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Back to basics: online reputation management

In a fast-changing online world, managing your brand’s reputation can be tricky. Here are some top tips from experts on online reputation management

Maintaining your brand or hotel’s reputation is a long-term, 24/7 job, and is essential for positive brand awareness and increased customer satisfaction. There are generally two key parts to reputation management: establishing what guests and the general public are saying, then reacting to it in the appropriate way. Take it online, though, and there’s an added step: finding out where people are talking about you.

This can present great challenges for hotels – today there are a plethora of digital destinations where guests and potential customers can go to discuss your product. Travel forums have always existed – such as the likes of Lonely Planet’s Thorn Tree, where people might ask for recommendations or debate the ‘best hotel in town’ – but when platforms dedicated to reviewing came along, everything changed for hotels. Today, as a consumer, you can leave your two cents on any number of sites, from TripAdvisor to Google and, of course, Booking.com.

Social media cannot be ignored

Then there’s social media. A place where people share all manner of information about themselves and daily experiences – the good and the bad. In the Q3 Sprout Social Index in 2017, 46% of people said they had used social media to ‘call out’ brands online – this could be for anything from a customer service mishap to a faulty product. Plus, 35% of people said they would actively boycott a brand if their comments are ignored.

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Photo: William Iven, Unsplash

All of this can make it incredibly difficult for brands to establish where their efforts need to be placed, but it also means it’s really important to keep on top of it. With the help of technology, though – the very thing that presented this challenge in the first place – it is possible to monitor most of the conversations being had about your brand online.

Technology: the problem and the solution

Cyril Codron, Head of Product for Mention – an online monitoring tool that allows users to see what people are saying across platforms – says that the technology can be immensely helpful. “Listening to conversations online from customers and guests provides you with a deeper understanding of their experience and interaction with your brand.

"This can be a huge long-term ROI strategy if you can pinpoint the conversations happening online about your hotel, or competitors. Essentially, you can build these insights into all business units from marketing, sales and customer service to either anticipate the pain points of your guest or pivot current strategies to maintain satisfaction and increase sales.”

Similarly, Review Pro sells itself as a ‘guest intelligence solution’, encompassing everything from online reputation management to guest satisfaction surveys, and a guest messaging hub. RJ Friedlander, CEO & Co-Founder of ReviewPro, says responding to reviews is a key part of reputation management online. “Responding to reviews shows that your establishment is listening, and that you care about the issues that have negatively impacted guest experiences and are open to suggestions to improve.”

Better online reputation is proven to impact profitability too

These online tools can’t be relied upon alone, though. “Although a monitoring tool has a huge advantage for hotels who are serving guests 24/7,” explains Codron, “it's not a siloed tool. A monitoring solution must be used as an inclusive tool within your overall business strategy.”

While online reputation affects brand perception and can influence future bookings, it goes deeper than this. ReviewPro’s Global Review Index, which offers an online reputation score for industry benchmarking, has shown a better online reputation is proven to impact profitability too. A Cornell School of Hotel Administration established that for every point gained on the GRI, a hotel could achieve almost 1% higher average daily rate.

Challenges and principles

There are further challenges beyond knowing where to look, though. “Hospitality is subjective by nature and everyone values personal service differently. It is a people’s business after all,” says Rupert Simoner, CEO of Vienna International Hotel Management. “As an International brand you also face different cultures, behaviours, understandings and practices in every country. It is vital to balance both the local approach with a central approach to guarantee a consistent brand experience that is still effective in many different countries.”

Simoner believes HR is the key to great online reputation management – finding the right people for the job, with a DNA that matches their brand. He also says there are some key principles that ensure reputation management is handled effectively.

“Firstly, always be honest. Customers don’t want to receive corporate spin, it will just exacerbate issues and make your brand seem cold and disconnected from those you are providing a service for. Secondly, mistakes will be made. It’s more about how you adapt to different scenarios and how you consistently put mechanisms in place to maintain your reputation.”


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Hero image: credit to Helloquence, Unsplash

Takeaway
  • Online reputation management is a long-term, 24/7 job with multiple complex challenges
  • Finding out where people are talking about your brand online has become harder, but new tech-based tools offer one-stop places to monitor everything
  • The ‘calling out culture’ on social media means more and more people are taking to the platform to express discontent
  • Online reputation has a direct correlation with the value of your product, as well as an impact on guest satisfaction and potential future bookings

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