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Managing the Social Web

The impact that online reviews and social media chatter have on the hotel industry can no longer be ignored by brands and property management companies that hope to maintain their reputations and provide guests with high-quality service.

But attempting to sift through reviews and respond to every comment on every travel-related site and social media platform is a daunting task for any hospitality professional. Now, one tool allows for hotels—both big chains and small boutique properties—to gain access to guest reviews, social media statistics, and competitor insight all in one tidy package.

ReviewPro is an online reputation management tool that lets hotels gather guest data from reviews and social media. The software launched in beta in 2009 and has since attracted thousands of hotels in over 60 countries with its easy-to-use interface and intuitive analytic capabilities.

“We had the vision that user-generated content (UGC) was far more than a passing trend, and that the influence of this type of content would redefine the relationship between consumers and brands,” says R.J. Friedlander, president and CEO of ReviewPro. “We quickly came to the conclusion that the hotel sector would be forever changed by UGC and decided to start ReviewPro to offer the analysis, customer intelligence, competitive benchmarking, and automated reporting needed to enable hoteliers to profit from the social web.”

The software lets hotels mine reviews and chatter from over 90 online travel sites, blogs, and social media sites such as Facebook and Twitter. The content relating to the hotel filters into a content management system where hotel professionals have the ability to respond directly to the comments from within the system.

“We saw there was a need to understand and listen to the customer more and more online,” says Jason Potter, head of social media at Corinthia Hotels, which now uses the tool in its properties worldwide. “Our whole social strategy is based on the customer being at the heart of everything we do, and we wanted to find a system that could help us both listen to and act upon what the customer was saying online.”

Not only does the system let hotels gather and respond to guest reviews, but it also allows for executives to identify problems within the hotel and develop action plans for improvement. Users can search for keywords or view common phrases to help identify areas within the property that guests are responding to negatively. This gives properties the ability to hone in on specifics, make changes, and, ultimately, improve guest satisfaction.

“Gathering this kind of data gives you perspective on your audience,” says John Knowles, director of marketing for the Roger Smith Hotel, a boutique property in New York City. “It gives you feedback for problems and situations that need to be dealt with. Being able to respond is a necessity, but being able to take what you learn and go to the places where you need to improve is really beneficial.”

Another analytic feature is the ability to monitor up to five competing properties and see how they stack up in the system’s Global Review Index, a quantitative report that allows hotels to track their overall online reputation by combining all available data.

“Speaking on behalf of the hotels, I think their favorite feature is the competition data,” says Potter. “It’s the first time access to your competitors’ set customer perception is easily accessible. You could probably get this data in the past, but not without wasting considerable time and resources.”

For hotels signing up with ReviewPro, Friedlander and his team, who have backgrounds in technology, programming, and the hospitality industry, provide extensive training on how to use the product and follow-up with customer support.

“I like to use the analogy that ‘it is one thing to join the gym and another to get into shape,’” says Friedlander. “We are committed to our clients ‘getting into social media analytics shape’ and have always obsessed over client support, training, and education.”

The ReviewPro client services team, which consists of nine people including Josiah MacKenzie and Daniel Edward Craig, provides weekly training sessions in multiple languages, access to monthly webinars, and personal customer service. And its the personal attention that clients seem to value most.

Both Knowles and Potter cite MacKenzie as someone who goes beyond traditional customer service and takes time to discuss social media strategy and how hotels can specifically use the data to their advantage.

“Josiah is so sharp. He really knows what is going on in the hotel industry and the social media sphere,” says Knowles. “He comes to the table, and you’re able to discuss challenges that you have and work through them. It’s a huge value proposition to have somebody on the floor basically helping his own customer base.”

Although guest satisfaction levels have always been an important statistic for hotel owners and property management companies, the Internet has changed the landscape of how this information is presented to the public—and ReviewPro hopes to use this widespread, user-generated information and turn it into comprehensive and valuable data for its clients.

“ReviewPro is helping hoteliers re-write the rules on how to improve guest satisfaction,” says Friedlander. “Social media analytics are not about doing something new, but rather, they’re about a new and better way of doing what hoteliers have always done—listen to their customers.”

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