It's hardly a surprise when a company that provides guest survey solutions for hotels says that guest surveys are the best way for hotels to protect their reputations.
That said, hospitality feedback firm Market Metrix uses some interesting statistics to bolster its criticism of online reputation management.
Market Metrix's white paper, "For Hospitality, Social Media Is Too Little Too Late," hauls out a truckload of statistics to support its claim that guest surveys and similar on-site feedback tools are a more effective investment for hotels than social media reputation management services.
Its numbers might give some hotel owners a zoomed out, powers-of-ten jolt to the system. In a nutshell, its message to hotel owners is: If you do guest surveys effectively, your TripAdvisor reviews will improve as a side effect. Or, in the company's own words:
"When it comes to your reputation, social media can’t create it, it can only perpetuate it. Trying to mend your reputation after someone has posted a negative review is missing the point.... By the time a negative review is posted you’re doing damage control, not reputation management."
Social media hotel reviews are distorted
Market Metrix has determined that ”reputation, recommendations and online reviews” are now driving more bookings than even location or price.
But these user reviews are often deeply flawed. Exhibit A: Reviews from TripAdvisor are skewed toward the negative, with nearly 300% more one- and two-star ratings than guest survey research done by hotels internally using Market Metrix tools. Five-star ratings were under-represented by a third.
Here's one reason to explain the discrepancy between TripAdvisor reviews and hotels' own guest surveys:
"Surveys can guide the respondent to consider the entire experience, not just the one thing that stood out.... When it comes to social media sites instead, Market Metrix Hospitality Index data [representing 134,261 respondents] says that guests who have a problem write a review about it 22% of the time. Guests without a problem write reviews just 9% of the time."
Another way in which Market Metrix claims that user-generated review sites distort the truth is through demographic bias.
Social media platforms tend to overrepresent young people, who disproportionately use them, and therefore tend to underrepresent the biggest spenders on travel, who are usually the over-50 crowd.
In short, hoteliers shouldn't make product or service decisions based on social media feedback alone.
How to use guest surveys to pre-empt social media problems
Market Metrix encourages hotel owners to invite every guest to complete a survey and be ready to respond immediately to any important complaints, such as about a rude clerk or a long wait to check in.
Says the company:
Most surveys can be completed online. But the important thing is that everyone can be accommodated – send a simple text survey to their phone, hand them an iPad with an open link, you can even give them a paper comment card if you have to....
Unresolved problems have a dramatic impact on guest loyalty, driving it down by more than half on average. That means more than half those customers don’t come back. What’s worse, guests who experience a problem are nearly three times more likely to write a review about it online.
It's only one side of the discussion, presented by a single, self-interested company. But it raises some interesting points. Over-reliance on any one tool, such as online reputation management, seems intuitively risky.