How to Maintain a Positive Online Reputation – Key Takeaways

By Daniel Edward Craig, Reknown

There was a great turnout for TripAdvisor’s Master Class events at the Venetian Hotel in Las Vegas last week, but I fear many arrived expecting the “other” Daniel Craig and were sorely disappointed. Sorry about that—happens all the time.

As part of its new TripAdvisor for Business division, TripAdvisor asked me to speak about how hotels can maintain a positive online reputation.

Here a few key takeaways from my presentation:

Online reputation management: the next big thing
Fifteen years ago, revenue management was a new concept; today, every hotel has a revenue manager and a revenue team that meets weekly to review performance, set objectives and formulate strategies. That’s the direction reputation management is heading. It’s time to make reputation management a priority.

What is online reputation management?
ORM is the process of tracking, reporting and reacting to online feedback and opinions about a company and its people, products and services. There are five components: 1) Monitoring; 2) Reviewing & Resolving; 3) Responding; 4) Sharing and 5) Generating Content. Most hotels are doing it, but a more organized, methodical approach is called for.

Why manage your hotel’s reputation?
Increasingly, travelers are bypassing traditional sources like hotel websites, brochures, travel agents and travel media and going direct to other travelers for advice. Your guests have become your primary sales force and exceeding their expectations has become your most important marketing strategy.

Prioritize your social media activities
Hotels have embraced social media and are tweeting and status-updating like there’s no tomorrow, but the real decision-making is happening on review sites. People go to Facebook to socialize; they go to TripAdvisor to shop. Don’t be distracted by the noise. Focus on the areas that drive business.

Search: it’s personal
The personalization of search means user reviews are more prominent than ever, and the opinions of our “circles of trust” in social networks are taking center stage. A perfect example is TripAdvisor’s Trip Friends application for Facebook. As a hotelier you need to understand this phenomenon. Sign up to see how friend reviews show up first, even before top-rated hotels.

Quick, before everyone else catches on
With only 7% of negative reviews on TripAdvisor receiving a response, this is your opportunity to stand out from competitors and show the world you’re listening and you care. To ignore complaints offline or online is simply un-hotelier-like. Thank the reviewer, apologize and explain. If you can’t fix the issue, train staff to prevent (private) on-property complaints from escalating to (public) online complaints.

Set goals and mobilize staff
A comprehensive reputation management program means setting measurable goals (e.g., top ten ranking on TripAdvisor’s Popularity Index) and mobilizing your entire team to achieve them. Recognize and reward staff for favorable reviews, be so remarkable that guests feel compelled to share their experience, and use TripAdvisor tools to encourage them.

Click here for video highlights of my presentation. Also, check out these two case studies in reputation management I discussed. Both demonstrate that even in the age of social networking, nothing beats good old-fashioned hospitality.

See also:

What’s the secret to achieving top ranking on TripAdvisor?

Construction? What Construction? A Case Study for Hotels.

What do you think? Leave your comments here.



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45 Responses to “How to Maintain a Positive Online Reputation – Key Takeaways”

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  1. A timely and well written article. Thank you.

  2. Hi Daniel,

    Once again, great post. I would only add one detail. Every hotel has to realize that nowadays all its customers have regular, daily, access to the internet. They will have a look to many web sites and one, for sure, will be yours. So…doesn't it seem reasonable to expect our web site to be the best place to find all the information, images, etc., of our hotel? Of course possibly the most important thing will be what other customers think about our hotel but having the proper web site, for sure, plays a very important role in our reputation on line.
    I complitely agree with involving the staff in all these questions. Among other things, our staff are who gives our hotel the "special thing".

    Thanks for sharing!

  3. KLF says:

    Hi Daniel–Sounds like a great event in Vegas.  Sorry I missed it.  As a hotel GM, I respond to all reviews posted for my property.  I encourage all other hotel GM's out there to do the same.        

  4. Antony Brunt says:

    The problem in responding to criticism is when you know that criticism is "planted" by a rival hotel. There is no-one at Trip Advisor who can discuss the issues.

    • GB says:

      I am very new in this industry and am  very sensitive to guests comments, so I read a lot what is being said in general about B + B's.   It is so very obvious that many reviews have been planted?  Is there anything that can be done about that?

      • Hi Antony, Yes, some reviews do sound a bit suspect, don’t they? But unless they’re of your property, as an innkeeper I’d ignore them and focus on what people are saying about your property. If others game the system it’s risky – they’re setting up expectations they probably won’t be able to meet, which may result in bad reviews. Better to channel that energy on fine-tuning the guest experience to generate favorable reviews naturally, right?

  5. Pamela says:

    Thanks for the insightful information, Daniel. 
    I particularly found your point #4 very important, but it did raise a question. 
    How as hoteliers can we use TripAdvisor to our advantage? 

  6. Great article and very informative.
    Point 4 is true indeed; TripAdvisor has bypassed most traditional (B&B) directories as an effective sales source and marketing tool.
    Question? How can a small hotel (B&B – 5 rooms) stand out in the (TripAdvisor) crowd?


  7. DEC says:

    Another problem with criticism is that sometimes guests are vindictive online and will post negative comments about what the hotel didn't do to their liking. When in actuality, the hotel cannot respond by saying they were the "guests from hell". So we take the punches. The only way out is to garner more positive comments to push the negative out.

    • greg waites says:

      This is so true we receive hundreds of fantastic reviews from satisfied guests and the vindictive guests is the dangerous one who wants revenge because thier often unrealistic expectations was not met  and the room was not made complimentary as a result of thier compliant.  I make a point of responding to these people with the facts and point out that trip advisor is not a vent for anger.

    •  Aloha Dec,
      As a Spa manager who strives to practice the utmost in integrity, honesty and give the best customer service I/we can offer, I have to agree with you, that can be challenging. 

      I have unfortunately been on the receiving end of someone who was angry and trying to get some type of revenge.  I am so committed to 'everyone leaves happy' that I do lose sleep over bad reviews. Fortunately they are few and far between.

      I have been open about 7 years now and the few negative reviews I have had, when I communicated with them, most of them offered to take down their negative reviews, in addition one woman even blessed me profusely and wished me good luck in the future.
      I will share a few of the ways I deal with this and if you'd like more information please feel free to contact me.
      I am a long time Hawaiian resident, and there is a concept in Hawaiian for reconciliation called Hooponopono (Ho-o-pono-pono) in short, it means 'to make right'. I do my best to reach out (in the spirit of Hooponopono) and communicate with the guest. 
      I have also learned and use the 5 languages of apology as part of our customer service protocol, and i have to say when it is really done with sincerity it can mend a relationship. 
      It is really hard to walk toward someone who has been vindictive and nasty to you, it really can trigger our false ego, but I rise above it and try to understand them, then give them empathy.
      It is a kind of Akido.
      It doesn't mean we are agreeing with them, yet it can completely emotionally 'disarm' someone. For instance someone says something like "This place is a mess and no one knows what they are doing." One example of a response can be "I hear you are upset, what can I do for you?" 
      If we have empathized authentically with them they will agree and continue to 'discharge' their emotional energy (when they do this you know you have done a good job), then keep trying to help them get what they want, which is usually just to be heard or some service they wanted.
      And I do my best to be forgiving (of myself and my staff) and them for being unskillful in their communication and to learn from the situation. 
      In conclusion if I can assuage your experience in any way, by reassuring you that our readers and guests are savvy enough to see the negative spirit in which the review in question was written.
      And, I also completely agree with you on the positive reviews, when my guests are expressing their appreciation, we will frequently mention
      With warm alohas,
      Darci Frankel

      • Aloha Darci! Some great points. I love the philosophy behind you’re handling of reviews and complaints, especially the concept of “Hooponopono”, but also the Akido analogy. Sounds like you’re having good success. Congrats & keep up the great work.

        • DEC says:

          Aloha Darci and Daniel,
          I really, really appreciate your feedback on dealing with the vindictive guests. I know all about ho'oponopono and will try to correlate this practice in the work atmosphere, too. I didn't realize that someone can remove their comments that they posted. But you're absolutely right about approaching the guest in the right spirit with the best intentions to make it a win/win solution. This has been a great forum. Thanks, Trip Advisor.

  8. Satish Kumar says:

    Hi Daniel,
    Great Article ,I found point #2 and point #7 very helpful.By engaging employees you can surely manage your online reputation.

  9. JP says:

    HI Daniel
    You said that only 7% of the rewiews are negative ok
    the thing is if I open an email adress in a cyber café with falce informations and get a accout on TA with a member nickname   I can write a rewiew totaly anonymus on TA ….  that true?
    Wy respond to a rewiew which should not be on TA?
    thank you

    • Hi JP, 7% is the number of reviews that receive a response from hotels. According to Brian Payea of TripAdvisor, the average rating is about 3.9 out of 5.0, which means most reviews are positive. But yes, anyone can write an anonymous review if they sign up. It’s really up to you whether to respond to a review you think might not be from a guest.

  10. Thanks to everyone for your comments. Interesting that Point 4 seemed to resonate with many. I love it when people agree with me! DEC 

  11. Fay Hampton says:

    I would love to say I wanted to promote my successful guest house business thro your channel….but Tripadvisor refuses to take down a guest ?? post which contains defamitory comments based on lies because customer was unable to use fraudulent means to avoid payment for stay!!!
    I will not be using any promotions with Tripadvisor until they show that they are accountable to their own guidelines which have been disregarded.
    i believe there are quite a few businessesnwith similar disputes.

  12. elsa says:

    Hi Daniel,
    I think you have come across the major issues,one thing is still missing,good reviews that are not posted.

  13. maï says:

    Hi Daniel
    Please ,excuse me  for my english.
    One of my customer did not want to pay his stay .He threaten to post a negative review .I did not accept and he paid and he post his negative reviw in tripadvisor …What do you think

  14. I curently manage pension victoria in tangier, i really apreciate the article, from now on i would difinitely listen to my hotel reviews…thanks.

  15. Charles Button says:

    Heres my tip for what its worth.

    1. Never respond directly to negative reviews unless they are constructive. Two wrongs dont make a right. Get staff or loyal supporters to plant 5 positive reviews instead. This neutralises the negative review and acts as a lifeline anchor and creates damage limitation.
    2. Always get negative reviews removed if you can. Its illegal to publish untrue facts. Focus on the fact that the negative review has an untrue fact in it. Example: "This hotel WIFI wasnt working properly". Send the host site copy of the WIFI scanned contract asking to remove the review that is untrue. "There is no way the hotel is a 3 star hotel". Send copy of accreditation proving the untrue fact.

    3. Always make the reviewer out to be the fool that he is. Isolate the reviewer and emphasise that 99.9% of people think your hotel is THE home from home. Show credentials and inspections by all regulating authorities.

    4. When travelling abroad always head to the nearest internet cafe, create a bogus email address and submit a positive review about your hotel
    Rememember tripadvisor and the negative reviewers are just  like WIKI leaks. They have declared war and anarchy against established regulating authorities  that regulate hotels. Travellers no longer respect star ratings but instead rely  on organisations like tripadvisor.
    Use every trick in the book to fight this kind of anarchy. Hotels must now declare war on tripadvisor just like the US governement is declaring war on WIKIleaks.

    • Eric says:

      AMEN, brother!   In my opinion, reviews should only be published online that are NOT anonymous so that the business in question can verify that the review is legitimate.     If someone is going to try to destroy a hard-working business, the least they can do is muster up the courage to identify themselves.  Furthermore, reviews over 90 days old should not be listed, good or bad.

  16. Eric says:

    You all may not realize it, but Google caches their reviews periodically, so if they happen to cache your site shortly after you get a negative review, it will appear for months as the first review people see even if you have 100 good reviews after that.   If anyone has any ideas how to get google to correct this, please let me know.  We have a review average of 4.5 out of 5 stars, but the first thing people see is a terrible review we got from a vindictive guest.    We furthermore had a false review removed from City Search but it continues to appear on Google for months, and all attempts to get google to remove it are fruitless.  We are losing a lot of business because of this.

  17. Joseph Quinn says:

    Hi Daniel, Great article, many thanks! One question for you, is it worth responding to positive reviews? Something along the lines of thank very much for your feedback etc etc? I run a tour company – so my reviews are a little bit different from a hotel. Would love to get your opinion on this one.

  18. I am a Revenue Manager for this hotel in the beautiful Island of Puerto Rico. I can say that today's way of how we conduct business  is changing too fast
    The power of the reviews are fearless, direct and can help your hotel or can damage your hotel instantly. Some reviiews can be right but others can be use as a revenge.
    Our customers need to be honest when placing their comments in the internet. They have to realize that lots of employees depend on their job to support their families and is not fare that a customer enter a bad review just for revenge….

  19. Lakmal says:

    Hi Daniel,
    Very useful article. Plan to respond to reviews whether positive or negative even though we are a very small place. Would you mind calrifying point 4 and 5 please? (sharing & generating content)
    Thanks very much

  20. Lakmal says:

    Thanks very much Daniel

  21. Leanne Rees says:

    Would you be able to tell me what kind of ORM tool TripAdvisor is using?

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