How technology can help hotels protect their online reputation as they grapple with staffing issues |
We’re keeping our fingers crossed that this summer goes as planned, with a true scenario of resumption of travel leading to a sharp increase in occupancy of properties, large and small, urban and resort, and in all countries where it is judged safe to travel. But there is reputational risk in this boost to higher occupancy figures that can cause lasting damage to a brand if not properly addressed.
It comes down to a hotel’s ability to serve its customers. Staffing shortages are a big setback to operations and revenue maximization, and unfortunately, they’re not going away any time soon. For the rest of 2022, that means more incoming guests and fewer team members. Taken together, some requests and SOPs are bound to fail; as we well know, these service incidents will sooner or later show up in your online reviews.
To get a better idea of this challenge and what hotels can do to mitigate it while keeping the team lean, we reached out to Michael Kessler, CEO of ReviewPro, for additional insight.
“This period of pent-up travel demand comes and goes until we get some semblance of normality back, but these bad reviews on TripAdvisor and other OTAs are there to see it all,” Kessler said. “Currently, customers are heavily focused on post-pandemic rather than pre-pandemic hotel reviews, and that means reputation management – and ideally automating this task so as not to harm to team productivity – deserves a serious overhaul as we begin into this next era of travel.
From the guest’s point of view
It’s always enlightening to hear a different angle on the labor crisis; Kessler suggests that all hoteliers first take a step back and put themselves in the customer’s shoes. We’re so caught up in the day-to-day and trying to juggle staff schedules or room cleaning orders that we forget to look at the 2022 travel resumption from a customer perspective.
Frankly speaking, guests don’t care what happens operationally in a hotel; they just want a great experience, with a quick and efficient response to all their needs. This is particularly the case for those who have not been able to travel during the last two years of restrictions. Add to this that room prices can inevitably increase due to supply chain issues etc. and you have a guest with higher service expectations and a need for a pleasant and restful stay at your hotel, regardless of or the back-house staff.
often nicknamed Revenge Voyage 2.0, the coming recovery period could also see these travelers exit “with a vengeance” through more personal care, additional indulgences, increased demand for experiential amenities or activities, and ultimately for you, more revenue per hotel guest. As a classic “good problem to have”, this surplus of service requests and increased upsell volume further increases the execution load on your team, in turn increasing the possibility of errors resulting from service shortages. front line staff.
To help prevent negative reviews, we must learn to do “less with more,” which means using technology to cover parts of the job. Far from deploying a robot at the front desk, we refer to automation and AI tools for repetitive tasks to free up available staff to cover the customer side and more complex problem solving of the job. This can be done throughout the customer journey, for example by speeding up response times and opening communication channels.
Consider the entire customer journey
What to look for when upgrading your hotel’s tech stack? This automation of the customer journey must be approached systemically.
This may involve any or all of the following, with each aspect working to address the flip side of staffing shortages by freeing up manpower for other tasks:
- Schedule in-stay surveys and set up team notifications, so hoteliers can act quickly to provide on-site service recovery when needed.
- Consolidate requests from any digital platform – be it email, texting app or social media – so nothing is missed and the team is not not responsible for checking every channel.
- Consolidate all online reviews on one platform for managers to respond effectively with thanks and thanks, and for potential guests to see that the hotel is responsive and caring.
- Perfecting automated pre-arrival and post-departure communications to set the tone for a great on-site experience and maintain the brand relationship post-departure.
- Use a hospitality-specific chatbot to help automate the more repetitive aspects of inbound requests, whether for guests currently on-site or those who have yet to book a room.
- Offer benchmarks for reviewing sets of comparisons to give an idea of what a property needs to improve against other brands.
- Analyze the specific words of each review, using AI-powered tools to gauge performance not only on star changes, but also on customer sentiment and “sweet” suggestions.
Automation ultimately makes staff and guests happier
Your knee-jerk reaction to all of the various task automations outlined above is that it would scare associates of creative destruction. The exact opposite is happening, as Kessler demonstrated through the example of the Aquaria Natal hotel in Ponte Negra, Brazil, where happier staff inevitably translates into happier guests.
In this case, rolling out a review management platform was part of a concerted effort to truly care for employees — an effort that also involved better meals for staff, ongoing professional development, room discounts sports, medical coverage and on-site wellness advice. Before the pandemic, the property was ranked 59th out of 116 hotels in the area; now he’s number one.
Achieving such an improvement in Aquaria Natal’s rankings required daily review tracking, comment analysis, and performance benchmarking. However, follow-up was essential, including:
- Automated notifications to encourage staff to speak to a handful of guests each day
- Definition of a KPI allowing managers to respond to all reviews within 48 hours
- Specific to COVID-19, clear communications before and throughout stay so guests understand what services were available during rolling terms
- Weekly meetings to keep ownership above 95% on ReviewPro’s Global Review Index™
- Designated correspondents in each department to perform tasks based on reviews
- Personal phone calls from management to each customer who has filed a complaint
For your own property, consider another staff retention bonus of these tools, in that they can also be set up to notify managers when a particularly great review is posted or when a specific team member is praised by name. These celebratory snippets can then be printed and pinned in the staff lounge for all to see how great a job they are doing.
Sometimes it’s simple gestures of recognition like this that can go a long way in boosting morale and preventing turnover, absenteeism or presenteeism (when employees are present but disengaged). Especially during a workforce crisis where automation is already needed in many other ways, it’s reassuring to find these subtle yet creative ways to use existing technology to retain staff and build a great culture. organizational.
Together, the seven features above along with some of the other morale-boosting features of these platforms make a strong case for why hotel review management needs to be more focused in post-pandemic recovery. Staffing shortages will be an ever-present problem for the next year (at least!), making automation essential to maintaining quality service delivery. And as you can see from the example, even some of the seemingly inconsequential use cases can go a long way toward creating a healthy culture that then fosters a steady stream of great reviews online.
Larry and Adam Mogelonsky represent one of the world’s most published hospitality writing teams, with over a decade of material online. As partners of Hotel Mogel Consulting Limited, a Toronto-based consulting firm, Larry focuses on asset management, sales and operations while Adam specializes in hotel technology and marketing. Their experience encompasses properties around the world, both branded and independent, and ranging from luxury and boutique to select service. Their work includes six “Are You an Ostrich or a Llama?” (2012), “Lamas Rule” (2013), “Hotel Llama” (2015), “The Llama is Inn” (2017), “The Hotel Mogel” (2018) and “More Hotel Mogel” (2020). You can contact Larry at [email protected] or Adam at [email protected] to discuss hospitality challenges or to book speaking engagements.
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