Sharing whatever we’re doing, seeing, experiencing, has become the norm in life.

The ease with which we can post instantly on social media can lead to a blurring between our own lives and those of complete strangers.

I write this on the day after the notorious drugs lord ‘El Chapo’ was sentenced in court – while the actor who plays him in a Netflix show was also in the room, watching in person! Meanwhile, members of the public were, inevitably, posting it all over the internet.

As the lines between reality and fiction blur and we get used to sharing or seeing everything so easily, consumers are ever more likely to reach for social media or the nearest review site to share their experiences, both good and bad.

When it comes to hospitality, we have spoken often about the rise of the image-led social media sites – how ‘Instagrammable’ a destination is can be a leading factor, especially for some younger travellers, when making their travel choices. And phones now take superb pictures and offer huge caches of storage, so we can photograph everything and everywhere, and keep that record pretty much forever.

Now we must remember, of course, that online reputation is not a measure of quality. It is simply measuring the difference between expectation and delivery. But the OTAs where people have made their bookings are hugely powerful globally, and reviews on their sites have enormous influence for the consumer.

I had previously assumed that when it comes to reviewing trips, people only bother themselves to post if they’re absolutely fuming about some failure in customer service or delivery, or if they want to shout about the drains or the broken window or the ripped bedding. Or if they’re basking in the afterglow of something special, as much to boast about their luck and their great taste as much as trying to help others make decisions.

But our partners at ReviewPro have found that this is not always the case. Many people review every trip they take, happily posting less extreme reactions. The incredible in-depth data ReviewPro aggregate across all online review sites in one dashboard can expose much more interesting statistics – especially if you want to improve your customer engagement and experience with the least financial or time outlay.

For instance, last year across the twelve months of 2018, ReviewPro’s data for serviced apartments shows that, while almost three-quarters of reviews were positive, less than 8% were negative. What stands out, though, is that 18.3% of reviews were neutral, scoring perhaps 5 or 6 out of 10, or 3 out of 5.

This kind of information is invaluable when combined with other available data around the semantic content. For instance, where negative points were raised, even in otherwise positive or neutral reviews, noise was the highest on the list, with 83% negative mentions, and air-con followed with 79%. While an operator cannot change a location or the build-design of a building without major work – or even relocating – a smaller tweak to a better air-con system could bring rewards in terms of customer perception and loyalty.

And beds and sleep are also regularly mentioned as a negative. Why? What can be changed – if anything – to bring a better experience and lead to better reviews, especially now when the sharing of reviews has led to a general raising of expectation around the quality of the whole experience. No longer is an overnight stay seen simply as somewhere to sleep.

In future articles we will be discussing some key finding from data around guest expectation when negative reviews are posted, and the response they see from management; in-depth study of semantics and which terms occur most regularly – and how to counter them; the rise of review sites you may not have considered worth monitoring, and which ones to stay on top of; and how ReviewPro can add value to your own business operation, helping you focus on what is really important – consumers – and how engaging with them can benefit your brand perception, tweak your offering, and ultimately, improve your bottom line.

These are indeed interesting times. Even under the shadow of GDPR, data should not be seen as the enemy. Really understanding data about your own customer can help you change your business for the real world.

James Foice, CEO, ASAP


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