Word of mouth has driven businesses forward for thousands of years, and has become even more powerful in the age of ubiquitous connection and sharing online.
NB: This is an article from Social Tables
A positive guest experience is one of the best ways to continue to build your brand and earn new business for your hotel. But gathering and highlighting guest feedback is not a simple matter of handing out a survey and hoping for the best. With the right approach, you can turn guest feedback into an important piece of your sales strategy.
Guests have two main reasons for leaving feedback: they were either surprised and delighted by their experience at your property, or they were disappointed that their expectations or needs were not met. Either way, this feedback is a valuable learning experience for you and your staff. By paying attention to what your guests are saying about your hotel, you and your staff can take advantage of opportunities to improve, highlight points of value for future guests, and provide social proof to those who are thinking about staying at the property. Read on for 8 smart ways to integrate guest feedback into your sales process.
How to Use Guest Reviews & Feedback to Improve Your Venue’s Sales:
1. Find the right times to get feedback throughout your guests’ experience.
Your first step will be to make sure you are getting as much feedback from your guests as possible. This often depends on finding the right time to ask. By default, many hotels ask for reviews only at the end of a guest’s stay at the hotel, but for many reasons this can be too late. If a guest has a problem, you want to find a solution and fix it as soon as possible. Here are a few times to build in feedback requests during a guest’s stay:
- At check-in: Don’t forget that your guest has already experienced your sales process, booking process, and travel to the hotel before checking in, and may already have thoughts about their experience. A quick verbal request for feedback from front desk staff can reveal any issues that may need addressing.
- Wi-fi login: According to a survey by Roomzzz, 65% of guests are online at the hotel within seven minutes of check-in. This presents a major opportunity to include a quick request for feedback on the wi-fi login screen. Guests will already have first impressions formed of the check-in process, room, and booking by the time they answer these questions.
- During breakfast: After their first night in the room, guests may have additional thoughts on the noise level, comfort, and amenities of the hotel. Most guests have a quiet moment at breakfast when they aren’t occupied with business or leisure activities. If you have breakfast items that take a few minutes, such as an omelette or pancake station, consider having a tablet set up nearby for guests to answer a few quick questions. You can also include a URL or scannable code on the menu or table.
- Key locations around the property: Consider other locations on your property that people congregate, have a few extra minutes, or are waiting for something. Great places for a tablet to gather feedback include shuttle stops, the hotel bar, the lobby, near ice and vending machines, and self-service laundry facilities.
2. Train staff to ask for guest reviews during the stay.
You won’t be able to highlight or learn from guest feedback unless you can first get customer reviews. And as with anything, the most straightforward path is often the most effective. Your staff should be trained to ask for feedback at key moments during a guest’s stay so that you have time to respond, fix any issues, and earn a glowing testimonial.
Consider all of your staff-guest touchpoints, and when staff can engage authentically with guests to get feedback on their stays. The key for these conversations is to check in with guests unobtrusively, so that any issues can be handled and guests can continue their stay in a positive way.
3. Use technology to make guest reviews and feedback easy to capture.
There are a number of solutions on the market to help with everything from online review monitoring to customer service focused texting. Take a look at the latest technology innovations in hospitality to see how they can help make the feedback process easy and stress fred.
Feedback questions can be prompted through:
- Wi-Fi logins
- QR codes
- NFC technology (such as tapping phones on to connected devices)
- Printed URLs
- Installed screens displaying questions
- Hotel mobile apps and rewards programs
- Automated emails
4. Make sure guest feedback gets back to the hotel’s team.
All of the feedback you collect won’t be helpful unless your staff can learn from it and respond to it. One of the keys to hotel industry success is good communication, and that starts with your staff. Consider reading reviews in staff meetings each week or month so that everyone hears what things are going well and which can be improved. Try to sandwich critical reviews in between positive ones so that staff aren’t disheartened by the process. Be sure to call out any staff members mentioned by name in positive reviews – this type of feedback is great for morale and helps staff members know that their actions are being noticed.
As you share and discuss feedback with members of the team, remember that critical reviews are incredibly helpful tools to learn how to improve. Instead of celebrating only positive reviews, try to celebrate problem solving in all its forms. Feedback that starts out negative can turn into a positive guest experience when handled with empathy and care.
5. Use guest reviews to improve your hotel service.
Nothing prepares staff for troubleshooting guest complaints better than real world examples. You can use both positive and negative reviews to run training exercises with staff. This will help staff decide ahead of time how to handle certain types of complaints, and get the whole team on the same page. Staff should focus on answering a few key questions for each example: What was done right here? What could have been done better? How will we respond in the future?
You can also use your reviews as a powerful source of aggregate data. If you’re able to track and analyze reviews and surveys over time, you may identify the areas that guests feel are strongest, as well as where there is room for improvement. Apply the insights you gain from guest feedback to strengthen all of your operations, including your marketing, customer service, amenities, and your sales process. For instance, if you find that families with kids love your buffet breakfast, your sales team can highlight the breakfast when talking with family groups.
6. Respond to online hotel reviews.
Show past and potential guests that you care about them by responding to online feedback. When you accept and promote your online reviews, you are showing other travellers that you value the opinion of your guests and that you are willing to go the extra mile to deliver superior customer service.
A March 2015 study by Medallia shows that accommodations that respond to more than 50% of social media reviews grow occupancy rates at more than twice the rate of properties that tend to ignore reviews. What’s more, these responsive properties also grew occupancy rates faster than the hospitality industry as a whole.
With positive and neutral reviews, it’s a good best practice to respond within 24 hours. Since reviews are moderated by the review site, you want to respond quickly, while the review is still top of mind with your guests. You should respond to negative hotel reviews ASAP (within 24 hours), once you’ve researched the details of the guest’s stay. Responding as quickly as possible is one more step you can take toward repairing your relationship with an unhappy guest. It will also minimize the number of prospective guests that see the review online without your response. When it comes to review responses, more communication is almost always better than less.
7. Create specific surveys for key focus areas for your property.
Creating a personalized experience when asking for feedback allows you to customize your approach and customer service based on the guest personas that you have identified at your property. If your group sales strategy focuses on weddings, family reunions, or sports teams, why not create a specific survey for their feedback? Customized surveys allow you to ask specific questions and obtain the information you need to attract more group bookings. You can also ask for opinions on ideas, new services and concepts you are considering to trial. These types of tailored surveys show groups that you are considering their needs and actively working to create the best possible experience for them.
Once you have the results from these customized surveys, make sure to incorporate these insights into your group sales process. For instance, when talking to a wedding planner you can mention that “70% of our wedding parties choose to add on a cocktail hour in our garden space, and we’ve heard really positive things about that experience”. These types of custom insights will really help you stand out from the competition and create connections with prospective guests. You can include notes for different customer segments right in your Sales and Catering CRM system so that you remember to mention them during the sales process.
8. Highlight great reviews on your hotel’s website and social media.
Social media marketing for hotels has changed dramatically in recent years, with an abundance of places (online and off) for guests to leave their feedback. Take inspiration from some of the world’s top brands by picking a few places to highlight and celebrate that feedback. Whether it’s your Facebook or Instagram pages, your website, or even a screen in your front lobby, you can show off the wonderful experience guests are having and hopefully earn more business in the process.
Try adding positive guest testimonials, user generated pictures and videos, or even interviews with guests to your website and social media pages. Curate the feedback that really shows off your brand, culture, or key amenities that you would like to highlight. This will help differentiate your hotel from the competition and allow your brand identity to shine through.
Now You’re Ready to Harness Venue Guest Feedback to Increase Sales!
Hopefully these proven strategies have given you a good idea of how to gather, use, and celebrate guest feedback in all its forms. With a few small changes to your approach, you can dramatically increase the number of guests who are providing feedback and create stronger guest relationships.