Study: Online Hotel Reviews, and How Guests React to Hotelier Response
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A joint paper created by Accenture and the Cornell University School of Hotel Administration highlights the importance of online reviews, and how a travel company’s response can affect its reputation among travelers.
The paper, “Thumbs Down…to Thumbs Up,” draws on a variety of worldwide studies to show how travelers and consumers review and purchase.
Per the paper, one Cornell Hospitality Quarterly study in 2014 showed how online reviews can actually increase a hotel’s revenue per available room (RevPAR), one of the industry’s most important performance metrics.
For the study, authors Ines Blal and Michael Sturman obtained TripAdvisor reviews from more than 300 hotels in London over a 13-week period, as well as RevPAR and occupancy data from STR Global for these same hotels. They found that a hotel’s review score increased RevPAR for higher-end hotels, regardless of the number of reviews. On the other hand, a lower-end hotel’s RevPAR generally increased as the number of reviews increased.
In another 2014 study, Bin Gu and Qiang Ye of Production and Operations Management analyzed customer reviews of thousands of hotels and management responses from China’s largest online travel agency (specifically, customers who reviewed the same hotel more than once).
They found that if a guest gave a negative review about a hotel (a rating of 1 or 2 on a five-point scale), management could influence the guest to subsequently give a positive review if management responded to the negative review.
On the other hand, the study also found that if an unhappy customer saw that other customers received a response from management but he or she didn’t, the customer was more likely to give an even worse review.
In light of other studies referenced in the paper, Accenture Hospitality also recommends for hotels to accentuate positive reviews at the top of review summaries (consumers give more weight to the first reviews read), proactively respond to negative reviews on their own online outlets and reactively respond to negative reviews on consumer-owned sites, and engage with guests via social media (traveler-generated content is especially beneficial).
The good news is that hospitality companies already appear to be ahead of the curve, in this sense.
Umar Riaz, the North American lead for Accenture's Hospitality and Travel Services practice, and Mike Lynn, a professor of consumer behavior and marketing at the Cornell University School of Hotel Administration, write in the “Thumbs Down…to Thumbs Up” paper:
“Compared to other industries, hospitality is well positioned to lead the way in this responding to social media commentary. Why? Because the industry has a longstanding tradition of actively soliciting, listening and responding to customer feedback…Hospitality is hyper-competitive and few businesses can survive for long unless they consistently satisfy their customer base…Customer service training is an integral part of the industry, and this focus extends naturally to responding to social-media commentary…Hotels, restaurants and property-management companies have undoubtedly picked up insights on how to improve facilities and services through comments.”
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