Just a few years ago, hotels relied on a manager’s close watch and traditional guest satisfaction surveys to uncover which employees made a difference in a guest’s stay. Today, with the popularity of reviews and social media, employees that go the extra mile are easily surfaced in guest comments and in social media posts. Because of the transparency of online reviews, hotel staff is more aware of their impact on guest satisfaction and many hotels are experiencing a surge of great service.
Unlike traditional satisfaction surveys, online review sites and OTAs allow consumers to write free-form reviews, rather than requiring them to rate topics most important to the hotel. As a result, consumer reviews tend to be about the topics most important to them. When it comes to positive reviews, guests tend to write about the staff-members that exceeded their expectations. For example, I recently wrote a 5-star review for W Hollywood and said, “If you’re used to great service, you won’t be disappointed at this hotel. A special shout out to Zachary, the concierge, who is amazing at his job.”
In many morning stand-up meetings, General Managers are recognizing these employees in front of their peers and applauding their work. Human Resource Directors are printing and taping up online reviews that mention staff members by name or title in back rooms. And, spot bonuses or rewards are often provided as extra incentive to line employees who go the extra mile and are written about when guests share their experiences online.
While not typically described as adaptive to change, the hospitality industry has done a tremendous job adopting this new method of guest feedback. Online review sites were originally created as a consumer platform for sharing travel experiences but today are being used by savvy hoteliers to uncover great performance and areas for operational improvement.
Entire companies, like Revinate, have been created to make the analysis of online reviews as simple and user-friendly as possible. Using sentiment analysis technology, hoteliers can drill down into dozens of categories and related topics to isolate just the snippet of a review that discusses a certain topic, such as housekeeping, check-in, or spa. Drilling down into the details is critical since overall review scores only help you understand overall guest sentiment. But while a guest might give your hotel four stars and be satisfied overall with his experience, he might have been disappointed by the laundry service and valet. When you spend the time to understand what guests don’t like, you have the opportunity to improve your business and improve your ratings, which we know thanks to a Cornell University study released in November, 2012, effect bookings.
And, when it comes to employee performance, no tool is as useful to a GM than sentiment analysis for holding departments accountable for performance and ensuring departments are recognized for great service. In addition to being able to set goals around the percentage of positive mentions, sentiment analysis allows management to see trends and whether operational changes are making a difference in the eyes of guests. And, since most people write reviews shortly after their stay and analysis is done in real-time, you can measure success in real time, which is quite a change from the days of traditional guest surveys.
If you haven’t yet created a culture of caring about online reviews at your hotel, there’s no time like the present to begin. Online reviews are free to access, sentiment analysis tools pay for themselves in time saved, and when employees know reviews are being closely watched at the management and brand level, you are sure to see an uptick in warm smiles, attentive gestures and personnel that go the extra mile.