I was listening to a video of one of my favourite (and sassiest) writers online, Ashley Ambirge, talking about how all the marketing in the world doesn't matter if the website is crap. First impressions are especially important in the hospitality industry since the time invested in the website and other marketing materials greatly effects people's judgment about the property itself. Of course, it's not entirely true that a poor website = a poor property, or a great website = a great property, but most people will come to a quick conclusion to pass on a property if they can't find the information they are after. The website isn't everything for the property, though. The appearance of the physical property is equally important, and like Ashley says, all the marketing in the world can't cover up how crappy of a place it really is. That should be common sense for a lot of owners and managers. Unfortunately, a lot of people are quite oblivious to the problems around them and refuse to see what is in front of them.
I can understand why things get bad, but what is inexcusable in my mind is avoiding problems and believing things will correct themselves. You reach a tipping point where adjustments can be made, but the damage of previous negative reviews is beyond repairable. This happened with a property that I tried to help out last year.
Like most travelers, I visit TripAdvisor and other hotel review sites to gauge how well a property is actually doing. I read about the guest concerns so I can bring something to the table in my conversations and find solutions to problems that currently exist. When I visited the profile of this hotel, it was a horrifying experience, to say the least. Here's a snippet of one review:
The word 'resort' needs to be removed from the title of this disgusting motel. It's a long story but I'll stick to the main points: 1. dirty room - with dirty towels and blood on sheets 2. bathroom had fungus (actual mushrooms) growing 3. garbage bin outside of room smells like DEATH!!! We were told 3 times that it would be removed - it wasn't! The smell made us gag - literally 4. at 12:30am an employee banged on the door then kicked it in, breaking the lock - NO JOKE! (all because we didn't return the extra key because ours was in the room) We are a family with 2 adults and 2 kids - needless to say, the kids were petrified to stay.
It went on for another six points, and is surrounded by other negative reviews. Incredibly, it's managed a two star rating on TripAdvisor.
An owner or manager can't edit or delete these reviews, of course, but they do have the opportunity to respond to them. Being humble and apologetic can repair some of the damage if the complaints are minor. With the above complaint, an appropriate response would be to be honest, admit the mistakes, and announce the plans you have in place to make changes. What makes the above complaints worse (if that's even possible) is that there were responses to other reviews, but this one and other really negative ones, did not have a response. Reviews that happened after this one were responded to, so the owner had been following up with the reviews.
Mistakes like this are not easily fixed. Apart from fixing everything happening at the hotel level, there needs to be some serious work on rebranding the hotel, rewriting the copy and design of the website, engaging with these former guests to address their concerns, and making public statements about how the hotel has revamped their operation.
To protect yourself, I suggest visiting TripAdvisor and taking control of your property's engagement with the public. You can receive notifications of the reviews, get monthly newsletters, and get access to website badges to include to show off your ranking. Vist this link to start taking control now.
Here is Ashley's video. Short, concise, and possibly Not Safe for Work.