Hotel reviews: It’s all in the math

Remember the good old days of first-year college and that introductory (and often mandatory) course in statistics? As an engineer, this was all pretty straightforward stuff, especially when compared to the physics, mechanics and partial differential calculus courses that were compulsory for me. Regardless of your journey into the hospitality world, rest assured most of us are overdue for a stats refresher.

I’ll save you the complex math and try to keep it simple. The concept that’s pertinent to the logic for consumer/guest response is called the normal distribution, the normal curve or the bell curve. In essence, a normal curve means that for any situation the chances of the outcome will be distributed equally around the center peak, with the outliers (those extremely positive or extremely negative) becoming proportionally fewer and fewer as you move away from said peak.

Let’s not get into the details of the height of the center or the slopes of the curve. Rather, let’s apply this concept to your hotel reviews. Imagine the feelings people have for your property are normally distributed. Most people are in the center of that curve. That is, they are satisfied with their stay. Chances are these past guests in the center of the curve are less inclined to write a review for a property. Why? Simply put, to them, there was nothing remarkable about the experience one way or another. People rarely write reviews that say, “The property was okay. The room was satisfactory. The bathroom met expectations.” Not exactly the stuff of Pulitzers.

Those who write reviews are typically those who had a strong emotional reaction to your product. Passion, and the attempt to rationalize this passion after the fact, is what drives critics to commit the necessary time to post their comments. There is passion in “wow” and, unfortunately, there is also passion in “sucks.”

With this “outlier” concept in mind, your goal should become clear: minimize the negative passion and maximize the positive passion. Working to simply eliminate the negatives is not enough, as this will not directly motivate a surplus of optimistic reviews to offset previous online derisions. You need to develop those unique wow moments and those aspects of a stay that are totally unexpected to give your guests something to really write about — something so your guests say to themselves, “I must write about this!”

Remember, your guests do not create the content; you do through your product and service delivery. Wow factors do not have to cost a lot of money. Here are some examples to get the ball rolling:

  • Homemade cookies given at departure
  • Personalized welcome elements on arrival (I was once given business cards with my name printed and my address at the hotel … very classy!)
  • Handwritten welcome note
  • Face-to-face farewell meeting with a senior manager to discuss the stay

All of these items personalize the guest’s time with you and provide something to talk about in a positive sense.

As it turns out, mathematics is useful for something beyond balancing my checkbook! Keep in mind that a bell curve can be distributed around 50%, 80% or even 90% satisfaction. It’s your duty, through diligence to superior service, to move the average to the right with each new positive review.