Hotels Can Leverage Guest Survey Sentiment To Boost Their Appeal

by December 7, 2011 7:31 am In The News

Is it time to disrupt the hospitality survey services industry? TrustYou thinks so. Today it’s launching its ReviewAnalyst Survey, a free guest satisfaction tool that hotels and hotel chains can use to integrate information from visitor surveys with information in social media reviews, and potentially bolster their reputation among consumers as a result.

TrustYou already monitors social sentiment across the web in online reviews, posts, and comments for the hotel, travel, and restaurant sectors.“Our key advantage is that we are the only ones in the space, I think, who tackled the key fundamentals of how can we scale this in as many languages as we want to,” says CEO Ben Jost. “That’s very interesting for the hospitality industry, because it’s very international. We currently have 12 languages and today, if we have enough content, we can add a new language each day if we want to. And we can learn the key concepts for a new vertical every three to four weeks.”

Jost says TrustYou accomplishes its semantic and sentiment judgments with a combination of computational linguistics and algorithms. The former approach, Jost says, leads to very precise results but requires too much manual work. The latter is highly scalable, if less precise. “We wanted to find a middle way,” he says, which turned out to involve manual training of vertical content for a defined period, and then letting the algorithms basically learn from that to come up with the best precision and recall possible.

“There is information out there and if you are smart enough to gather it, it tells you a lot about words, where they have to be placed, and what they mean in context,” he says. For example, if a review is talking about the toilet in a hotel, the context is that is an expression of a negative sentiment, because it’s unlikely anyone would bring up the word toilet for any other reason. “No one ever says, ‘Wow, what a great toilet!’” Jost points out. TrustYou also leverages crowd-sourcing from its base of about 6,000 customers to help its algorithms further learn about content in context.

One Place For All Comments

Customers today use the information the tool unearths in the social media space to respond to comments there, or to share internally to improve service or monitor the competition. Its TrustYou Seal of Approval is a stamp with a global review score, based on how the technology calculates the sentiment out there in social media, that a hotel can use on its own or on third-party web sites to convince potential guests that it’s a good value. “For the consumer it means they can trust the reviews and recommendations in social travel sites across the web if they have the TrustYou seal on them,” Jost says.

But social media is just one feeder now. Hotels regularly give customers who have stayed at their properties surveys via email or other means, generally asking them to rate various factors on a scale of 1 to 10. And, Jost says, about 20 to 30 percent of those contacted actually do respond. “A couple of companies have historically provided this survey information and they get a lot of money for it,” he says. “It’s an industry whose time it is to be disrupted.” The opportunity was there, he says, to let hotels continue to have customers score them on various factors, but also to write a review that its semantic technology “can basically digest to seewhat they liked and disliked and what topics they are talking about.”

Plus, the only way to get a full picture of what people really think about a property is to see what they tell you when you ask and what they tell other people, unsolicited, out there on social media, he says.

Add the requested user feedback findings to the information gleaned on the social web and together they can become a direct reputation marketing asset, he says. That is, assuming the customer agrees not to filter the data in any way. “We say if you opt in, you don’t have to use this data externally – you can use it just internally for monitoring,” Jost says. “But if you want to do it for marketing, you can either push everything out there or nothing.”

The company says this technology can translate to other verticals easily, and that its ability to scale means to be on the lookout for its impact on generic search engines, too.