A simple definition (thanks once again to Wikipedia) is: The practice of monitoring the internet reputation of a person, brand or business with the goal of suppressing negative mentions entirely, or pushing them lower on search engine results pages.
I remember in High School it was not a good thing when there was talk about someone having a ‘bad rep’. In the ‘boomer’ generation it was only talk, no Facebook or tweets. So what did one do to quell the gossip? Ignore it and the talk would hopefully go away.
Times change, you have matured and so has WOM, word of mouth. You are in a business that is highly personalized and managing your ‘rep’ is an important and integral part of your marketing strategies. Monitoring your ORM includes not only the popular review sights like Trip Advisor (often referred to as the 900 pound gorilla) but all the other social media tools available to the travelling consumer.
In my research I came across a fabulous article about ORM published by Tourism BC, the tourism organization for British Columbia, Canada. It is chocked full of information and worth a read. I was also pleased to see that Ian MacPhee of Abbeymore Manor in Victoria BC was interviewed and quoted in this report. Innkeepers Anne, Ian and Michelle are active members and proponents of PAII and frequently post on the PAII Forum. Ian says he actively monitors reviews on Trip Advisor, Yelp and bedandbreakfast.com, not only for his inn but for his location. What a smart and thoughtful strategy! He not only actively monitors the reviews of his inn but of his town. He firmly believes that; “A great website coupled with a solid online reputation brings business.” We at The B&B Team could not agree more. A positive approach in managing your online reputation goes along way versus the negative ‘refusal to face the facts’ attitude that so many innkeepers took when Trip Advisor emerged. The results say it all, Abbeymore Manor is ranked #1 of 117 B&B/Inns in Victoria by TA as well as a Traveller’s Choice 2011 Winner. Ian says that TA is their #1 referral source. Staying on top takes disiplne and time. Ian advises that innkeepers should :”Find the time and you’ll reap the awards”. His week includes ‘Facebook Fridays, Trip Advisor Tuesdays and Website Wednesdays’. I love it!
Of course just like in High School, you have to have a good ‘rep’ in order for your WOM to be positive. You must be confident in who you are and how you run your property. Another great quote from Ian; “Be sure your property is the best it can be and go out of your way for every guest.”
Of course we don’t live in a perfect B&B world and despite your hard work there are guests that believe their expectations were not met (true or not true!) and they feel a need to vent. A negative review rears its ugly head. What to do? Don’t ignore it, it won’t just go away. A short manager’s response to respectfully set the record straight is the best plan of action. Here are some suggested rules of action:
- Draft a reply and sleep on it.
- Be brief, a long response comes off as a lecture.
- Always respond to the complaint, not the person complaining.
- Use a friendly, conversational tone.
- Explain what you are doing to improve or fix the problem.
- Don’t make BIG excuses or pass the blame onto others, staff etc.
- Don’t wait too long to respond, a negative review sitting unacknowledged has more time to damage your reputation.
- Last but not least, check your spelling and grammar.
A question many innkeepers ask is: What if the complaint is false? The best way is to set the record straight without engaging in ‘he said, she said’. You have the option to contact the review site if you seriously believe you have been falsely accused and work with them to get the review removed. First read the review site’s rules and guidelines before you proceed. Review removal can be a long and possibly frustrating process and you may not be successful in its removal but it may be in your best interest to try.
An important component in managing your reputation is encouraging your guests to be an advocate for your Inn. The check-out process is a great time to engage with your guests. If they have expressed satisfaction with their stay you can easily direct the conversation into asking them to post a review. Make it easy for them. Have something printed with a nice Thank You note that include the link(s) to your review site(s) of choice. Many innkeepers prefer to send follow-up emails inviting guests to post a review, with direct links to your property’s review page, again making it easy and seamless for them. This is just another way of engaging with your guests and providing them with great service.
Social networking, including online reviews is not going away. Becoming engaged in social networking by managing your reviews will reap its rewards. Real travel decisions are being made on review sites right now! That is a very powerful reason to engage. Being on top of your game and working hard to reach a high ranking on Trip Advisor’s popularity index can bring those guests to your website, just where you want them. Take a hold of that 900 pound gorilla with confidence, make him your friend, he is not going away.