One of the most critical and difficult aspects of any hospitality business is getting good reviews and increasing them on the web.
Reviews are critical because they ultimately lead to more bookings and grease the wheels of your business in general. The more positive reviews that you have, the higher you rank in OTA websites, lodging directories and they ultimately improve the SEO of your website.
In a nutshell, the benefits of a great review strategy are huge:
- Increase bookings on lodging directories & OTA sites
- Google loves reviews. More reviews = more direct bookings without paying a commission.
- Reviews on your website turn more “lookers” into “bookers”
- And, for Vacation Rental Managers, you also get more owners
So, how can you increase them?
Here is a diagram I created depicting the steps for a fine-tuned, well-oiled review machine:
Sound like it’s too hard to do?
If you DON’T encourage and collect reviews, you’ll be left with all the negative, upset and angry people’s opinion of your business, and won’t get to show off the blissfully happy people’s opinions of how well you are doing what you do! At this point in time, it appears that even Google is giving credit for the number and frequency of reviews that appear; not the actual review score that you have.
Here are some simple steps to make this process more manageable:
1. Provide Great Service.
This could go without saying. However, the machine depends on having feedback from reviews flow back to the people providing the service. If you don’t make it someone’s responsibility to give the feedback to the people dealing with customers, in all likelihood, it’s just not going to happen. People don’t want to upset those they work with by showing them a negative review. Yet, that feedback is what will make your business stronger, as long as you listen to it, and address problems as they arise.
2. Ask for the Review.
There are many ways to set up a system to collect reviews. Here are a few passive collection methods:
- Guest cards in the property – suggest that they leave a review where they booked their reservation
- On a sign at your check in/check out desk. (Even better – Post an iPad on that front desk, and encourage selfies!)
- If you have a lockbox, put this on the outside of it: “Don’t forget to leave us a review”
- Emails – at check in, after the stay
- On the bottom of guest receipts or on any paperwork given at check out
- On your website (both centrally, and if you are vacation rental manager, also on each page that depicts one of your properties.)
- Link to Tripadvisor on your website
- In your mobile app
- Your business card (and hand them one especially after you’ve made them happy!)
- Guest surveys after their stay
You can also collect reviews at Google MyBusiness (which are shown on Google Maps) or Facebook if you connect with your guests that way. Be careful, though! Err on the side of caution and ask if you can connect with your guest that way. Some guests will not want to connect with you for any multitude of reasons. (I’ll leave that one up to your imagination.)
However, if you are already interacting with them on Facebook or other social channels, ask for the review!
Lastly, don’t forget to simply ask for the review in person when you get the chance. People love to feel that what they do will be appreciated. When you personally ask for a review, it can make them feel great about giving you one!
Share your reviews in your Social Media posts. Put them on your website. Sprinkle them in all your other marketing. There’s nothing like spreading good things!
4. Monitor Reviews.
Unfortunately, we don’t know of any review monitoring programs that are specific to the Vacation Rental Industry. However, there are some platforms that will monitor your reviews as well as help with all your Social Media. The most popular are HootSuite and Sprout Social. Both of them are very good, and have different features to choose from. You can also monitor TripAdvisor and Yelp reviews as well with programs built for hotels such as Revinate, ebuzzconnect, and ReviewPro.
5. Respond to Reviews.
Tactful, honest responses to negative reviews can make more of an impression and show how much you care even more than a glowing review. Why? Because people are suspicious that a positive review is truthful. When you have a negative review, and you respond showing you care and work hard to make things right, it is more believable.
6. Pass It On.
Make sure you pass on negative comments so that they can be addressed. It’s far better to know where you are not doing well so that you have the opportunity to fix it. And, as I said above, make sure that you also respond to the positive comments!
It definitely is a lot.
Here are some time saving tips:
- Don’t do it all. Put in a structure that has different people in charge of each step. Make it clear which person is in charge of the following action items. If you can give different people different responsibilities, do it. For example:
- Getting the positive reviews out to the world.
- Making sure that the negative reviews are addressed.
- Divide and conquer. Other tasks need to be the responsibility of each and every one of your employees. They are:
- Provide great service.
- Ask for the review.
With responsibilities clearly defined, getting great reviews is not the sole responsibility of one (tired!) marketing professional in your company. The entire company can share the work by providing great service and asking for reviews. Who is responsible for making sure bad reviews are addressed? Ultimately, the buck rests with the business owner for that. With everyone pitching in, your marketing professional can focus on using those great reviews throughout all of your marketing, and can use a tool to make sure that they respond to as many reviews as possible. More reviews means more guests. More guests means more repeat guests. More repeat guests means you need fewer new reservations. Ultimately, it grows your business in the most solid, sustainable way: from the ground up. It puts you in a solid position of having a great business, regardless of the Expedia’s, Airbnb’s and HomeAway’s of the world. It puts you in the driver’s seat.