Reviews are vital to your serviced accommodation business: get great reviews and you’ll get more bookings and be able to charge more, get poor reviews and guests will start to dry up. Despite this, most serviced accommodation operators don’t have a strategy around review management!
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Here are five tips to consider to improve the quality and quantity of your reviews:
1 – Focus on Customer Experience
As serviced accommodation operators, we tend to view our properties from a very different perspective to our guests. We are more focused around the big picture, and ensuring the property is regularly cleaned and maintained. While getting these basics right is clearly important for guests, much of their guest experience actually comes from the attention to detail you show in setting up and running your properties.
The easiest way you can see things from a guest perspective is by staying in your own properties. You will start to see all the details that detract from the guest experience – a cupboard door which doesn’t shut properly, the fire alarm that beeps every 5 minutes, or the lack of wooden spoons despite providing three saucepans and a wok! As you go through your list, you’ll realise that most of these things will cost very little to resolve and take very little time, but will have a massive impact on your guest experience.
To save time on future properties, you should create a checklist for everything your properties require prior to launch. You should also consider whether you should stay in the property yourself, prior to welcoming guests. How many changes do you think you would be able to make which would improve things for that first guest arriving at the property, and that all important first review?
2 – Ensure Great Communication
Getting your basic communications right might sound simple, but the reality is that this isn’t always the case. Being able to respond quickly to guests in different time zones, remembering to call a guest back when you were in the middle of another call – real life gets in the way very easily! But these are the communications which will shape how your guest views your company. So get the basics right – respond quickly, communicate clearly, keep your promises, make notes of any requests and follow through to ensure they happen, and if in doubt – too much communication is better than too little.
Things go wrong – that’s a simple fact of life. And things will most certainly go wrong in your properties. It’s how you react when this happens that is important, as guests will generally be understanding if you are able to communicate in the right way. Getting the basics right and keeping them constantly updated will ensure they don’t get too frustrated, and even if you are unable to resolve the problem immediately, the constant communication will reassure them and demonstrate that you are doing everything possible to resolve the situation. Nothing is worse than having something go wrong and the guest feeling like no-one cares, so make sure this doesn’t happen!
Another area of communication that is fundamental to the guest experience is communication between staff. Uncleaned properties, unresolved maintenance issues, guests turning up but unable to access the property – there are any number of ways in which poor staff communication can have a big negative impact on your guests.
There are a number of ways you can try to ensure a high level of staff communication. Ensuring you have the right systems in place will enable staff to have access to the information they need, and will help to ensure communication becomes part of their routine. Sharing your company vision and having transparency around what you are doing will engage your staff, and help them understand the importance of both their role and communicating clearly with other team members. And regular training will help maintain your standards by sharing your expectations with the staff, while showing them how to achieve them.
What do Bill Gates, Elon Musk and Jeff Bezos all have in common?
Other than being extremely wealthy and well respected entrepreneurs, they are all renown for crediting customer feedback as one of the most important keys to success.
Bill Gates gave a TED talk highlighting the easiest way to improve education, which was titled “Teachers Need Real Feedback”. Elon Musk is known to respond directly to feedback on Twitter and implement changes as a result – in one famous example, he changed his company policies in as little as 6 days. And Jeff Bezos famously leaves an empty seat at every meeting, as a reminder to listen to what he calls “the most important person in the room” – the customer.
Asking customers for their thoughts – both positive and negative – on their experience with your business will both help you to better understand your customer experience, and identify areas you can improve. Feedback on its own has no value until you actually do something with it! So you need to ensure you have a system to capture and analyse customer feedback, and to ensure you implement changes.
Direct feedback is always going to be the best, most insightful feedback you are going to receive. Feedback through conversations will allow you to ask questions, suggest potential solutions and improvements and immediately gauge customer reactions. For this reason, we don’t necessarily recommend automated feedback systems by email or text, but instead through direct customer interaction.
While you can encourage these natural conversations with customers, in order to harvest substantial amounts of useful feedback you need to have some kind of system in place. We recommend calling each customer after the stay in order to find out more about their experience. This might sound time consuming, but the results will make it more than worth the time.
Who should be making these calls? Ideally, you. While you don’t want to get too operationally involved in your own business, the closer understanding you have of your customer experience, the more successful your business will be. You can drive the change in your business, knowing it is based on the direct feedback of customers.
Once you start making these types of calls, you will start noticing how guarded people normally are. One word responses are the norm when asked about the quality of a stay, and so it’s important to find a way to get them to open up.
One way of doing this is through a system called Net Promoter Score. The concept is incredible simple – once you have the guest on the phone, you ask them “On a scale of 0 to 10, how likely would you be to recommend the property you stayed in?”.
This will clearly give us an immediate insight into their experience. If they say 9 or 10, they’ve clearly had a great experience and we should ask them to leave us a review.
Should they say 7 or 8, they’ve probably had one or two things go wrong during their stay. In order to get a clearer picture, you can simply ask “What one thing could we have done to improve your stay”? This will allow them to focus on the most important area of improvement, without giving you lists and lists of minor detail.
With a score of 6 or less, there have clearly been some fairly major issues which you need to find out more about. Ask the same question, but be prepared for a more lengthy response, and the need to apologise for issues they have experienced…
There are two things you need to do with this feedback. Firstly, you clearly need to act quickly on any areas you can improve. Secondly, you need to record the scores you receive, so that over time you can compare the rolling average. This will give you an insight into the long term customer experience in your business, and highlight any potential trends (both positive and negative).
4 – Resolve Problems Quickly
This follows on very closely from getting customer feedback. You need to be giving customers regular opportunities to give feedback, because very often they will not give it unsolicited. So the first thing you need to do to resolve problems quickly is to find out about them quickly!
We send guests a simple message after their first night in one of our properties. The essence of the message is “I hope you are settling in well, is there anything we could do to make your stay more comfortable?”. This message is essentially giving guests permission to give you feedback, so that you find out about any problems immediately and have the opportunity to rectify them.
Every problem with a guest is an opportunity for them to come away impressed. Dealing with problems quickly will show guests that you listen, that you genuinely care about them and that your company is capable of reacting quickly and decisively when things go wrong. Rather than leaving a bad review, they are drawn further into your brand and have trust that should something go wrong again in future, you will be able to easily resolve it.
This is another reason why soliciting feedback within your business is very powerful. You are giving your customers the chance to air their grievances in a way that allows you to apologise and mitigate some of the damage. This will vastly reduce the likelihood of receiving negative reviews, and many of those same customers will actually go on to leave you a glowing review.
5 – Ask For Reviews
It sounds obvious, but you’d be surprised how few people actually ask every guest for a review. Are you?
It is extremely important to ask every customer for a review. The fundamental concept behind why this is that if people have a bad experience, they’re more likely to leave a review. Therefore if you ask every guest for a review, you’re diluting the number of poorer reviews and your review rating will go up – often substantially – without actually having to improve anything!
We talked earlier about Net Promoter Score, and how asking for a review for higher ratings is an easy way of doing this. This is a great way of doing it, as it will also make sure that you’re only asking for reviews from people who are likely to give you a good score. So while we say “every guest”, clearly if you’ve just had the guest from hell, you wouldn’t want to see their write up of your property!