By Jennifer Rodrigues
Reprinted from EHotelier.
Q: I’ve been hearing a lot about user-generated content. Is that something that I need to leverage when marketing my hotel?
A: In the hotel industry, user-generated content (UGC) generally refers to consumer-generated reviews and comments on travel review sites, online travel agency sites and blogs. It is important to designate/differentiate between UGC within the hotel industry versus UGC in general, which can mean anything from user graphics, social media, Web 2.0, reviews, comments, videos, pictures, etc.
Q: What is the best way to utilize user-generated content to a hotel’s advantage, given the lack of control of content?
UGC should be used to gain insight into what customers want, the areas in which you might be deficient and to interact and develop relationships with your customers (depending on the venue). A good rule of thumb for using UGC is monitor, resolve and engage.
Keep a close eye primarily on sites that drive your booking. Look for ways to improve from the reviews: Is there something you’re missing that the customers expect? Are there common threads to the negative reviews? For example, does it seem from the reviews that you are behind the competition when it comes to complimentary Wi-Fi, dining or in-room services? Are customers consistently complaining about your décor, front desk or customer service?
Work to resolve the issues brought up in the negative reviews. All of the questions you ask in the “monitor” phase should be addressed in this phase. Notice I said, “addressed,” not “answered.” Some common complaints simply can’t be resolved due to their cost; however, all complaints should be analyzed and the ones that can be resolved, should be immediately.
Where and when it is appropriate, use UGC and social media for both pre- and post-sale benefits. Entice guests with new products and services before their visit. For example, link Twitter and Facebook to your site, and use them to announce new services (possibly services that stem from the monitor and resolve phases), and to give customers a convenient, constantly monitored “hot line” to your hotel. Especially in the event of a bad experience, post-sale benefits can smooth tension with customers. Use review sites to offer a “second chance” to redeem your property to disgruntled customers.
Q: Should I respond to negative comments?
A: Yes, but with caveats. Only respond if you are offering to improve customer experiences or to make good on a specific customer’s complaint. Try to establish the nature of the negative review before responding. If the answer is yes to any of the following, do not respond:
If you answered yes, don’t respond because your response could do more harm than good by starting an online “he said, she said” war with the reviewer. Never try to refute a guest’s review, even if it is unfair or bogus-this can have more of an adverse effect than the negative review itself, as it implies guilt and stubborn management – both negative traits in the eye of other consumers reading the reviews. Most consumers can recognize someone who is being irrational or overly negative for no reason and they will take that into consideration when booking their upcoming stay.
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Jennifer Rodrigues, Visibility Development Manager with ThinkInk and TravelInk’d, is a seasoned public relations professional with a passion for the hospitality industry, which is expressed in her role at ThinkInk’s travel division, TravelInk’d. At TravelInk’d, she is responsible for developing cost-effective and creative public relations and marketing strategies for clients in the travel and tourism, airline, lodging, cruise and meeting/event sectors. For more information on TravelInk’d, please visit www.travelinkd.com or contact Jennifer at firstname.lastname@example.org. For more news about PR and marketing in the travel industry, follow TravelInk’d on Twitter @TravelInkd and visit the TravelInk’d Facebook Fan Page.