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Dear hoteliers,

Today we’re going to talk about love, dating and “pulling”; and look at what you do when you meet a pretty girl (or a handsome man) – and especially how you behave on your first date.

What do you need to do to convince him or her to take the next step in your relationship? Do you have to tell them the whole truth about yourself, lie to please them or find a middle ground?

And yes, this article is appropriate to hotel managers! This is obviously an analogy based on an experience we all understand. The goal is to help you put yourself in the shoes of your own customers.

Enjoy reading!

I finally have a date!

So you spent some time looking for someone who matches your criteria, through dating applications, bars, restaurants or even friends of frriends…

And finally, you have a date. So you get ready, put on your best clothes (without going overboard, of course, it has to be suitable for the occasion), you put on make-up, do your hair, shave, perfume, etc. And off you go, you’re on your way to your date!

Here’s the analogy with you, hoteliers:

You have spent some time promoting your hotel all over the Web, via agencies for example, referencing it on Google, investing in advertising, managing your social networks and sending e-mails…

Thanks to your hard work, you get a flow of visitors to your website. You then hire a great photographer, write nice presentation texts, build a beautiful website and plug in a great booking engine. And now, you can turn these visitors into customers!

I’m slightly depressed, jealous, possessive, introverted, “messy”, got a bit of a beer belly but super nice!

So your date begins and gets off to a perfect start. First you decide to order and then you start the conversation. After asking them a few questions, it’s their turn to ask you to talk a little about yourself. And you answer honestly:

“I’m slightly depressed, jealous, possessive, introverted, ‘messy’, got a bit of a beer belly but super nice!

Your response is very worrying to them. The rest of the dinner goes well, but inside they can’t help thinking: “Seems really nice, but I don’t like jealous people”; “Yes, attractive, but the idea of being with someone who is depressed doesn’t appeal to me”; “Knows how to use a knife and fork and isn’t a pig, but that’s just a front to cover the messy”.

Once the meal is over, you leave the restaurant together and offer them a ride home. They politely reply that they live too far away and say goodbye.

You never see them again…

What does this have to do with your website?

The user arrives on your site and all goes well to start with. They are looking at the photos; your hotel really seems to have what they are looking for. They browse your site and admire your Spa, your breakfast room, your bedrooms, etc. Everything looks perfect! The district is perhaps a little out of the way, but the quality/price ratio is very attractive. They’ll most likely make a reservation at your hotel.

While consulting the pages of your site, they realise they hadn’t noticed the little widget on the home page, a widget that announces “90% satisfaction rate”! Wow! 90% is not bad at all! The hotel looks great, I’ll definitely book it…

But what happened with the 10% dissatisfied?

The question is slowly growing in your potential client’s head. Curious by nature, they end up clicking on the widget to study the details of the comments.

Indeed, 9 out of 10 comments are excellent. They still want to see what the problems with your hotel are and so read the 10th comment which is negative, “The staff was unpleasant and kept me waiting for hours”. Ouch… Relations are a key point for them when travelling. But hey… the hotel looks great and after all it’s just one comment!

However, they continue to scroll through the list of comments and… 10 comments later, they come across another negative post “My room was dirty”. Well… it’s just one comment, but it was a little unexpected and they are starting to question their reservation. They scroll down further and 20 comments below they discover 2 in a row that do not show the hotel in a good light at all: “Dirty room”, “Tiny breakfast”. “Oh dearie me! What is this hotel?” they start to ponder.

The worried browser then searches for all the bad comments and, 10 minutes later, leaves your site to book with one of your competitors.

The right way to do things

I have encountered this problem in hundreds of hotels over the past 10 years of my career. And all of them put forward the same argument. “Be transparent with customer comments”, is what they explained to me about why they had made the decision to post 100% of their comments on their website (Booking.com, TripAdvisor, Expedia, Trivago, Personal Satisfaction Surveys, etc.).

It took me a long time to come up with a good and comprehensive way of showing them why this was the worst thing to do in terms of marketing. That it was like shooting oneself in the foot and then blaming the gun manufacturers for selling the gun (or blaming the OTAs held responsible for the lack of bookings on their site). When I took this approach of creating an analogy to behaviour on a first date, 100% of the hoteliers said, “You’re absolutely right; we would never do that on a first date”. 

While I fully agree with the philosophy of honesty, transparency and truthfulness, it must be done with common sense and intelligence.

Use your positives to seduce and your customer experience to convince, and your customers won’t really pay attention to your tiny flaws.

In the website example, leave out the “Our customer reviews” section. Otherwise, you will be forced to post all your comments, positive and negative. 

Instead, consider a “What our guests especially appreciate” section where you can mention the positive points of your hotel. Ideally, drop these positives all over your website to support your photos. For example, in the “Superior Double Room” section, post some positive points appreciated by your guests who have stayed there. Here is a good example: https://hoteldelaportedoree.com/en/superieure-double

Not yet convinced?

My example didn’t convince you? Do you still think its is the best policy to post your positive and negative comments on your website?

Then ask yourself these questions:

  • When the photographer took the photos of your hotel, did you ask them to only have  90% of the room tidied so that “it reflects the work of a chambermaid who was in a bit of a hurry that day”? 
  • When you wrote the texts on your website, did you remember to include the fact that, once every 2 to 3 years, there is a problem with hot water, and that on Monday mornings, Jean-Paul, your receptionist, is often in a bad mood because he has a heavy poker session on Sunday evenings?
  • When you created your price list, did you specify that your Single rooms are cheaper because they are, quite frankly, very small?
  • Etc. 

This list can go on and on including all the parts that make up your marketing. 

I’ve never known a single hotelier who made a point of having 90% perfect photos, but I’ve talked to many hoteliers who made a point of posting comments that are only 90% positive….

And to finish burying this strange philosophy:

Today, almost 100% of your website visitors have discovered you through an OTA. So they’ve already read some of the comments about you. So why rub salt in the wound by offering them the chance to come and read them again on your site?

Conclusion

Ask yourself about your first date with someone. Would you point out your flaws? Or would you highlight your many qualities so that your faults are only a very secondary subject?

Nobody and nothing is perfect. But some people or things are good enough for their “problems” to be forgiven. 

It’s the same philosophy when it comes to marketing: highlight your successes! And of course, find a smart way to fix your failures. 

This idea of putting “all comments on your website” is simply wrong and counterproductive on all levels. 

But don’t be tempted into telling lies, that would be an even bigger mistake!

Thank you

Tony LOEB

Tony LOEB
Author

Tony Loeb started his career in Hotel marketing in 2001 as a webmaster, then quickly became the Technical Director of a web agency specialized in the hotel industry. Passionate about the tourism sector and attracted by the idea of taking on new challenges, Tony took over the management of a team of hotel consultants until 2014, when he decided to make hotel marketing his core business. In 2014, he co-founded the company Experience Hotel and is now responsible for its international development and deployment, improving tools for automating and optimizing customer relations, from booking to customer loyalty.

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