I have some qualms with TripAdvisor, but I can totally understand the merits that go along with its success, as it provides instant feedback to both hotel management and future guests.
TripAdvisor has virtually wrestled the star-rating system away from independent review agencies such as Forbes (formerly Mobil) and AAA’s diamond rating system. True, those systems still exist, but apart from the annual press release touting the crème de la crème of top-rated products, do they have any influence on the average traveler? I frankly doubt it. Moreover, the millennials probably don’t give them much thought, let alone understand the rigorous processes that employed professionals adhere to in generating these ratings.
I remember the angst GMs felt in anticipation of their AAA and Forbes annual rating. It was much akin to college days waiting for grades to be posted. Now, unless your property is in the 4 or 5-star/diamond category, the entire process is irrelevant. As difficult as it may seem, you now have to accept the fact that our egalitarian society has made everyone an expert insofar as your property’s performance … in accordance with their own preset standards.
At this, I ask the naïve question: Is it more important to be numero uno on TripAdvisor for any destination, or to have a 5-star or -diamond rating? Honestly, which will generate more exposure and business for you? And if you have the option, which would you choose?
It probably costs a lot less to get the higher TripAdvisor rating than your fifth star or diamond. The number of physical and service elements required for that fifth level have high costs, yet rather limited guest utilization or impact on overall guest satisfaction.
Guest satisfaction is the goal
I have read hundreds — probably thousands — of TripAdvisor comments. Here is the simple truth (and you do not need to be a rocket scientist to figure it out): A very satisfied guest writes a positive review; a moderately unsatisfied guest will not. So what makes guests happy to the point where they MUST write about your hotel?
The answer is simple: Give your guests value and respect.
Value means pricing your product fairly for what it is. It means not charging for extras like Internet or having a mandatory resort fee. It means in-room free bottled water. It means not charging for everything at outrageously marked-up prices.
Respect means understanding guests’ needs. It means NOT putting couples in rooms beside newborns. It means properly staffing for peak periods to ensure that there are adequate facilities for them to use. Put yourself in your guest’s shoes. Ultimately, it means using your hotel managerial skills.
Now, one might think this: If everyone is vying towards the top TripAdvisor position and if we all follow the same formula, how will I receive my just rewards? The reality is this: You’ll be part of raising the bar on accommodations quality. So, if you end up in the top 10% in your market, consider this as mission accomplished!