When a prospective guest asks the question, “Should I stay at this hotel?” more than 65 percent of the time they turn to a social media review site in the decision making process.  Studies show that hoteliers participating in and responding to reviews on social media sites such as TripAdvisor reduce available room inventory more than those who do not. Surprisingly, after all the discussions that take place on the importance of web reviews in guest decision-making, many hoteliers are still not making how they respond to guests online a priority.

In today’s already-established social media era, which enables a mass number of consumers to have a voice, properly responding to guests makes them feel heard, which ultimately helps to improve sales and guest loyalty. A study from Forrester and TripAdvisor revealed that 71 percent of travelers think that hotel responses are important.  Clearly, this is a significant statistic and is something that should be on hoteliers’ priority list.

However, according to this study from 2012, only 32 percent of hotels worldwide respond to online reviews. That means that 68 percent are silent, which can negatively impact their bottom line. Conversely, for those that do respond, it boosts sales.  Hotels that respond average 6 percent higher review scores than those who give guests the silent treatment. In addition, it doesn’t matter if it is a negative or positive review.  Even when a hotelier responds to negative reviews, 79 percent of guests feel more comforted in getting a simple response.

So, why do many hoteliers not respond to online reviews? The reality is that many hoteliers do not have the right plans and language in place for effectively responding.

TripAdvisor offers the following tips to get started:

  • Remain kind, professional and genuine. If responding to a negative review, do NOT get defensive.
  • Respond in a timely fashion. Responding months later is almost as bad as not responding at all. Using reputation management software can help streamline the process.

Key ingredients to a response to a negative review:

  • Thank the guest for their stay
  • Apologize for their problem or complaint
  • Address the specific problem mentioned and offer a solution/explain how the hotel is taking action
  • Invite the guest back to the hotel

These are solid tips that should be implemented by all hoteliers.  Remember, not responding is a response – just not the one you want. Hoteliers need to build in the right systems that provide consistent, real-time feedback to and from guests and empower them to interact with hotel brands in customized ways.  This will boost your brand, sales and guest loyalty.