Welcome to Episode 4 of the Confessions of a Hotel General Manager series, a new series on the issues that keep GMs up at night. Each episode explores in detail the trials and tribulations of what it takes to manage a hotel, painting a candid portrait of what goes on behind the scenes. Aliases are used to protect the identity of our subjects, and so we can bring you, the reader, their stories.
In this episode, we will share a story about “Cheryl”, an experienced resort general manager who recently relocated from Atlantic City to Las Vegas and what she did to improve online reviews and overall brand reputation at her new hotel.
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Episode 4: Improving Brand Reputation
The Las Vegas Strip is arguably the world’s entertainment mecca. Illuminated by bright lights from some of the most luxurious hotels, restaurants and clubs in the world, there’s an endless amount of exciting and memorable experiences awaiting the people who come here. And while there’s a saying that “What happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas,” that’s not true when it comes to a bad review.
Let’s meet Cheryl, a new general manager at a large hotel & casino on the Las Vegas Strip. Cheryl recently relocated from Atlantic City where she served as the director of guest services at a well-known resort.
Coming from a role where guest experience was always the top priority, my passion lies in finding ways to make our guests feel special. When you delight guests not only does it give you a personal sense of accomplishment, but they are also more apt to share their experiences with others, which is always a good thing!
Historically, online review sites like TripAdvisor bring in almost half of our room bookings each month due to the influence reviews have on the guest decision.
During my first leadership meeting with some of our executives, it was brought to my attention that our guest satisfaction ratings were declining, which was causing online reviews and ratings to suffer as well.
After the meeting, I went online to see what kind of feedback people were leaving. Sites like TripAdvisor are great when you get good reviews, but it’s gut-wrenching to read one bad review, let alone many.
This was one horrifying review I came across:
The more I scrolled, the more I wished I hadn’t; long waits, guests not able to find staff members to help them, complaints and requests never addressed, uninterested staff, and a couple “worst service I’ve ever had.” Maybe I should have stayed in Atlantic City...
“How do I get more positive reviews from guests and boost our brand reputation?”
Finding Feedback Trends
Clearly, there were a lot of things we were doing wrong. If we wanted to be competitive with the other hotels on the strip, I had to figure out what was making these guests’ experiences so awful. I started by analyzing guest feedback.
Over the next week or two, I spent much of my free time digging through months of guest feedback by way of post-stay emails, feedback cards, as well as feedback from the front desk agents.
There were two things that really stood out to me:
1. The number of guest feedback via email and feedback cards decreased month after month over the last year, which was our primary source for feedback.
2. Most of the complaints could have been resolved or even prevented altogether if we had a way to communicate with guests in real-time.
For the most part, guests tell us when their experience is memorably great or memorably terrible. The fact that we were getting less negative feedback was not necessarily a good thing because we lose touch on how our guests feel about their stay.
Often times, guests itineraries are jam-packed with a lot of activities in a short amount of time. In order for us to get feedback, we had to find a timely and more convenient way to get it from them without interrupting their trip.
Getting Real-time Guest Feedback
I knew that the old way was antiquated. We used to hand out physical feedback cards to guests upon checkout, but many of them ended up in the trash or scattered across the parking lot. There are a million things a guest can be doing in Las Vegas throughout the day -- the last thing they’ll want to take time out of their day for is filling out a hotel survey. We needed a faster and more convenient method.
We found that emails were becoming less and less effective as guests only responded to emails regarding unidentified charges. We needed a more real-time solution to supplement the current efforts.
I called a team meeting to brainstorm better ways for increasing feedback and reviews. During the meeting, a colleague mentioned that he used to work at a hotel that enabled guests to send feedback via text message. It was an interesting idea, and definitely fit the prerogative of being timely and convenient. We all thought that it was worth a shot!
We implemented a guest text messaging software and started sending our guests feedback surveys via text message. We also created a strategy that included sending a welcome message upon check-in letting guests know that they can text our staff for anything, including anything that is not up to their satisfaction.
We also sent our guests mid-stay surveys to ensure we got ahead of any potential issues that guests may have had to help improve service recovery. By responding to them right away, we could be able to fix the problem before any negative reviews were written online. An end of stay survey was sent to guests after checkout to gauge their overall satisfaction with their experience.
There were still a few instances where guests didn’t respond to our survey and left a negative review. To address this issue, we started using a social media monitoring software and set up alerts whenever a review was left on TripAdvisor or other review or social media sites so our staff can respond to negative reviews or comments as soon as possible to resolve any outstanding issues any guest may have.
Boosting TripAdvisor Ratings
Because our hotel gets almost half of our bookings from TripAdvisor, it’s crucial that our happiest guests leave us positive reviews there.
One of the pros of a using guest text messaging software is its ability to automate guest feedback and reviews. Using our guest messaging software, we can send guests feedback surveys as well as links to online review sites based on their checkout date.
Additionally, we were able to trigger alerts to me or another manager on duty whenever a guest leaves a feedback score of 3 or lower (On a scale of 1-5, 5 being the best). This enabled us to quickly respond and fix any issues the guest has before they leave our property and post a negative review.
Above all, we were able to boost positive reviews and ratings from guests who respond with a 4 or 5 by sending happy guests directly to TripAdvisor to leave a review without signing up for an account or logging in.
A couple of months after we began sending out feedback surveys via text message, we started seeing an influx of positive feedback and reviews from guests loving the text messaging service!
This was great to see because it allowed other potential guests to see that we really care about our guest experience and will go the extra step to make them feel special.
The key driver to getting more feedback is making it as easy and quick as possible for guests.
I knew that all hotel guests loved the convenience, but I didn’t realize how much reducing barriers for them to engage with us could lead to more feedback. By catering to their desire for ease and convenience, we are able to be more attentive to every guest and make sure their stay is not just good, but AWESOME.
In our business, a major part of our product IS our service, so being able to reach guests where they are, enables us to learn more about their experience and continue to improve and expand as a brand.
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