not respond to a negative consumer post. Also, when researchers captured customer reviews of thousands of hotels and management responses (if any) from the largest online travel agency in China, they found that a management response to a review increases customers’ subsequent reviews of that hotel.
Accept a mix of reviews to build credibility
When college students were shown a fictional Facebook page that included consumer reviews, perceptions of company honesty, genuineness and trustworthiness were significantly higher when a company had mixed reviews versus all-positive reviews. Hospitality companies must learn to believe that a few negative reviews will not seriously undermine the brand—they may actually increase perceptions of trustworthiness as long as a company responds effectively.
Compared to other industries, hospitality is well positioned to lead the way in responding to social media commentary. Why? Because this hypercompetitive industry has a longstanding tradition of actively soliciting, listening and responding to customer feedback. By responding promptly via social media, hospitality companies can strengthen connections with consumers and attract new potential guests who are using computers, tablets and smartphones to research their options.