How to use TripAdvisor to win guests and grow your business

There is no magic formula for achieving a high ranking on TripAdvisor but what we do know is that a meticulous approach is essential. A big part of that is hiring great people, people who love to serve. Ritesh Gupta reports

Whether hotels like it or not, they cannot ignore TripAdvisor. Not only do people today write reviews, they also read reviews in the course of planning a trip. Not all happy guests will write a review but it is increasingly recognised that people are more likely to write a positive review than a negative one. That is more than enough reason to take the satisfaction of guests seriously. 

One hospitality brand that is doing this is the New York-based Library Hotel Collection. Over the last three years it has made the top seven hotels in New York on TripAdvisor, and is always in the top 10. In addition, its Casablanca Hotel has been #1 for over three years.

The group’s efforts have paid off because having a high ranking on TripAdvisor in a key market like New York generates tremendous demand for the hotel. Why? Because the ranking is a reflection of the perceived value of the experience you offer, says Adele Gutman, vice president sales, marketing and revenue at Library Hotel Collection. “People will pay a premium to select a hotel with a high ranking because it gives them confidence that they will have the experience they are hoping for,” she says.

TripAdvisor is free and influential

According to Gutman, the group’s hotels are so full she never has to pay for outside companies to drive traffic to their websites. It is a no-brainer: after all, “it is free to be on TripAdvisor and TripAdvisor is the world’s most influential travel website with 200,000 unique visitors each month.”

Consider this: Just one of hotel in the collection will have anywhere from 20,000 to nearly 200,000 profile views every 30 days. That is tremendous positive exposure that Gutman could not afford to pay for. What makes it more relevant is that travellers put far more trust in consistent feedback given by other travellers, than they ever would in a paid message from an advertiser. “When I walk around our clubroom and ask people how they heard about us, it is all word of mouth and social media, but mostly what I hear is, ‘We found you on TripAdvisor’,” says Gutman.

There is no shortcut for achieving a high rank year after year. “The secret is our people,” says Gutman. “We hire happy people who love to be of service, and we train them and coach them to create a sense of pride in people pleasing.”

The trick is to hire natural people pleasers. “If you do your bit to help them develop their skills and give them all the tools, plus the freedom to use their imagination and creative problem solving skills, needed to make people happy, you will be inspired to see how far they are ready to go for guests,” says Gutman. Great people add so much value to a property; a guest will forgive you the unimportant physical shortcomings that almost any hotel has to deal with to some extent.  

Working TripAdvisor to your advantage

So how does this work in practice? When the group receives negative feedback it doesn’t brush it off, but instead the team pools the creativity of all its managers to find solutions for the guest. On the other hand, when the group achieves a positive review, the team celebrates. The staff is constantly encouraged to offer great service and look for innovative ways to delight guests.

This means focusing on every minute detail. According to Gutman, this means breaking down the experience into every likely touch point the guest may have with the hotel. Then imagine likely scenarios be those answering a reservation request email or checking someone in. “Envisage what practices can take the mundane delivery of a service and transform it into an opportunity to connect with the guests and make the guest feel ‘C.A.R.E.’”, says Gutman. That is marketing speak for truly ‘Cared for, Appreciated, and Respected at Every encounter.’ In essence, this level of service is what Gutman is hoping to instill in every member of staff.

To achieve this, Gutman says they do not stick to a defined training schedule, but rather try to weave best practices – and review these - into every day tasks. “This keeps our priorities and values at the forefront of everyone’s mind every day,” she says. When staff are given positive feedback from guests, and enthusiastic reviews, they feel proud that their efforts are really appreciated – and in the hospitality business, this is what it is all about.

Top tips for getting it right

So what are Gutman’s top tips:

·         Get all your most creative problem solvers together and go through the reviews to understand what people are saying about you now.

·         Look at the positives and think about how to deliver that experience to all guests at every encounter.

·         Examine negative comments and work to solve those issues, or at least do all the things you can to diminish future negative responses.

·         Imagine the kind of reviews you would like to have and be the hotel that would inspire those reviews.

·         Create a storyboard for each guest touch point, detailing the kind of behaviour and best practice that you know should produce a very happy outcome.

·         Then train, coach and inspire your team every day to do all that they can to make guests happy.

·         Motivate them by giving them a sense of pride in their work and pride in service. Show your appreciation and celebrate their success.

Create a culture of continuous improvement, where changes are made not because we did anything wrong before, but because we all want to learn to do things better tomorrow. 

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