Reviewing the review

Most hoteliers would know of the legendary hotelier, Rocco Forte. Apparently Mr Forte, famous for The Savoy Hotel and The Forte Group, held a morning meeting with his staff every day, boardroom style. He insisted that at the boardroom table, one seat was reserved for the guest, always at the head. His team were taught that every decision made in his hotels had to be based on the imaginary guest at that table. Wow. 

Fast forward to 2015. These days, the hotel guest has a much louder voice, one that demands attention. Online platforms such as Trip Advisor, Hello Peter and Facebook have given guests greater clout, impacting consumer opinion and spending.  Studies (and common sense) show that guests are more likely to post a review or comment if their experience was a poor one; suffice it to say, people are quick to complain and reticent to praise.

In a case study at one of the BON Hotels properties, data provided by Divtech – providers of digitised customer satisfaction information by gathering and collating information both online and via their eGuestSurv product –  showed that of a total of 1675 guests staying over, only 214 actually reviewed the hotel via all the platforms available. TripAdvisor accounted for four reviews, a meagre 0.24% of actual bums in beds, and provided 111 reviews. Could the future guests, then, be basing their booking decisions on the wrong platform and a meagre number of reviews?

Unfortunately, as a hotelier, one simply cannot take these platforms lightly. As customers do their homework, Online Reputation Management has become a critical aspect of conversion.

Futurists predict that by 2025 there will only be one worldwide hotel booking platform – ‘’Tripadvisor’’!

We have all cringed as we have witnessed a negative social media story unfold in ‘viral’ space. Not a pleasant situation for any business. Thus, it is important to take these reviews and complaints and comments seriously, to investigate and respond to each one individually and professionally. In fact, responding to online reviews is a critical component of modern hotel management. Gone are the days where a ‘cut and paste’ response is considered satisfactory.

The big question is how seriously we (and the guest) should take these reviews into account when we are rating our true guest satisfaction and the performance of our team. Whom do we trust? A portion of our managers’ bonuses and incentives are based on guest feedback reports; therefore, we need reliable statistics to be certain of our measurement tools.

Old school taught us that a 5% sample of guest feedback would suffice, but we have upped this to 25% to get an even more realistic read. Of course, it’s natural for guests to complain before they compliment. But angry guests needs to be heard – and will seek out any platform available for sharing their experiences. And today there are certainly many platforms for venting.  

In light of the myriad of review platforms available, we now take a new approach, bringing things back to ground level. We rely heavily on our eGuestSurv reviews. Our general managers have a requirement: 20 interviews per month over a cup of coffee with guests during their stay, and a 92% satisfaction index per hotel. We will soon be rolling out our ‘Truth Booth’ at our properties – a booth-type webcam where guests can rate us via video.  After all, guest satisfaction and happy staff are directly linked, so we need to be in touch with our guests, face to face, inviting them to take a seat at each of our morning ‘boardroom’ meetings.

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