During ReviewPro’s recent webinar, Using 2022 Data for 2023 Planning, Danica Smith, Director of Product Engagement, shared tips and insights for using the latest review data to improve the guest experience and online reputation.
At ReviewPro, through analyzing the data in our latest Global Hotel Review Benchmark report and talking with our clients, we’ve learned that guest satisfaction isn’t where it was before the pandemic. We know that occupancy rates and average daily rates (ADR) have been higher, which is fantastic, but with fewer staff on property there is an operational gap across the accommodation sector.
The Rise of Negative Reviews
Unfortunately, that’s glaringly evident when we look at the review data. We’ve observed a rise in negative ratings and mentions in review comments. The trend is evident across review sources, from Booking.com to Tripadvisor, and across accommodation types, from five-star beach resorts to three-star airport hotels.
What’s Hurting the Guest Experience?
So let’s understand why. Unfortunately, not all factors were under the control of hoteliers. The summer of 2022 ranked among the hottest on record in some countries. So it’s no surprise that one of the main drivers of negative comments was problems with air conditioning.
In our analysis of guest sentiment in reviews from our data set of 7,500 hotels, we observed negative trends in three main categories in Q3 2022:
- Room. This category had the largest negative impact on the Global Review Index™ (GRI™), driving it down by 2.5 points. Remember that every one-point increase in the GRI™ can lead to an increase in ADR of up to 0.89%, in occupancy of up to 0.54%, and in RevPAR (revenue per available room) of up to 1.42%, according to research from Cornell University.
- Cleanliness. Cleanliness is also extremely important to travelers, especially since the outbreak of the pandemic. Unfortunately, complaints about cleanliness drove down the GRI™ by 1.9 points in Q3. And that’s predominantly due to housekeeping recruitment issues, which are happening across the industry.
- Establishment. Some properties are outdated and in need of renovation, and it’s showing up in online reviews. The good news is hoteliers now have evidence to show owners why capital investments and property upgrades must be a priority.
How to Improve the Guest Experience & Online Reputation in 2023
Drawing from further analysis of Q3 data, here are six areas to focus on in 2023 to improve the guest experience and online reputation.
1. Focus on Better Hotel Food & Beverage Experiences
What is fascinating to us at ReviewPro is the rise of food & beverage in shaping guest sentiment. F&B was the most mentioned category across the guest experience in Q3 2022, accounting for almost 15% of total mentions.
However, there is a negative trend when we compare sentiment to 2019. So it’s important that staff understands what’s driving positive mentions in the F&B department, what’s causing negative mentions, and what you need to do operationally to boost positive sentiment.
One area to look at is technology. For example, a digital dining solution can bring phenomenal results. After one ReviewPro client implemented a QR code in guestrooms to support room service, 96% of all room service orders were placed digitally, a total of 280 orders per week. Within three months, the hotel had doubled its F&B revenue from the previous year.
2. Reduce Queues and Wait Times at Every Stage of the Guest Journey
Another problem area we identified is queues. Guests are having to wait in line and on hold and aren’t receiving responses to queries. Hotels can’t afford to receive bad reviews these days, especially considering that review volume is still well below pandemic times.
So again, you have to prioritize what you can do strategically and operationally to eliminate these kinds of issues and pain points. One area to look for solutions is automation. For example, you can significantly reduce queue times by introducing a chatbot to respond to frequently asked questions. For one of our clients, a hotel group with 30 properties, 68% of guest queries were all the same eight questions. What time is breakfast? How far is the airport? Do you have Wi-Fi?
With fewer employees on property, is answering the same questions over and over a good use of staff’s time? Why not use automation to help streamline housekeeping and maintenance requests, making sure that the right request goes to the right department and is acted on in real time in the correct way.
Another way to reduce queues is to offer online check-in and check-out. After one of our clients implemented a digital check-in solution, guests who used the service gave 2.8% higher ratings for the arrival experience. It also helped improve overall ratings by 4.2%. Remember how higher review scores can impact your RevPAR!
Think about how you can harness technology to provide a frictionless experience that drives positive reviews. We shouldn’t be afraid to use automation for guest-facing tasks. It’s certainly not going to replace employees. It’s there to free staff up to focus on what really matters – the guest experience.
3. Use Exceptional Service to Boost Review Scores
When hotels leverage technology in the right way, it positively impacts reputation and the guest experience. From our semantic analysis of review comments in Q3 2022, we know that mentions in reviews related to service, attitude, and personality rose in the quarter. If you can implement a chatbot, for example, to free up the receptionist from having to say what time breakfast is 50 times a day and instead provide a more elevated level of service, that will filter into positive reviews.
4. Invest in Your Staff and Reap the Benefits
One of our clients, Aquaria Natal Hotel in Brazil, invested heavily in its staff during the pandemic, rolling out creative initiatives like care baskets for team members, medical coverage, and support for mental wellbeing to help ensure staff were happy and motivated. How those initiatives trickled through to guest reviews was phenomenal. The property went from the #59 position in its region on Tripadvisor to the #1 position. It also increased ADR by 55% during the same period.
At ReviewPro, we’re obsessed with the guest experience. We firmly believe that “happy staff equals happy guests.” Not only do hoteliers need to look at technology solutions to improve the guest experience, you also need to look at how technology can alleviate pressure points for staff and keep them motivated, happy, and loyal.
5. Get Ready for More Business Travelers
Business travel is coming back! Hotels that want to welcome more business travelers next year should bear in mind how different guest segments have different needs. It’s important to look at ratings and comments in each guest segment to understand what different types of travelers expect and how their needs may have changed since the pandemic. For business travelers in particular, hotels should focus on comments related to value perception, room quality, and establishment.
6. Look for Correlations in Data
What does this mean for next year? We also need to look at correlations. This means:
- Measure & monitor. Make data-driven decisions across the business. Continuously measure the results and adapt as needed.
- Understand the impact. For example, how does your web chat service impact your Net Promoter Score (NPS)? And how does digital dining impact the overall guest experience?
- Connect the dots. For example, guests who engage with upsell initiatives are more likely to have a higher NPS. And guests who use online check-in are more likely to return.
For more data and insights, sign up to receive your free copy of the Q3 2022 Global Hotel Review Benchmark: