Hotel Reviews Part I : Live AND Die By Them

Before my trip abroad I'd never written a hotel review. Lets just say I never had an experience of my own to review. I'd always stayed with a friend, family or briefly visit a hotel meeting space for business. However, I'm not new to the process of reviewing because I personally love customer surveys. Companies and businesses are driven by survey feedback. They provide a service or product and hope that it compels you to at least consider doing a survey about your experience. Sometimes they offer a sweepstakes entry or lure you in for a freebie upon completion. Yet once you're in these surveys the trick is they become wormholes of other questions that sort of make you want to give up midway. Hotel reviews are completely opposite. In a sense the review is more complicated. No one at your hotel is going to ask you or suggest you review your stay. There is also no incentive in even making a review. Hoteliers really don't want to hear much about your experience.They may leave a survey card in your room but it is normally in the most obscure location. Hotels don't make it easy to speak with management - even if you want to give a compliment! Then most major hotels are franchises apart of big hotelier and resort groups - so whatever comments you may have, good or bad, may never make it to someone who cares. In essence, hotels like it like this. A hotel has specific standards and chooses to simply adhere to them. If the standards are met and they are consistent within a brand or throughout different locales they figure that is more than enough. But does the buck really stop there? After all how do we choose a hotel these days - the feedback of others!

Hotels are competing for your business and most customers make the choice to stay somewhere based on several factors. A choice to stay somewhere goes way beyond recommendations, pricing and availability. It is all about the amenities, branding, reputation and presence. Presence can be in marketing, social media and location. The hotel that lacks presence is probably one to be avoided. This is a hotel that doesn't offer a decent website, have posted reviews/ratings or interact with its potential and existing customers. If a hotel has a website, a Facebook page and is placed in a popular destination people who have stayed will begin to speak on it. When looking for a hotel in a particular location or browsing online sites you will see these ratings and reviews. A lot of people depend upon the opinions of others. They are looking for specific details about the hotel, the accommodations etc. You should be utilizing these customer driven tools to not only pick your hotel but return the favor after you stay. Sort of like take a penny, give a penny. There are so many ways to provide feedback so it doesn't have to be tedious. You can review a hotel through a booking site, the hotels website or a travel site that thrives on customer submitted reviews. Just keep the audience front of mind when creating your review.

Typically your review isn't seen by the hotel itself only prospective customers. So if you have complaints or a compliment, you should direct it to someone at that hotel and preferably in the moment. Also most review platforms don't assist you with writing. Unlike surveys there are no talking points, multiple choices or parameters. A review is all in your words and it may take a bit of your time to summarize your stay. You may also have a character minimum or limit which will affect your thought process. You really want to highlight the highs and lows of your experience and keep it brief. If you traveled on business and features for business customers were lacking - speak to that. If the hotel catered to families make sure to highlight what made it best for you and yours. If there was no romance or ambiance for couples explain how that affected your special trip. Some review sites also offer photo uploads. If you have photos worthy of submission upload them along with your written review. Again, remember your audience so stick to images that are clear and recognizable. Most people are comparing hotel provided images against real photos of accommodations. You don't want to take pictures of things that only applied to you or that don't speak to a future stay i.e. pictures of your personal possessions in the room or an image of something that could have been addressed like a missing toiletry. 

Most sites that accept reviews have very strict terms of service and rules about posting. It is very hard for someone to just post a review at random or considerably badmouth an establishment. They even monitor for excessive positive reviews because hotel staff or management could falsely review their own hotel. This careful supervision allows a nice collection of fair and detailed reviews that can be helpful to future customers AND hoteliers. Sometimes a member of management will address your review publicly or contact you directly. So you must be fair to the process per se. Remember, hoteliers expect very disappointed or extremely impressed patrons to actually contribute a review.  As mentioned, most hotels stick to standards and generally think customers are easier to please if those things are consistently met. So if you never brought up your issues to the establishment they are allowed to address you and ask why didn't you make some effort to verbalize your complaints versus posting them in a public space. After all, if you allowed them to think their standards were enough during your stay without saying anything you didn't give them a chance to change. Note that some review sites even penalize reviewers that don't give hotels an opportunity to make a wrong right. Not to scare anyone but anytime you put a negative comment in the universe via online survey, review or comment/opinion you can be legally addressed about your opinions. So always give the hotel the benefit of the doubt in person before you create a negative review. You can always just give a hotel a low rating without detailing your experience or review anonymously.

For now take the time to research prospective hotels and read all customer provided feedback. Also read everything - don't skim to the worst comments or the best reviews. You really want to focus on those passive reviews that can speak to details that may be important to you a.k.a. those standards that may not have been met that you expect. In Part II, I'll discuss exactly how to write review including when is the proper time and best place to post it.

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