107 – Top 5 Guest Sentiment Trends of 2022

by | January 18, 2023

Join TMG Marketing Director Ryan Embree and Vice President of Product and Technology Patrick O’Brien on this episode as they analyze and give insight into the top 5 guest sentiment trends of 2022. 

You will learn about the most talked about topics and how travelers felt towards them so you can adjust your hotel operations for the new year.

Episode Transcript

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Ryan Embree:
Welcome to Suite Spot, where hoteliers check-in and we check out what’s trending in hotel marketing. I’m your host, Ryan Embree. Hello everyone, and welcome to another episode of the Suite Spot. We have made it 2023, but today we are going to talk all about 2022. Yes, this is one of our annual episodes. We’ve done it, I think now for two or three years. Want to welcome Patrick O’Brien, Vice President of Product and Development and Technology. Back to the Suite Spot. Patrick, welcome back.

Patrick O’Brien:
Thank you so much for having me.

Ryan Embree:
Yes, and we’ve got a great episode for you today. If you’ve listened to the Suite Spot before, you’ve heard this around this time of year, as you know, we are the premier solution provider for the hospitality industry and reputation and review response. And with that comes a lot of data. If you’ve listened to me and you listened to a lot of episodes, you know, I love data, give so many analytics, insights, blueprints into what we as hoteliers can do to improve our guest experience on property. And this episode is all about that data. We are gonna be looking at the top five sentiment trends in 2022. But first, Patrick, this is always a question that literally makes my jaw drop every time I ask it. I know we hit a incredible milestone. We had a whole episode dedicated to it. The 1 million guest review mark that we at Travel Media Group and your respond & resolve team has responded to. Congratulations on that feat. But how many reviews do your respondent resolve team respond to each month for hotels?

Patrick O’Brien:
Well, first off, thank you very much. That was an exciting, you know, milestone to hit. And you know, I think the crazy thing with that, you look at that number and then you look at where we were last year and where we’re moving to, just the kind of the snowball effect of those amount of reviews and all that our team is getting accomplished is, is really significant. And the number of reviews month to month obviously varies. It really based on kind of trends that you’d expect to see where the review flow will increase fairly dramatically around spring break and summer travel and around holiday travel in 2022, our team responded to just under 220,000 reviews. Or, you know, if you average that out, it’d be around 18,000 a month with our highest level occurring in July at 23,800 reviews. And I think while that number is really impressive, and when you look at it in regards to our million reviews, it’s very impressive. Our team treats every response good or bad, really like a mini PR opportunity for our customers. So not only are we ingesting and understanding the customer review, we are also identifying all the qualifiable sentiment areas in that review, we’re crafting a response, providing an opportunity for the customer to approve that response and give feedback. So really be part of that conversation. And then our team has a separate analyst review, the combination of written response and custom feedback, really again for grammar clarity and consistency before they post that response to our clients guest and their potential guest to see. So that number actually really represents 220,000 written responses, 220,000 customer approvals, 220,000 grammar edits, and 220,000 responses posted to review sites. And all of that is happening seven days a week and typically occurs within 36 to 48 hours from when the guests originally posted their response. You know, there are some variables in there, but the turnaround on that whole process is pretty quick. And it’s just, for me, it’s exciting to think that before any response is posted online that you know, you’ve had three or four people review that response to make sure that it is of the best quality that it can be.

Ryan Embree:
That’s a science, right? It’s a process. I mean, we have we have workshops, we have educational courses for hotels teaching them how to properly respond to a review. Because we’ve all been there, we’re all travelers. We’ve seen a review before and we’ve seen a response that just kind of makes you cringe and say, man, they really left that opportunity, that many PR opportunity that you were talking about it, it really has an impact on travel today. I even think even more importantly, post covid post pandemic, it’s awesome to hear these numbers. It’s absolutely astonishing and so glad you were able to share those in that incredible feat. You mentioned the sentiment tags and that’s really what we’re gonna be going and diving into today. How many of those sentiment tags or topics are your team getting in those 220,000

Patrick O’Brien:
Reviews? Yeah, so I think the neat thing with sentiment tags is that the reviews in and of themselves can really kind of become a little bit of white noise, but the sentiment tags really allow you to make those that feedback quantifiable. And so in 2022 we identified as an exact number, like 10,317,622 sentiment tags. So, but of that approximately 6.8 million were positive and 2.8 million were negative. So, you know, obviously seeing a lot more positive than negative. The thing that I found really interesting this year, you know, coming off the last couple years is that the overall distribution of sentiment was more consistent month over month than last year. Really indicating to me that travelers are easing back into the quote unquote normalcy of travel. And that hoteliers are, have learned a lot over the past couple years and are doing a better job of managing expectations also as expected. Really the lowest positive sentiment percentages really kind of followed around spring break and summer travel when the system in and of itself is more heavily taxed with increased travel and really decreased tolerances towards travel. One thing though that I found this year that was very surprising, you know, as I mentioned, we always see a lot of reviews and, and a lot of sentiment around holiday travel, but this year the most positive month of 2022 was December, which is again, typically when we see increased frustration. This could have been the result of, you know, issues created by the weather and the issues that the airlines have been having and maybe showing really that the hotels had the ability to really rally behind their guests in help improve those travel disruptions with their hospitality and services. So typically the pattern that we see, but this year we definitely saw a significant increase in positive sentiment in the month of December.

Ryan Embree:
That’s super interesting to hear and you, you know, you could learn so much from this data, you know, in 2020 and 2021 we’re seeing really incredible inconsistencies with the reviews that were coming in and just based on the occupancy levels that we were seeing. And I think you’re right, the reviews in 2020, 2021 really became very polarizing. Either someone having a really great experience or someone having a very negative experience. Cause those guest expectations, which I know we’re gonna touch on today, aren’t properly set. I’m happy to hear that we’re kind of maybe getting to that, that balance there of normalcy people not coming in and not meeting those expectations or falling way below them. So if this is your first time hearing this episode l let’s show you how it works. Patrick and his team went through a lot of data, over 10 million tags, absolutely incredible. We picked out the top five for 2022, we’re gonna share ’em with you today. We’re gonna show what the first thing when these tags are mentioned, what his team of professional review response writers here at Travel Media Group, how we approach that response. Okay. Because again, there’s different strategies, there’s different approaches depending on the hotel brand, size of the property as well. And then what we’re gonna do is we’re gonna give you the hotel here some insights on some operational changes when this sentiment could be trending, one or both ways, either positive or negative. So we’re gonna give you some ideas, and some inspiration there when these tags are mentioned in your reviews. So we’ve got a big list, let’s go ahead and jump into it. The number five guest sentiment trend and tag in 2022, facilities and amenities. Patrick, I’ll let you take it away.

Patrick O’Brien:
Sure. Yeah. So this one was, was interesting. This one did not appear on the, the list last year and probably most likely because a lot of facilities amenities were still closed or in various states of openness, but actually also bumped cleanliness off of the top five this year. Which again, I believe speaks to people returning to the normalcy of travel and hotels, really using the past few years and feedback to make the operational improvements that they were getting feedback on. Typically for this topic, the items that we are looking for in identifying in this category are on-premise gyms, restaurants and cafes, parking facilities, spas, lobbies, kids areas or arcades. And these are all opportunities for the hotel to identify what makes them unique in the market. And these are what can significantly impact the on-premise and out of room experience for the guest. So these are also items that contribute to the convenience of traveling and can allow you to increase your RevPar. Typically the sentiment on these areas for the most part is positive. Of the negative feedback that comes in, it’s usually because there is a lack of those amenities or you know, again, we’re not seeing it as much towards the end of the year, but that those amenities are still closed or in limited capacity. But when that happens, our team really tries to refocus the attention on the other positive aspects of the guest stay. So, you know, if they, if they said well everything was great, you know, the complimentary breakfast was awesome, the room was great, but I really wish they had a pool, you know, we’ll apologize for not having a pool on site, but really try to re-highlight all the things that made their stay great. If there’s the opportunity to, if the hotel has other amenities, we may use it as kind of an opportunity to refocus the attention on sort of those other amenities that the property offers. Hopefully you had an opportunity to check out X, Y, and Z and you know, really kind of play into all of the things that make the guest hopeful experience on site a favorable one.

Ryan Embree:
Yeah, this was an interesting topic and trend, right? Because you know, something like cleanliness, you know, maybe you can make some changes to operationally, but it’s not as easy to build a pool as it is to train a housekeeper, right? So, you know, from an operations standpoint, you know, what can a hotel you’re listening to this take, if they’re getting either positive or negative feedback about their facilities or amenities?

Patrick O’Brien:
Well ultimately it’s going to come down to what will be a common theme I think in our, our conversation today. But the factor is setting proper expectations. I think for hotels, be proud of who you are and what you offer and make sure that the guests know that upfront you don’t need to be and obviously you can’t be everything to every traveler. So really understand where you excel and focus in on that and make sure that your marketing efforts and website align with that strategy. Make sure that your front desk and other team members are pointing out those features to guests while on property. And then just make sure that you do use analytics from online reviews and feedback to try and identify when those amenities need to be updated or replaced and establish a plan to kind of stay on top of that. You know, I think, think also updating your photos can be really helpful. These amenities are never going to look as good as they did on day one and most likely when you got pictures of them for your website. But you don’t want the guests walking into an onsite gym with equipment that has been very well used and love for the past eight years thinking that it’s going to look like it did in the pictures. And again, that’s when the expectations aren’t met and the guest is disappointed it is going to leave that negative feedback. So while you can’t necessarily just add a gym or add a pool to your location, it is making sure that a guest knows what you have to offer and they are going to be able to make then the right decision for them before they book.

Ryan Embree:
Yeah, that’s a absolute great tip with the pictures there cause you’re right, that’s where setting to high expectations can actually get you in a little bit of trouble, but this is a great trend and topic to see in our industry, and I think you spoke to it very well about saying it’s ironic how this pushed cleanliness out of the top five because now guests who we’ve talked about really are just, you know, the past couple years have just stayed in the room, you know, because they, they don’t want to get out and explore the hotel or what your hotel has to offer. Now they’re getting back to the basics, right? Enjoying some of the amenities and for these hoteliers listening, that means when you start promoting that more on places like our social media, think about what is really lagging behind leisure travel, business travel, right? Get back to those amenities that appeal to that business traveler, maybe that onsite gym because they’re coming in for a conference, maybe that business center where they can just cut, find a couple hours of the lobby or restaurant to do some work in. So super, super interesting with our number five trend. Let’s move to number four, food.

Patrick O’Brien:
So typically feedback in this category, I mean the, the highest bulk of it is around breakfast and complimentary breakfast. However, we are also seeing it pertain to onsite restaurants and food service options that are available at the property. And so there are obviously a bunch of different approaches to handle these issues because they can be different and it’s an important part of our process for our team, you know, when they are onboarding and even from feedback and constant check-ins with our customers, that we fully understand what all of these options are, what their hours of operation are, and really any other intricacies or features that make the properties food offerings what they are. And then we work to maintain and update all these accurate notes and descriptions so that we can inform the guests appropriately and talk to those concerns or even those praises appropriately if it is a complimentary breakfast concern. And again, that’s probably really the biggest one. We work to try to identify if it’s a valid concern or what I’d like to consider really a preference concern and address that directly, you know, if it is that they were out of a bunch of different food options when they were there, you know, we may be able to talk about what the hotel is doing to remedy that and make sure that they, you know, that doesn’t happen in the future, but if it’s something like I didn’t like the bagels, you know, we may approach that with, you know, we really apologize that you didn’t like our assortment of bagel choices, but we hope that you did have an opportunity to enjoy our waffle maker and our breakfast burritos and our juice bar and all of these other options that were available to the guests. And I think subconsciously for other guests that let them know that there’s not necessarily a problem with the bagels, it wasn’t to that particular guest taste. If the concern is really that you don’t have a breakfast option, then what we can do is really try to maybe look at some nearby inconvenient breakfast options and talk to those and that can do several different things, you know, including just really kind of help paint the picture of your local community and how close you are to all this convenience that the, that the traveler’s looking for when they’re traveling. Now if there’s an onsite restaurant that may or may not be owned by the hotel or may be managed differently in those cases, sometimes it’s just, you know, taking the opportunity to apologize for that experience, letting the guests know that you’ll share the feedback with the restaurant and for potential future guests really sort of differentiating that one is not the other and that, you know, your experience at the hotel is not going to be indicative of this guest’s experience at the restaurant. We do kind of approach those a little bit differently, really trying to work with the hotel to fully understand what their options are so that we can talk to those appropriately.

Ryan Embree:
Yeah, you know, breakfast always seems to make its way onto this list, but I’m so glad that we did this all encompassing food options because there are so many hotels that we work with that also have onsite restaurants and you know, the past couple years we’ve done this episode, we’ve talked about breakfast being this, you know, either on the go buffet still trying to transition to figure out what it is. And again, this kind of speaks to going back to that normalcy, but I will say this topic also brings up why respond and resolve at travel media group is first in class, there is a wide assortment of what hotels are serving for breakfast options, lunch options, dinner options. And your team does a fantastic job of knowing the menu and keeping notes for each one of these hotel partners. So when we onboard our hotel partners or hotel management companies, we take the time to know what that menu is so we can speak directly to the individual items on the menu as Patrick was talking about, which is so important. And he gave a great example there of how someone has some sort of negative preference in one aspect of your breakfast, talking about all the range of options that you have and turning that negative into a positive. So love to see that. What other, what other ways can a hotel listener do from an operations standpoint if breakfast or food is mentioned in majority of their reviews?

Patrick O’Brien:
Obviously with breakfast there is a, a cost to the hotel to provide these options, but there is also a real benefit to breakfast options that can help you increase booking conversions, potentially help you increase your rates. I think that it is really important to try to aggregate the feedback and make sure that you’re hitting the mark with this amenity and the cost that you were putting into this. You may start to understand that I am, you know, way overdoing it for breakfast and you know, it, it’s too much. Or if I maybe spent a little bit more, I could drastically increase the options there and really set myself apart from the market and what they’re offering and make my stay more attractive to potential guests. If you are not going to have or you don’t have the capacity to provide breakfast, there are, you know, options. You know, maybe for having free coffee and fruit in the lobby or really even we’ve, we talked about this before, but trying to partner with a nearby local restaurant. The thing that for me that is exciting about this opportunity is it really is a win-win where you know, you are helping another local business or small business, while enhancing your guest experience by really introducing them to sort of the local flare of, of your community and you know, then maybe you don’t have the necessary expense that goes along with providing those breakfast options and, you know, so I think that those, those are some good options there when you’re dealing with that. Yeah,

Ryan Embree:
We’ve seen some incredibly creative things that hoteliers have done for guests for food options, including food truck events on sites, right? Mm-hmm, you know, on our social media product and solution that we provide hoteliers, some of the most liked and engaged posts come from food truck events that hotels host in their parking lot. For me, this is a prediction that I think is gonna continue to grow for 2023. If you think about where we were prior to the pandemic, one of the biggest things that we were hearing was about sustainability and going green. We still hear about it today, but it was a really hot topic before, including things like locally sourced food in your breakfast. That can be a great way to market and stand out. Like Patrick is talking about things like gluten-free options and expressing those on places like review sites in your responses for social media sites that gives you the upper hand and competitive advantages that right now these margins are so slim in some of these markets that are trying to gain and capture more occupancy. So I think this is a very important trend and I only see it growing maybe next year, even talking about food and breakfast being higher up on this list next year.

Patrick O’Brien:
Oh, definitely. I mean, again, I, I think that you’re starting to see, you know, people moving away from the grab and go, you know, options and really trying to highlight that. And I think food is always going to be important in travel because when you’re traveling you don’t have the convenience of your kitchen and the food that you’re going to make and sometimes you don’t have the time and you know, there’s obviously extra cost and convenience for going out to restaurants and sitting down. So being able to have a good start to your day just really, I think enhances the experience and there’s just so many ways to kind of approach that from an operational standpoint.

Ryan Embree:
Yeah, that’s a great point. Guests are really gonna start to take notice now that curve of having the grab and go might be gone. They’re gonna be expecting a little bit more out of breakfast and their food options from you. So keep that in mind to our hotel listeners out there. Let’s continue down the list. We’re already at number three. This is a very important topic and certainly I know I’ve hit a couple lists in the past, location.

Patrick O’Brien:
This one’s always a bit more challenging because when you get negative feedback about your location, you know, at the end of the day we can’t really pick up the hotel and just move it somewhere else. Again, one of our approaches very similar to food during onboard and or when we start identifying location concerns, you know, is to understand the surrounding location and why people are choosing to stay at the hotel. Some of that feedback may come from the owners and the management. Some of it’s gonna come back from sentiment, but some people say it a location because it is inclusive and it offers features in many onsite amenities and kind of that resort style property and there’s a convenience in all of that. But some people say because of local attractions or proximity to certain needs like hospitals, businesses, stores, et cetera. Some say just because it was easy to get to off the highway and this is an overnight in my route somewhere else. So when we understand that we can really reinforce those location benefits in the response, even when the feedback is positive, it’s always a good idea to reinforce that in the responses. It helps us set future guest expectations. And again, all of this is about really kind of setting those expectations, but also helps you let the perspective guests know that the ideal travel type for your property is X so they can feel more confident in their choice to book with you. It comes down to you can’t be everything to everyone. Resorts sound nice, everybody would love to stay in a resort, but it is not necessarily the hotel you stay in you need in every situation. And so understanding why people are staying with you, what needs you are servicing and then really, you know, kind of reinforcing that, you know, you may be in a business park but you are located around a lot of premium businesses, so you are going to be maybe attracting more of a business traveler than a leisure traveler or if it’s the stores or the hospital, you know, we get a lot of, hotels that are around hospitals and people have family members that are, that are there that provides a convenience to them as well. So really just understanding that and making sure that you handle that in the review response.

Ryan Embree:
Here’s my tip when it comes to location, and I really learned this during the height of the pandemic, is you really do not know what around your hotel could be important to your guest when traveling. Right? You know, one of the things that happened during Covid was nobody was going out to eat. So those lists that probably a lot of these hotels listening have at their front desk when somebody comes up and say, Hey, I need some local restaurants, right? Or I need some places around here. We all have that list of maybe two or three restaurants that might be within walking distance or upscale and then maybe you have some attractions, some bars and nightlife and things of that nature. But I would suggest doing things like grocery stores, right? Where you could just grab and get something that you might not know what a guest might need. But those become insanely popular during the height of the pandemic. Cause nobody was eating out, they were all trying to get their food from the grocery store, bring it back to the hotel, you know, we were finding that a lot of these guests were asking questions like that. So I get it. I might not be looking to eat out. I might just be looking for a grocery store or a need, you know, to go to a department store or something like that. So make sure you’re adding those places to your list because you might know your location and what’s around you, but your guests who are traveling in from somewhere, you know, unknown, they’re not gonna know anything like that. So I think that’s always a bit of value to go ahead and add to the guest experience. So Patrick, what, what can we do from an operations standpoint? I know you mentioned obviously can’t move the hotel, but what, what do you tell hoteliers that see a lot of the, topics about their location?

Patrick O’Brien:
Well, I think, you know, you brought up a really, kind of an interesting point there as well is a lot of it comes from feedback and understanding feedback, but from an operational standpoint, there’s a lot of power in just talking to your guests and asking questions. And so working with your team to feel comfortable to like ask, oh hey, what brought you to our area, you know, for this day? Like, what can I help you find? What, what are you looking to do while you’re here and getting that information. Now that is a little bit more challenging to quantify and put together in kind of a playbook, but you do that, you work with your team to kind of understand that. And then, you know, also being able to, you know, really look at data and and sentiment data like this to see what people are talking about you specifically attractions and things that they mentioned and kind of be able to quantify that. Then you really want to make sure that you update and have consistency across all of your marketing efforts, whether those are OTAs, whether it’s Google, it’s your website, those areas. And you wanna make sure that you know, you are listing all of these things that travelers are looking for because in addition to kind of setting the expectations when travelers are doing online searches and Google, they’re going to use more long tailed e terms. So it may be what hotels are located near this hospital. You want to make sure that you’ve got as, as much content out there that surrounds you around those items. And again, you know, hopefully what can become more apparent is that really the secret sauce to all of this is, is fairly simple that bad reviews typically happen when expectations aren’t met. So I think, you know, if you are upfront and honest about what your property offers, and realize that there is a market for that, this becomes really, location becomes an issue that you can easily manage. There is a time and place for everything and you may not have what you consider to be the prime and ideal location, but somebody does. And it’s just finding out who that is and making sure that you are putting your marketing efforts towards them.

Ryan Embree:
You’re not gonna learn these things without talking to your guests or hearing and listening to them on places like review sites, but absolutely love that tip. Super important hotel listeners out there, respond like your guests are searching. So think about that, you know, if you’re near a attractions, if you’re near an event center, if you’re near a hospital, again, respond like your guests are searching. Always wanna surround ourselves with those keywords and terms to hopefully put us in a better position to capture more occupancy that are searching for that. Great tips there. We are moving along. We are down to number two. Number two with guests talking about online. I would argue it’s probably the number one topic that hotels were talking about. Yes. And that’s, staff

Patrick O’Brien:
Definitely. And you know, and I think that, obviously as things picked up and picked up really quickly, staffing, you know, held a lot of implications, in the hotel industry and there were challenges to say, you know, fully staffed and challenges to meet all the expectations with the available staff. And that has become obviously an operational challenge that every hotel is experiencing and dealing with. Now, I will say that the content this year is maybe not as polarizing as it was, was last year. You know, I mean last year I think you had a lot of opportunities where the staff was having to maybe enforce some guidelines and recommendations and there was a little bit more of that combative nature between the guests and the staff and we’re seeing that dissipate more, more this year. So it was definitely a little bit more positive, but there were a lot of concerns around being understaffed and maybe not getting the full experience. However, you also sort of saw a little bit more of a tendency of guests understanding that and understanding that the people that were working were working really hard to try and make sure that the experience was as good as possible. And the approach to this response really there, there is no right way or just single way to kind of attack it because it’s going to vary by the review. There are issues that could just be reflective of a lapse in service, they’re the issues of understaffing. Then there can be really those more critical or legal issues with those critical or legal issues. Again, for my team, we’re really going after working immediately with the hotel owners and management to kind of investigate those concerns and create a plan to move forward in both, you know, a public response and potentially a direct response to the guest. All of those situations are going to vary around the situation for other issues that are not as serious. Think a lot of times it comes down to really apologizing and reinforcing your property’s commitment to delivering superior service. Sometimes it is, you know, there could be a lot of issues that impact the interactions between a staff member and, and a guest. You know, letting people know that this isn’t typical of the service that we strive for to deliver, you know, to our guests. And you know, we’ll really work to, you know, with our team members to improve that. Even if it is not the case. We always shy away from blaming the guest. It may just be their perception or they could have just come in with a really bad attitude and been really difficult to work with, but you are never going to win that argument. So, you know, we never approach a response as well. Our staff is great. You are just, you know, a terrible person or a terrible guest or anything of that nature.

Ryan Embree:
And that’s one of the benefits of of having a solution like respond and resolve because it, it takes a mental and emotional toll on these hoteliers that work and eight hours, sometimes a double shift overnight to provide superior customer service and to see that written about you, human nature to get defensive there. And sometimes that comes out in our responses. So having a third party come in, know the voice of the hotel and, and being able to kind of come from a different angle, but also protecting the property and, and your reputation online. It’s so important. And another reason why, why our respond and resolve it stands out in comparison to some of the competitors. You mentioned this at the top of the episode about those mini PR issues. You know, another reason that respondent resolves is, is such a high level is because we do work in tandem with the hotel when those situations arise and they do arise in our industry, you know, hospitality more than one. We have people staying overnight at our hotels, we’re hosting them, we take responsibility for them so things happen. And when they do, you are not alone. We work in tandem with you to put together a response that is not going to create this kind of slippery slope or snowball effect that could have permanent damage on your reputation. But even some of those smaller issues that you mentioned. Another great benefit of our team is we’ve responded to a million plus of these guest reviews. Sometimes we know what to look for and some of the times those reviews when we’re talking about staffing, actually run into some privacy issues, talking about individual employees and mentioning them by name. And some of those actually can be flagged and reported as going against guidelines from that response site and sometimes are even taken off the review site. So having a team back behind you looking for those things 24/7, 7 days a week can really help and put your mind at ease to know that again, have that permanent damage that we talked about your reputation. So as we talk about staffing, this was a problem for hoteliers all year, all in 2022. Some hoteliers listening to this, still battling this, what can you do from a operations standpoint when staffing’s brought up regularly in your reviews?

Patrick O’Brien:
You know, there’s probably a much longer conversation in, in the under staffing issues and, and how to attract employees, how to kind of help retain team members and stuff at your hotel. But ideally when you’re getting I think, complaints around staffing, it’s really the exception and not the norm. If it is the norm, then there’s also a bigger conversation to have there. And try to understand that if the feedback is constructive, then it’s not always constructive. But if it is constructive, then I, you know, I think it’s always a good idea to share that with the individual or the team. We can’t get better if we don’t necessarily know that we’re doing something wrong. Sometimes you may not perceive something that you’re doing as being off-putting, but being made aware of that you could change that and then, you know, kind of increase that as well. You know what, I think sometimes we see too from owners or managers that they’re like, I know this employee and the they’re not like this or, you know, our, you know, our front desk isn’t like this. And again, you take this very defensive stance and that’s not a way that you can approach it, but even though like I think you may not necessarily agree with the feedback, it doesn’t necessarily negate the feedback and can still provide an opportunity for growth for your team members. So, you know, you did mention, you know, we will work to help hoteliers kind of try and remove certain reviews, but in each site is a little bit different and they have guidelines around that. Companies and even hotels try to rely on, I’m going to get a good reputation by just trying to get rid of every review online that’s negative. A) that that’s not a good strategy because, you know, people start to question if everything’s overly positive, but also the likelihood of that happening is not realistic. You know, there are certain times where you can definitely get reviews removed, but you know, the idea is really to still try to process that feedback, understand how valid it is, and then try and again, quantify that and make adjustments where necessary. Always have a response no matter what. Even if in the back of your mind you’re like, I don’t a hundred percent believe this because I know that this situation you still, you can’t lead with that.

Ryan Embree:
Yes, that is not certainly what we are suggesting is to go on to your hotel’s reviews and report everything or flag everything that you you don’t like, that will certainly not work as, as Patrick said. But there are those cases, and we’ve mentioned this before when it comes to staff, you’re looking for any advantage right now to try to get somebody to sign with your property versus the property next door. And one of the places they’re certainly gonna look is those reviews. And if you’re responding in a professional customer service oriented way and your hotelier, next door is blaming the guests and emotional, with their responses, employees are going to recognize that they’re going to look at what a day in a life might look like at their property. And if it’s a bunch of guests yelling at them all day every day, they might choose the hotel next door. So I know we’ve been talking about responding to reviews and, and doing it for guests and prospective travelers, but also keep that in mind if you’re hiring right now, especially if you have a great reputation and you do an excellent job of responding, point them to your trip advisor, right? Use it as a place of pride. Tell ’em if you want to feel for what a day in the life looks like, go to our trip advisor and you can see just a quick tip there for right now, we know these hotelers are struggling with staffing. All right, we’ve made it number one, top five sentiment trends in 2022. It is accommodations. Patrick, talk to us a little bit about that.

Patrick O’Brien:
This Is probably no surprise. I mean, why people are saying at a hotel is, you know, is is the place to sleep. But we’ve mentioned before when we onboard an account, we start with gaining a detailed understanding of the various accommodations at the hotel. You know, are there different tiers of room, are there different in-room amenities? Are there any plans or future plans for renovation? This really allows us to address concerns head-on and speak to them directly. Again, really hopefully to resolve the previous guest concern, but also to help better manage future guest expectations. These notes and feedback are consistently updated, you know, weekly, monthly, quarterly, whenever you know, updates need to be made, you know, based on the changing conditions at the hotel. And then again, I think it’s about identifying the underlying concern and addressing it. So one of the tricks that our team tries to implement in a response is detailing that you will work to identify the room and investigate these concerns in depth. And that’s important because you may get a review from PatrickTraveler101 and it was like my room, the air conditioner didn’t work and the carpet was torn up a little bit. So that’s not indicative of every room at your property, that’s one room. And so, you know, even by saying like, hey, we’re going to work to identify cause you know, by PatrickTraveler101, I don’t necessarily know which guest that was, but by doing that you are, A) letting that guest know, hey, we’re working to, you know, take your feedback in and make changes, but you’re also kind of subconsciously letting other guests know that this is one room, guess what, we’ve got 120 of them. So your experience is not going to be that, you know, we really wanna do that. The other trick that we use is that, you know, not all accommodation concerns are really black and white. And, and again, we’ve talked about this a little bit before, but a lot of times it can simply be due to an individual’s preference. You know, people talk about the beds weren’t comfortable and beds may not be comfortable for them, but they are comfortable for 95% of our guests just reinforcing that message, letting them know that we apologize that, you know, our beds weren’t to your preference, but we hope that you found the rest of the room to be comfortable and those types of things. It’s not a bad thing at all to apologize and you know, just to sort of reinforce that not everything in your room is going to be to everybody’s exact preference, but that you really do your best to focus on comfort and you know, and superior service for that guest while they’re there.

Ryan Embree:
That mattress example is, is so important to think because again, as a traveler, what we’re doing is we’re putting our minds in the shoes of that traveler, right? So as we start to think, that really highlights the importance of quantity of reviews. So if I see something like Patrick mentioned about the mattress, I might be scrolling through and I might scroll through a couple positive reviews to see, okay, is this an individual that is a preference or is this a problem at the property? And if I see, you know, two to three reviews talking about the mattress firmness, I could see that as an issue. But if you have more and more of these reviews and content, now all of a sudden that starts to look like the exception and not the rule at your property. If there’s one little piece of your guest experience that a traveler sees, we don’t want it to turn into a pattern in your review feed there. So when we talk about accommodations, what can we do from an operations standpoint, Patrick?

Patrick O’Brien:
Hopefully these issues are more the exception and sort of those preferences than the norm and you really are just apologizing for not meeting the preferences and working to pay attention to that area moving forward. However, you know, as you mentioned, if you’re starting to notice trends or you feel like you’re noticing trends, there are different effort levels, tiers that you can do from an operations standpoint to kind of address those. And I think the easiest is trying to identify from the review who the actual guest was and then cross referencing that to their reservation and identify the room and investigate the concern and handling those, those concerns. Kind of the second tier and a little bit more complex would be, you know, really again to spend time looking at those sentiment analytics and those review feedback analytics and trying to identify the trends around those specific concern areas and creating a plan to fix those. And that may be in spending money to do improvements in operational improvements. It could be, you know, just via those capital improvements or maybe by just taking the proper steps to update the expectations prior to arrival. Beyond that you could kind of use those two items and those two pieces of data to isolate the issues either to specific areas of the hotel and or to specific team members or staff members and then, you know, kind of coordinate and work to address those issues. But ultimately it comes down to really identifying and understanding what the root cause of those concerns really was. You know, was it an issue with the, with the room itself, was it an issue with the expectations or the preferences? And then kind of addressing those. And again, the majority of the reviews are going to center around this area so it becomes really hard to try to manage. And that’s where I think this sentiment reporting and these analytics are so important cause you can start to understand, you know, how often by a percentage wise does this topic or this specific, you know, if we’re talking about the TVs or the beds or the carpet, how often is that actually appearing in my overall reviews or is it just happening recently? So I can get ahead of this before, you know, it becomes a bigger problem. You know, really using sort of those analytics to drive your decision making is going to be important here.

Ryan Embree:
Yeah, the, the age of educated guessing in our industry has certainly passed us. I mean we have way too much data now to not make data-driven decisions for our capital investments, like you mentioned, but also our time investments. The most valuable resource for a hotelier is spending our time wisely. Is it training? Is it making operational changes to one part of the guest experience or another? You know, we have so much data out there that blueprint and those clues should be right in front of you left by the people that are most important people that are staying with us and the guests and they certainly are not shy to express it based on all the feedback that they left our hotel partners getting over 220,000 reviews that our team responded to in 2022. It’s been an absolutely great episode. Any final thoughts today Patrick, before we close out?

Patrick O’Brien:
Yeah, I mean, again, thank you for having me on. I, you know, and I think you kind of touched on this a little bit earlier, where there is this sort of maybe personal attack that you feel when you’re getting online reviews and feedback and so there’s a natural tendency to shy away from that. No one wants to hear negative feedback, but again, you can’t improve unless you know where and how to improve. So I think it’s very important for hotels to capture data on all the feedback so that as a business owner or a manager you can actually establish a game plan and an effective game plan. There’s a lot of sentiment tools out there that use AI and that technology is improving every day. But I would also suggest a service where you have the ability to manually adjust the AI recommendations or have a team like ours that is doing that for you and constantly teaching the AI. I think the worst thing that that happens, you know we mentioned there was over 10 million sentiment tags that we captured in 2022, and when you have that much data and you start to see some of it, it’s very inconsistent. And we hear this from our hotel partners all the time. It just starts to become white noise and when it becomes white noise you lose really this amazing opportunity to gain a competitive advantage. Being able to kind sift through that and and make the most of those analytics is important. And the other aspect would just reinforce the importance of review response and more importantly, I think non templated review response. A lot of people with time and being understaffed just want to check a box. At the end of the day, everyone who stays with you, they want to be heard and they wanna feel like you’re listening. But even more important is I think that your review response is probably one of the very best tools that you have to market your property. So don’t let that sort of free opportunity pass you by.

Ryan Embree:
Yeah, hotels are learning that every day as they’re contacting us more and more about review response and respond and resolve and all the great work you and your team are doing, Patrick. So I wanna thank you for being on the Suite Spot for bringing these insights to see the top five trends. I’m curious to see what’s gonna carry over for 2023 when we do this again next year. So Patrick, thank you again for joining the Suite Spot.

Patrick O’Brien:
Thank youso much.

Ryan Embree:
Thank you all for listening and we’ll talk to you next time. To join our loyalty program. Be sure to subscribe and give us a five-star rating on iTunes. Suite Spot is produced by Travel Media Group. Our editor is Brandon Bell with Cover Art by Bary Gordon. I’m your host Ryan Embree and we hope you enjoyed your stay.

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