Last month, online reputation management company TrustYou announced it had become a global authorized partner of TripAdvisor. The partnership gives TrustYou’s clients the ability to monitor and analyze in real time all the data from TripAdvisor. Ben Jost, co-founder and CEO of TrustYou, the Munich and Dallas-headquartered company, recently took some time to discuss exactly what that means, and why online reputation needs to be a priority for hoteliers.
How can hoteliers manage their online reputation and why should they consider tools like those offered by TrustYou?
Today as a hotelier, if you want to track what people write about you on TripAdvisor or Booking.com or Priceline, you can log into each, dig through reviews, look, and sometimes you can respond, like at TripAdvisor. Then the next day, you log in and do it all again. That’s the status quo in terms of what you can do to manage your online reputation. It’s not a cost effective way to do things. It’s time consuming, especially if you have more than one hotel.
We gather all this information into our platform, and let you manage all these different data points, perform analytics and you can manage all of these without logging into each.
What does the partnership with TripAdvisor add?
We now have a direct relationship and get all the data. Everyone else who doesn’t has to screen scrape the sites and you can miss reviews that way, and you have to do it every day. So basically the data collecting is unreliable. We’re the sole provider now with access to its entire database. Some have access to the most recent five reviews, which is good, but it doesn’t give you the ability to get extensive analysis.
Why is managing your online reputation important?
There is so much research, so many key facts I could say: 70% of consumers trust online reviews. Social media directly influences 83% of all online bookings. And 50% of guests won’t book without looking at a review. Another interesting study shows the more reviews you get, the better scores or overall ratings you get. In general, 80% of reviews are positive. And you get higher room rates and more bookings with better ratings.
So this could and should affect pricing strategies?
It’s starting to. Probably less than 5% of hotels do now, but I see that changing.
What should a hotel’s strategy be with online reviews?
If people are booking on reviews — and that’s just a fact — the only strategy is ‘If you can’t beat them, join them.’ They should ask, ‘What can I really do to leverage reviews for my own benefit. ‘ The hotel itself is the biggest generator of reviews, but they’re called guest satisfaction surveys. Hotels gather 10 times more reviews or surveys than what they get from TripAdvisor. If you could use all those surveys and push those to TripAdvisor and the others sources, then you could really start adding a lot of reviews. And the more reviews, the more positive ratings, and the more likely people will be to book…
So this is a new way to gauge guest satisfaction?
I’m totally convinced guest satisfaction surveys will morph into reviews. A survey is a review, so call it and treat it like that. I totally see what the industry did with pricing, by pushing rates to different channels, happening here. Push reviews to those different (review) channels. It’s the same thing.
How would that work?
We offer a survey or review and then we can push those to other websites, but only a percentage to each. Let’s say we get 100 reviews, 25% could go to Google Places, 20% could go to the European Trip Advisor, 10% to Trip Advisor since they probably have the most already, and maybe the rest hotels would collect for internal use and their website.
So how does this factor into hotels’ social media strategies?
What I often see at conferences is people talking about social media strategy and Facebook and Twitter. Those aren’t influencing your revenues or on a low scale. The number-one priority for hoteliers is reviews. Those are really affecting revenues.
What should hotels do?
You should start managing reviews. If you’re not buying a tool, identify the three or four key channels or maybe more. Monitor those; see what people write, respond to the good and bad, which has a better effect than no response. Then check and track over time.
Bad reviews, or worse, fake reviews, are the biggest fears many hoteliers have about this concept…
In general, we can prove with many statistics there are no massive amounts of fake reviews. Sure, on an individual level, there are some, but not a whole lot. For a hotelier who worries about a fake review, don’t bother fighting against those. You should instead be defining a strategy to get more reviews. Two fake reviews among 10 would hurt more than if you had 100 or more. You don’t want less reviews, you want more.
How can you get more reviews and how should you use those?
You can’t build your own review site; you just can’t do that as a brand. No one will trust you. So you need a provider that is trustworthy; use existing sites like TripAdvisor, Booking.com, Expedia and incorporate those reviews on your website. Mix that with reviews you collect from an independent third party.
How can hotels collect reviews, or how will this new way of guest satisfaction surveying work in the future?
Send a post-stay email: ‘Hey Mr. Smith, hope you enjoyed your stay, could you take a minute to write a short review…’ and give them a link to your own survey or it could go to something powered by TripAdvisor or us or anyone. The end customer doesn’t care where it comes from and many will give their feedback. We just started this with a group in Australia, who got rid of their guest satisfaction survey provider and they’re now getting 50 reviews per month per hotel on average. They generate their own reviews and push certain percentages to the review sites.