Online Hotel Reputation Management in Kenya
Reputation = Revenue
A high online reputation index in the hotel industry is a clear indication that you are exceeding the expectations of your guest. If you manage your reputation effectively then you can boost your average daily rates (ADR). Reputation management simply means controlling what is being said about your business online and actively employing the necessary strategies to improve the reputation of your hotel.
Reputation has become important because today buyers have access to large amounts of information. Regardless of the industry you are in, now there are reviews, walk-through videos and guides to assists customers in decision making. Therefore reputation management has become an important part of online marketing. Nonetheless, the hospitality or hotel industry has specific challenges as far as reputation is concerned. In the past, a good review in some of the major publications such as the standard, daily nation or the magazines would keep your hotel’s reputation at the top. However, this has changed, now everyone is reviewing. Sites like Jumia Travel, Booking.com, TripAdvisor, and Travelstart, have made it easier for customers to rate their experience in your hotel. Such reviews have become critical to the purchase by making it easier for customers to make an informed decision. However, on the negative side, for hoteliers you might have to invest more in boosting your reputation rather than relying on customer loyalty.
The harsh truth that hotelier has to deal with now is that customers trust reviews more than the marketing information provided on the hotel website. This is mainly because many customers assume that businesses hide the truth in their marketing messages. Nevertheless, some disgruntled customers may leave harsh reviews. However, customers are not stupid; they may not believe one harsh review among a ton of positive ones. But if three-quarters of your reviews are negative?
That notwithstanding, selecting a hotel is an important decision especially for a customer interested in quality service. For instance, if you are taking someone out for special treatment the last thing you want is poor services especially if you are paying some serious money. This is why customers take their time to read more about the hotel before submitting credit details. It is thus important to protect the reputation of your hotel through reviews, news, social media and forums. Here are some of the strategies you can use to manage your reputation.
1. Embrace your specialization
The best way to manage your hotel reputation is to prevent harmful reviews in the first place. Generally, negative reviews are as a result of customer disappointment especially when your services do not match what you promised. You can overcome this by identifying your unique selling point and building on that. Understanding and building on your unique selling point is the first point through which a customer establishes a layer of trust in your hotel.
If your hotel is located somewhere in Karen Nairobi a customer can easily buy a serene and calm environment as a unique selling point. If it’s Westlands Nairobi then you can sell the scenic view of Nairobi as well as a calm environment. If its Mombasa then the beach experience, scenic ocean view, and romantic environment can be your unique selling point. If it’s a place like Ngara then offering a quick business rest is likely to sell. You may not be located next to a breathtaking view or a beach but you can be at the center of a busy town such as Nairobi where customers can have a quick and nice stopover. The great way to differentiate is to offer customers what your competitors can’t or don’t.
2. Watch and respond to reviews
It’s important to monitor what people say about your business and reviews is the best place to start. Having built a brand and a good rating to support it, a negative review can be detrimental to your sales and brand in general. Typically, reviews are listed in reverse chronological order, that is, the newest come first. Therefore, a fresh harsh review can be easily found by a visitor which makes it important to keep a close eye on them. The sooner you find negative reviews the better your chances of salvaging your reputation. You can hire a reputable digital marketing agency for this or use in-house marketing team.
A few seconds spent by a customer to write a negative review can be harmful and costly for your hotel. In most cases, the customer is genuinely disappointed or some just want to harm your business. However, there are effective ways of improving harmful reviews. The most important factor in improving a bad review is the response time. An angry customer wants to feel heard but the response should be timely otherwise they will not bother changing the review. It is no doubt that well-intentioned customers are likely to change their negative reviews if you do a proper follow-up. A follow up could mean giving a special offer they can redeem in their next visit or simply just apologizing and promising to improve in that particular area. The bottom line is to show that you care about their feedback. If you can prove that you care about their feelings then you will be able to win their happiness.
3. Ask happy guests for reviews
There is nothing wrong with asking happy customers for reviews. Just approach a guest you feel enjoyed their stay and explain to them how important a review is to you. You can incentivize feedback by sending a follow-up email a few days after their stay. Alternatively, you can encourage feedback by offering something in return such as a cup of coffee. However, the best way to go about it is through the personal ask which can be done by the desk manager or concierge targeting customers leaving the establishment after a happy stay.
4. Ensuring customer satisfaction
One of the best ways of preventing negative reviews is by simply upgrading or improving your services. The performance of your marketing efforts is as good as your services. For example, the reviews below were pulled from Jumia Travel for a certain hotel. In such a case there is no need for investing in reputation management. If a visitor finds the first 5 reviews negative then there is the likelihood of him or her leaving your page.
5. Track and respond to your customers on social media
According to PRWEB , 83% of consumers admitted to having discovered new services and products and business through social media on monthly basis. This demonstrates how social media forms a critical part of your reputation management efforts. You don’t want a prospective customer to learn about your hotel in a negative manner. It is true that some customers may not reveal their dissatisfaction directly to you but rather share their experiences inform of complaints or critiques on social media and in most cases they won’t tag. Such feedback can either boost your reputation or damage it all together. Fortunately, there are social listening tools for tracking and responding to such mentions. Quick response to complaints or positive feedback shows customers that you care about their feeling and willing to help besides fulfilling the customer service responsibility.
6. Monitor online negative stories
Online stories include blogs, vlogs, and news sites such as Nation media, the standard and citizen TV among others. Many customers especially non-locals prefer researching and reading more about a hotel before submitting their credit card. In most cases, news sites and blogs are likely to rank higher on Google search than your hotel website and if the stories are negative then they can be detrimental to your reputation. Sites like nation.co.ke, standardmedia.co.ke, and citizentv.co.ke receive hundreds of thousands of visitors monthly and therefore the impact of a negative story can be overwhelming. Therefore, it is important to track and ensure that such stories are checked. Don’t get me wrong most viewers or readers find negative stories juicy and that’s why the media won’t hesitate to share them. That notwithstanding, error is to human, and what makes the difference is how you get passed it. Take for example the story that involved a breastfeeding mother at Olive Restaurant which hit most Kenya media news and even trended on social media.
This is an incredibly effective way of addressing negative stories on news sites. If you type the word “Olive Restaurant “ on Google search, the first result page would be full of media stories about the breastfeeding saga. However, a number of the headlines are about either the restaurant apologizing or trying to give their side of the story. Otherwise, without a response from the hotel, a customer would quickly assume that the hotel does not allow breastfeeding in their property thus keeping them away from visiting the establishment.
Youtubers or Vloggers
Another front of reputation management that hoteliers have to deal with is the emerging generation of vloggers popularly known as YouTubers. Unlike mainstream media, YouTube allows users to freely share their opinions about your business which can either be positive or negative. There are many hoteliers now investing in YouTubers for reviews. While their following might not be huge compared to mainstream media, they have loyal followers which can easily convert to customers or be persuaded away from your brand. The number of YouTubers in Kenya is fast growing and now we have dedicated hotel review YouTubers such as Miss Trudy, Brian Kimani, Kemunto Bear and Swahili gal among others. There are also other Youtubers vlogging on general topics with an even larger number of followers and may even have visited your hotel. Some of them give free and random reviews based on requests from their followers. Alternatively, you can reach out to them for a paid review but you have to do your research in terms of their target audience and how it will impact your business in terms of growing your numbers. Similarly, this can be done by your marketing team or you can hire a digital marketing agency with the right tools and know how to do it for you.
If the vloggers happen to have given a free positive review then don’t hesitate to make most out of it. There are not many businesses lucky enough to receive such a free publicity. You can make the most out of it by sharing the video on your social media accounts and tagging the Youtuber or the influencer.
Other than vloggers and news sites, there are blog sites focusing specifically on the hotels and hospitality industry in general such as Chick About Town, Fun Travel Kenya, Jeen Gichuhi, and Bonita on Safari among others. You can reach out to them to see if they can write about your hotel. Depending on your agreement you can offer cash payment, a free night, a trip or all.
Let us help you increase your revenue through reputation management
Well, that’s what we had for online reputation management but, we look forward to updating the article in the near future. We hope that the list helps you kick-start online reputation management efforts for your hotel.
Pryton Technologies is a digital marketing company offering services such as search engine optimization, social media advertising, content marketing, web design and email marketing. We have a competent team ready to help you increase revenue through online reputation management. We can also empower your in-house marketing team on the online reputation management skills through Training. Meanwhile, you can submit your hotel website for FREE SEO analysis.