Why Sentiment Analysis and Review Responses are Critical for Your Hotel

June 25, 2015 Carolyn Murphy

How much do you rely on your online reviews? Do you look just at the review rating or do you consider the sentiment of the comments within the review?

At Revinate I’ve seen that many hoteliers don’t respond to 4 and 5 star reviews. But, within those 4 and 5 star reviews, there are often negative comments. Perhaps a guest has a great stay overall, but has a minor complaint about wi-fi issues or resort fees. These one-off issues did not keep these guests from having a good time and leaving a positive rating. But, will these guests return? How will prospective guests feel about those complaints, especially if they are not addressed?

I encourage my clients to take full advantage of sentiment analysis technology, paying special attention to trending negative sentiments in positive reviews. Sentiment analysis can easily identify negative trends, allowing hoteliers to make timely and accurate adjustments to their operations and guest experience. It also allows them to quickly identify mixed sentiment reviews that require a response.

We’ve previously talked about different methods for responding to mixed sentiment reviews, including the Positive Sandwich Method, because it’s important to do this in the right way. We realize that hoteliers don’t necessarily have time to respond to all of their reviews. It’s not just about the number of responses–it’s about prioritizing the reviews that require a response, and responding to those reviews effectively.

Developing a Review Response Strategy

The voice of the guest is becoming increasingly prominent online. Whether you use our Positive Sandwich Method or you develop your own approach, your hotel has an opportunity to create response standards and methods that help win and retain guests. When developing your own response method, it is worthwhile to take a step back and ask yourself a few questions:

Why do your guest write reviews?
Are they autobiographers? Or are they interested in sharing experiences as part of the new “social contract,” as consumers leverage reviews to make booking decisions?

What types of experiences are they sharing?
This dependent of the property of course, but reviews could be about many different parts of your hotel, including the amenities, location, room type, service, and others. Are you seeing any themes? Are these themes different than your competitors? If yes, these themes could be powerful advantages or disadvantages that your property has by comparison.

How does the review help us?
Ideally, a review is user-generated content that promotes your property. It can also have additional benefits. Perhaps, for example, a review writer highlights an amenity for children that is not advertised, like. a complimentary scoop of ice cream with dinner. A charming experience shared by a reviewer online may go long way for a family planning a trip. While the ice cream would probably not be the primary driver for booking decisions, the review promotes the hotel as a family-friendly environment. The happiness and joy shared by the reviewer could be the tie-breaker between your hotel and a competitor.

What about your team?
Perhaps you read a review about team member who delivered exceptional service and you share that comment with the team. How will your team react to that kind of positive motivation? Does this help raise morale and drive performance?

Do negative reviews hurt us?
Does a bad review always hurt the property? The answer is, it doesn’t have to. For example, I was recently shopping for online for my oldest child’s first bicycle. One review recounted a story of bicycle that arrived without pedals, which was not discovered until Christmas Eve. The manufacturer responded to the review in a thoughtful and genuine manner, apologizing for the mistake and highlighting the ways the company would avoid making the mistake in the future. Because of that response, I am considering purchasing this bicycle.

Additionally, this negative review has potential value to the manufacturer. Perhaps the company learned of a potential issue in the packaging and shipping process that they were able to address, and thereby improve their customer experience.

This trend continues in hospitality. A Phocuswright study found that 84% of TripAdvisor users agree that an appropriate management response to a bad review “improves my impression of the hotel.” So when you get a negative review, it’s a great idea to respond in a genuine, thoughtful way, because this can help assuage doubts in the minds of prospective guests who see it online. And, the negative comments can be helpful in terms of pinpointing exactly where you need to make changes to your operations to improve the guest experience.

Reviews contain much more information and have much more value than just the rating number. With the above questions in mind, you can get a better idea of your guests’ perspective and learn to respond to your reviews more effectively. Sentiment analysis provides you with additional information about trends in your guest feedback. Combined, this translates into actionable intelligence to help you improve your online reputation and overall guest experience.

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