As we’ve covered throughout our series on reputation management, online reviews are now considered a crucial part of business success. Consumers treat online reviews as they would a recommendation from a trusted friend; 77 percent of travelers read reviews before they book a hotel and 50 percent of consumers read them before choosing a restaurant, according to TripAdvisor.
Some brands try to boost their positive review count by encouraging guests to leave reviews on TripAdvisor or Yelp. While this strategy can be effective, brands must take care not to go too far. TripAdvisor, for example, forbids brands from offering guests perks or recompense for writing positive reviews. Says the website: “Offering incentives such as discounts, upgrades, or any special treatment in exchange for reviews” constitutes fraud. So does “pressuring a TripAdvisor member to remove a negative review.”
Getting guests to write reviews without being too pushy about it is a delicate balancing act. We’ve come up with six tips for hotels and restaurants looking to get more reviews without annoying their guests.
Never offer a reward for writing reviews
This one may be the most important rule to follow when soliciting reviews. Hotels have, in the past, attempted to persuade guests to write reviews using the promise of discounts, coupons, or free rooms as a reward. But this kind of tactic can backfire on hotels; in fact, it’s a clear breach of TripAdvisor’s rules. Consider the Telegraph’s coverage of a hotel in Cornwall that discovered this the hard way:
“The Cove in Cornwall was temporarily blacklisted in 2011 after it was found to be offering discounts to guests that left good reviews. The hotel near Penzance provided guests with a letter asking them to post an ‘honest but positive’ review on TripAdvisor in exchange to receive 10 per cent off, and a room upgrade, during their next stay.”
Use strategically placed signage
Placing collateral such as tent cards in the lobby at hotels or on the table at restaurants is a no-brainer, but there are other places to put them, too. What about beside beds in guest rooms? Stickers in windows or business cards stapled to receipts at restaurants? Placing collateral in unexpected places means guests will have a reminder to leave a review at various stages of their experience with the brand.
Ask at the end of the guest experience
The purpose of hospitality is to make people feel welcome and at home. Guests primarily stay at hotels for relaxation and enjoyment. They go to restaurants for great service and good cheer. But it’s neither relaxing nor enjoyable to be pestered by staff — the ones who are supposed to be making guests feel valued — to say nice things about the brand at every turn. Even when a guest has had a good experience, they might be compelled to write a negative review anyway if staff alienated them too much.
The best way to get positive reviews is for staff to do their jobs and give stellar service throughout the guest’s experience. Then, when the guest is paying the bill or checking out, the staff member dealing with them can remind them to leave a review on Yelp or TripAdvisor.
Put a link or widget on the website
Brands can link to Yelp to make it easier for guests to find them. TripAdvisor also has a review widget that allows guests to write a review directly from the hotel website. This is a passive, easy reminder to guests that they can write a review for the hotel at any time, without forcing them to search for the property on TripAdvisor.
Use a mobile guest engagement solution
If the brand has a mobile guest engagement solution in place, they can use it to prompt guests to write a review at the end of the interaction. A simple message is all that’s needed: “We hope your enjoyed your experience with us today. Let us know how we did on TripAdvisor/Yelp!” It’s an unobtrusive, pressure-free method to encourage guests to write a review.
Get back to basics
Never underestimate the power of extraordinary customer service. Brands must show guests they value their patronage, not just at check-in and check-out, but every step of the way. Guests notice when employees bend over backwards to help them or fulfill their requests — and they often want to acknowledge or thank those employees in a public forum. Gratitude goes a long way, and getting guests to feel gratitude begins with employee training. Brands that equip staff with the skills they need to provide impeccable service and encourage guest gratitude will position themselves to receive more reviews.
Are you interested in learning more about reputation management? Read our other posts in this series:
- An Introduction to Reputation Management in the Digital Age
- 5 Times Hospitality Brands Failed on Social Media
- The Financial Impact of Reputation Management
- How Technology Improves Online Reviews