a person possibly looking at hotel on a laptop reflecting how profits can pivot on social reviews

In the world before the Internet, the ramifications of disappointing a guest were more contained than they are in modern times.

NB: This is an article from Agilysys

Failing to please a guest before the world was actively online might result in a letter to management and disgruntled conversations with family, friends and coworkers – consequences that are undesirable enough on their own.

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Today the negative maelstrom disappointed guests can create is exponentially amplified as social media and online review sites serve as megaphones for opinions. According to Statista, there are just over five billion active Internet users worldwide – 63.1 percent of the global population – and active Internet usage in hospitality’s highest spending market, the United States, has passed 90 percent. Using social media, including consumer-generated review sites, is common among 4.7 billion active Internet users, which is 59% of the world’s population.

Against this backdrop, hospitality leaders are exploring ways they can deepen their understanding of each guest as an individual, not simply a data point in a “persona profile,” so that their employees are better equipped to consistently create “Zero Disappointment” experiences for each guest. They understand that if a hotel exceeds guest expectations on nine experiences but disappoints on the tenth, it’s the tenth that will influence their review.

Getting to a Zero Disappointment state requires not only codified best practices and employee training, but also technology systems that are designed for data synthesis and insights across all the experiences a guest can choose and a culture of empowerment that enables employees to use these insights to make discretionary decisions as appropriate in various hospitality situations.

Why Reviews Are So Meaningful

Billions of users access social media networks and travel review sites every day to research their next trip or hotel stay, and guest reviews on these channels are written in permanent ink. Prospective travelers are interested in hearing from other travelers like themselves to get a glimpse into what they can experience in another locale, and they are taking their reviews to heart when making their decisions.

Central to attracting prospective and recurring guests is effectively motivating positive posts on social media and positive reviews on travel review sites. Providing exceptional experiences end-to-end from the overall stay, to dining, activities and amenities to guest services, is the best way to avoid critics and to create lifelong property champions.

Social media and review sites reach a massive worldwide audience of vacationers who use them to decide where to stay next. The top 15 of the most used social networks each reach more than 400 million active users each month, and the top six reach billions of users (Facebook 2.9B+, YouTube 2.5B, WhatsApp 2B, Instagram 1.4B+, Weixin/WeChat 1.2B+, and TikTok 1B).

TripAdvisor reaches hundreds of millions of visitors monthly through consumer-contributed content on close to 8 million businesses through more than 1 billion reviews – 702 million of which are for hotels and resorts. TripAdvisor notes consumers post 7,000 new contributions every hour, and that users read an average of nine reviews before deciding to book a stay.

Because of the reach of these channels and the influence they have, negative ratings and reviews have a disastrous impact on a hotel’s financials. One TripAdvisor study reported that four out of five travelers (81%) “always or frequently” read reviews before booking a hotel stay. Additionally, when choosing between identical properties, eight out of 10 TripAdvisor users will choose the hotel with the higher bubble rating, and more than half (52%) will not choose a hotel if it has no reviews. Statista research shows that 72 percent of consumers always or frequently consult online reviews before deciding where to stay, visit or dine.

Bad experiences – even just one – can cost you customers, according to a recent PwC study on loyalty. Customers are willing to walk away and share it with others via social media or review sites when they have a bad experience or even an “inconsistent experience”, or their hotel stay did not meet expectations.

Guests are willing to spend more to stay in a hotel with higher ratings.

The Positive Review Upside

On the flip side, hotels that provide exceptional experiences for their guests will secure higher ratings and five-star reviews that can translate to increased revenue. As confirmed in a study by the Customer Experience Management Institute at the well-known hospitality management school, EHL (École hotelière de Lausanne), people will pay more for hotels with higher ratings. Dr. Mathias Fuchs noted in the study, Customers are willing to pay 24% more for hotels with a rating of 3.9 versus 2.4 (on a 1-5 scale), and are willing to pay 35% more for hotels with a rating of 4.4 versus 3.9 (on a 1-5 scale).

Another study by Cornell’s Center for Hospitality Research found: Revenue improvement driven by social media can be substantial. Cornell found that hotels that increased review scores by one point (on a five-point scale) and could raise prices 11.2 percent while maintaining the same occupancy. Additionally, increasing a hotel’s online reputation score by one point leads to a 0.89% increase in price (as measured by ADR or the hotel’s average daily rate), up to a 0.54% increase in occupancy, and a 1.42% increase in revenue per available room (RevPAR). When analysing the annual performance of an entire property or portfolio, those potential increases add up. By forging deeper relationships with their guests at every touchpoint, hotels can create more profitable relationships and maximize rates through positive reviews and higher ratings.

Achieving Zero Disappointment

Although admittedly aspirational, never disappointing a guest can be a “North Star” that guides a property’s ethos, decision-making and technology infrastructure. Technology innovations automate manual tasks so employees can focus more of their time delivering more personalized service to their guests, but automation alone is not enough. Data and the ability to share it seamlessly among all guest touchpoints and the employees staffing them is the key to creating deeper empathy and more effective decisions in each interaction.

For example, the right technology system could inform your employees that a couple late for a dining reservation is most likely running behind because the husband’s golf tee-time at your resort was delayed. Furthermore, it could inform your team that it is the couple’s 40th wedding anniversary, they frequent your resort, and always request a special window table at your top restaurant. Knowing these factors in the moment could empower your employees to hold the table for them even if standard protocol is to release reservations after 15 minutes, and to greet them with two glasses of their favourite wine, also noted in your system. Seamlessly sharing relevant data becomes the bedrock of a perfect “hospitality intervention” that further cements loyalty and averts disappointment.

When properties are able to create a single guest profile across all touchpoints, your employees benefit from 360-degree insights into each guest’s desires, including transactional activity, reported preferences and actual itineraries. Armed with these guest insights, employees can personalize service and ensure guests are experiencing an Instagram-worthy resort stay – from reserving their favourite table for the best sunset view on the resort, to sending a special wine to their room with a personalized note, or securing hard-to-get concert tickets.

Offering exceptional experiences, meals and settings boosts guest satisfaction and encourages them to share their experiences with their friends online and through social media, creating champions for the hotel property, and resulting in positive reviews, five-star ratings, and lasting, profitable, long-term relationships.

Read more articles from Agilysys

Reprinted from the Hotel Business Review with permission from www.HotelExecutive.com.