As a small independent hotel, reviews are an increasingly important part of the customer journey for my guests ~ nearly all of whom find us online because we have no front desk or street signage.
Our brand is likely unfamiliar to our potential guests, especially as we compete against large international flags and million dollar marketing budgets, so for more than 9 in 10 of them, an online review is almost as valid as a personal recommendation. Word-of-mouth is still the most popular way of recommending a local business, but the above statistic highlights the value of a positive review.
Improving customer experience and conversions are the main purpose of user reviews, but don’t forget the considerable SEO benefits of fresh, unique content for search engines to index. Search engine spiders like unique content that is regularly updated, and user reviews serve this purpose as well as they serve to endorse my business. Reviews are a big deal on Google now, too, and user experience data is crucial for the way you manage your site.
Sending an email after a guest has checked out to ask for a review works extremely well for us. Immediately after our guests have experienced our hotel, and while the experience is fresh in their mind has proved for us to be the best timing to induce a response.
TripAdvisor is such a well-established online travel research site that hotel owners should just assume customers will consult it before booking. One way to keep them on site is to provide TripAdvisor reviews on landing pages, with an average rating and a link to read reviews.
However, trust comes with a caveat. There is almost a 50/50 split in what drives trust for the majority of our guests. For one half, this trust will only be granted if there are multiple reviews to read. For the other half, this trust is dependent on the reviews being authentic. In our case, quality is more important to us than quantity.
The subject of fake reviews has had a lot of news coverage and is clearly in the consciousness of the average consumer. It’s likely that they will only become more discerning in their trust of reviews as this issue becomes more prevalent in the media.
About the Author
John is the owner of German Village Guest House, ranked the #1 B&B/Boutique Hotel in Ohio on TripAdvisor. Also named the ‘Best Hotel in Columbus’ by 614 Magazine in the 2012, 2013, 2014 reader polls and recipient of TripAdvisor Certificate of Excellence 2011 – 2015.