50 – 1st Impression Score™

by | June 3, 2020

In this episode of the Suite Spot, we celebrate another hotel digital marketing innovation created by Travel Media Group’s product development team led by VP of Product & Technology, Jason Lee. Host Ryan Embree is joined by Jason to discuss 1st Impression Score™, a first of its kind hospitality and reputation metric.

Jason shares what separates 1st Impression Score™ with other reputation metrics in hospitality and why it was necessary to create it now. Jason explains the 4 factors that impact the 1st Impression Score™ and gives tips on what a hotel can do to improve their score. Jason and Ryan also speak to what role traveler first impressions play in a COVID-19 travel world. The TMG 1st Impression Score™ is a powerful tool that hotels can use to see how reputation influences revenue in real-time.

If you are interested in learning more about unlocking your hotel’s 1st Impression Score™ or to submit a question for future episodes, call or text 407-984-7455.

Episode Transcript
Our podcast is produced as an audio resource. Transcripts are generated using speech recognition software and human editing and may contain errors. Before republishing quotes, we ask that you reference the audio.

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, welcome to another episode of the Suite Spot. This is your host, Ryan Embree coming to you once again from my home office here in Orlando. We’ve got a great and exciting episode for you. I am joined, once again, remotely with Travel Media Group’s Vice President of Product Development and Technology. You know his voice well, that is Mr. Jason Lee. Jason, thank you again for joining me on the Suite Spot.

Jason Lee:
Alright, thanks for having me Ryan.

Ryan Embree:
Absolutely and we’ve got a really exciting topic today, another innovation and digital tool for hoteliers that we’re extremely excited to talk about and share with you all on the Suite Spot. I want to start this episode by congratulating you, Jason, you and your team on creating this tool. It’s called the 1st Impression score. It’s one of a kind, but you know, don’t let me explain it. Let’s hear it from you. What is the 1st impression score for someone that’s never heard of that before?

Jason Lee:
So it’s a brand new metric at looking at reputation. So if you think about reputation, for those of you listening to this, if you’re using a tool that’s provided by your brand or are you using some other tool or maybe even using Travel Media Group’s tools, you’re used to seeing reputation given to you as it occurs, right? So I receive a review, the contents of that review, the score of that review, all of that kind of comes in. So I can see my last 30 days, here’s how many reviews came in, here’s some sentiment data possibly around this, and so you’re seeing reviews in time, right? But that is not how the guest experiences your reviews, the guest experiences your reviews as they display, as they show, right? So, I see your lifetime score in one phase of my research, but then I might encounter your actual reviews on that first page of the review site. So now I’m looking at the lifetime score and I’m also looking at further data on that first page, but that first page worth of reviews could have nothing to do with the last 30 days or even 60 days. And now even in this time, it could have nothing to do with the last 90 days, right? So that data that’s there is influencing guests to stay with you or not stay with you and that has nothing to do with traditional modeling of reputation. And so we developed 1st impression score, we developed it, by the way, long before COVID we’d been working on this for awhile. And this metric is brand new, so it is a completely new way of looking at it. We call it 1st impression because it truly is the guest’s impression of your reputation as they see it in real time. So the score that they see today, right? Or right now, the guests that encounters your information today, right now, in this moment, this afternoon could actually encounter a new set of information. So really, it’s understanding where you’re at in every moment. So we’re now taking this information, we’re displaying it in real time, and then we’re also recording this data. So every day we’re recording what that score was, what it looked like on that day. And so what 1st impression score is made up of is that first page worth of data, so the scores that are on that very first page. Your lifetime of data, so this would be those scores that they encounter that are really the outside score. So I go to TripAdvisor and I see that you’re a 4.5, that is a lifetime score. The next would be review response, but review response in the first 10 reviews. So a lifetime review response metric has nothing to do with what the guest sees, right? A guest isn’t going to look at every review you’ve ever received to make sure it’s responded to. They’re just looking at probably that first page. And then finally review flow, so how often is that information being refreshed on that page? So I’m a guest, I come to that page and I see that you haven’t received a review, you know, or the latest review is two months old or three months old or maybe even six months old. That could really change my impression of whether or not that’s valid. So I think that’s where there’s information here that could be really valuable to a hotel in assessing data the guests are accessing, the data guests are using, to really judge whether or not they’re going to stay at that hotel or not. So 1st impression score really kind of bottles all those things together into a single score and then your score then on each one of those metrics individually.

Ryan Embree:
1st Impression is definitely the perfect name for this tool. I think hoteliers tend to forget that reputation online reviews have been around almost now for 20 years, two decades. So a tool like this, a 1st impression score can give you a really, really good idea of what a traveler now, today – what that 4.2 actually means to that traveler in real time. And I absolutely love that. I’m curious, you know, every single tool at Travel Media Group – and we are constantly innovating you and your team, Jason, do a great job of that – usually has some sort of story behind it or reason why you felt it was necessary. Why did you think creating a, like we said, a new tool that hasn’t been out there needed to be done right now, and what is it going to do for hoteliers?

Jason Lee:
So, you know, you kind of answered that question when you’re talking about how old reputation is or how long reputation has been around for a hotel. So the hotel has been in business for a while. They’re really being judged on these lifetime scores, but guests get that, guests understand that. And so what you find a lot is you’ll go to a city and you’ll see a bunch of reviews or a bunch of hotels with lifetime scores in a very, very similar range. Let’s call it it 3.5 to 4.0, right? So there’s a segment of hotels that hit the 3.5 to 4.0 range, you know, in a 5.0 scale. And so guests are then interacting inside of that, so they’re looking to judge a hotel based on the rate that they see and that lifetime score. But what you’re seeing more and more is that, as those scores sort of homogenized, they’re all the same. Guests need more information. There’s not enough to go on because – and the fact that these scores change so slowly. So what happens is that we’re fixated on the date range and we’re fixated on a lifetime in traditional reputation reporting. And what we’re not fixated on, is what the guest experiences. And so what we found is that the data that was traditionally being shown wasn’t giving a hotel enough information to understand why a guest was not choosing them or why guest was choosing them. As we dig deeper into this, as we start to see these metrics grow – and obviously since COVID there’s like an unprecedented type of reputation that’s happening – which is really crazy, an extreme downturn in the number of reviews, but then the type of reviews that are being given are really interesting. But with the 1st Impression Score, what we’re still able to see during this time, which is really interesting, is that I go into a traditional 30 day, you know, look at my reputation and it’s all zeros, right? But that’s not what guests are still experiencing. Guests are experiencing actually a whole range of analytic, that we’ve never shown. And so this is what we – we figured this out and we started like moving further and further into it and sort of looking at these data trends. And what we found is that those first 10 reviews were impacting guests to an alarming degree and that we really were showing zero metric for. And really there is no other platform showing this metric. And this metric as we’re recording it can only happen in real time. So I can’t go back in time and show you what happened on these dates because those 10 are constantly in flux, right? So I think that there’s something really interesting. So as we got into this, the further we got into it, we started seeing this need for a brand new type of metric and a brand new type of reporting. And it’s really exciting, especially when we started looking at the first bits of this data set. It was really exciting. And so our database, just in terms of where we’re headed, I mean we’re headed towards, you know, an unprecedented amount of data storage that we’ve never seen before in recording these daily scores.

Ryan Embree:
I think it’s so useful for a hotelier. I mean – and this could be a hotel that really has a less than ideal reputation right now using this because again, this metric takes into not just overall score but how you’re doing on a day to day basis – but it’s also useful for the hotels that might be sitting back with a 4.2, 4.5. Jason, what would you say to a hotelier out there right now that’s got a 4.2. How can a 1st Impression Score help them?

Jason Lee:
So first of all, that number could be very comparable to a bunch of other hotels in your market and if guests know that they’re not using that number to fully assess you. So they might use that in the very early stages of their search, but they’re not using that to actually make their purchase, in most cases. So you could have a 4.2 and you could hold a 4.2 or a 4.4, you could hold that depending on the number of reviews you have for a year or two, before you actually start to see that dip into the threes. But meanwhile, those first 10 reviews are showing negative information on a regular basis or those first 10 reviews that that guests are interacting with aren’t flowing fast enough. So you could have sites like, especially like Travelocity and Orbitz that don’t get a lot of reviews, where you just have some bad reviews, you got bad reviews sitting there for a long time and it’s impacting guest’s decision. And in those decisions, Orbitz, Travelocity, Expedia, Hotels.com, Booking.com those are point of purchase investigations. So this is usually where you see Google in that first phase, TripAdvisor in that kind of like confirmation phase, and then the OTAs and the brands where it’s point of purchase confirmation. And so you could literally be like, you know, basically having maybe three or four, one or two star reviews on those sites that are just stopping business completely from there. And maybe pre-COVID you could be like, “well, who cares? You know, I’m doing great. I don’t care.” I think now, more than ever, that’s where you know, you’ve got to look at every single channel and make sure that it is optimized and ready for guests, ready to receive guests, and putting yourself in the best possible position. So from a 1st Impression Score standpoint, we try to take all that data, show it together so you can kind of formulate your own path to purchase. So looking at Google, I might maybe take a look at lifetime score a little heavier than my first page, but as I start to look at TripAdvisor, a hundred percent first page is going to be influential and every single one of the OTAs. That first page is extremely influential.

Ryan Embree:
Absolutely and that’s one of the best features about this tool is that it breaks it down by site, shows you how competitive you are against, your score against a competitor’s score on either one of these sites. So it really does show some insight into exactly what you said, the booking path and what sites you’re winning and what sites you’re losing. That is ultimately one of the questions that we get all the time from hotels. I want to get more business to my hotel. How can you show me that? And this metric is kind of a foundation and a blueprint to show you how competitive you are on each one of these sites where travelers are making booking decisions. So absolutely incredible tool. When you rolled this out, when you and your team rolled this out, Jason, you made it a point in there to put in the formula review response, share why that was part of that formula for 1st Impression Score.

Jason Lee:
So review response says a lot about a hotel’s operation to a guest and whether or not you respond to reviews, especially negative reviews, it says a lot to a guest. So there’s something negative there with no rebuttal or no confirmation or no resolution. That says a lot to a guest. So you could have a one or two star review, everybody gets them, but if you have no response to those, that’s definitely going to be a negative impact. And I think, it’s also really important to understand how that review flow and review response play a part together. So right now, obviously, reviews are not coming in like the way that – because we don’t have guests going out as much – but in the months to come, this score is going to become really, really interesting because the flux between – so I get a one star review, right? Let’s say I get a one star review on TripAdvisor. So that one star review, without a response, influences a guest every single minute that it has not responded. So the urgency to respond is also really important inside of this and I think when you start to think about it, not in here’s my brand requirement, here’s what I’m telling my DOS, “Make sure it’s done, you know, in the next 72 hours.” It’s thinking about how is a guest being impacted by this negative information in every moment. So you never know. Right now, all this information, it seems almost static as you look at a dashboard, but it is not static to a guest. This information is the information they’re using to assess and decide whether or not to stay with you. So the longer that review remains unanswered, the more detrimental it is to a hotel. So first impression and review response is extraordinarily important because it’s about timing. This is a real time report. When you pull this report on our dashboard, it is what it is, right in this moment. Right now, it’s a live report. Every time it renders, it renders live information. So understanding that and looking at that is important. So keeping your review response percentages high there is I think of the utmost importance.

Ryan Embree:
And that’s what hoteliers want to know, right? They want to know at that at this moment, right now when travelers are making booking decisions, how competitive is my hotel? And that’s exactly what this 1st Impression Score does for a property. Jason, I’m a hotel, I reach out to Travel Media Group, I see that I’ve got a 55 1st Impression Score, I want to improve that. What are some strategies I can do to do so?

Jason Lee:
The biggest ways to affect that percentage is all in that first page. So a lot of the metric that we use, review, flow, review response, and first page score, obviously, is all about your last 10 reviews. So thinking about last 10 reviews, what are the things that you can do there? Obviously, you get more of them. You get more reviews and you get more positive reviews there. So, that’s the most important thing to do is to have positive information on that first page. The next, I would say probably the next most important thing, would be to make sure that everything was responded to and then obviously you need to have a flow of new reviews, new positive confirmation that your hotel is safe to stay at, that your hotel is the right hotel for them. And I think when a guest goes to that first 10, they’re already in a mindset of I just want to confirm that this is, that I’m not going to go to this hotel and have a bad experience. And that’s really where they’re at. So improving your scores there. So post-stay surveys, probably top of the list in terms of trying to get people to leave more reviews, whatever you can do at the front desk to influence positive reviews and positive information. Obviously, you know, Expedia and Booking.com do post-stay pieces, making sure to remind guests that when they receive that to lead positive information or we’d love to hear your review from there. And then making sure you get that review response done and you get enough of those. And I think if you do those things, lifetime takes care of itself. So lifetime is going to creep its way back up. If you’re going down, it’s going to slowly creep its way back up and that’s just statistics of lifetime scoring. It takes a long time. If you’ve got a thousand, a couple thousand reviews, it takes time to ever move that needle.

Ryan Embree:
Yeah and that’s the key, right? A lot of these factors that you put into the formula here, correlate very strongly with one another. In order to impact your first page reviews, you have to have good review flow. Once you get that good review flow and, you hopefully have positive reviews flowing through there and you’re responding to your reviews, ultimately that’s going to turn the overall score around. So if you’re looking to improve your score, you really have to concentrate on those factors and then you’ll start to see everything start to trend positively. So the correlation I think is super, super important for hotels to know that if you’re improving on all of these, it’s all gonna generally trend upward and vice versa. You could look at it the other way. If you’re letting one slide that’s going to have a negative impact on all of them, as well. You know, we’ve spoke at length over the last couple of episodes and we will continue to do so just because it is the most pressing subject right now in our industry and that’s COVID-19. I’m curious, you mentioned you and your team created this score prior to COVID-19. How does it fit for hoteliers in a COVID-19 world and moving forward?

Jason Lee:
I mean, what’s crazy about it is that it’s perfect for this world, because it’s still showing a metric that’s live, right? It’s not, I think that’s what’s crazy about the traditional metrics of reputation is they’re all empty right now. You know, they’re literally, if you’re looking at a 30, 60, 90 day review flow, it’s an empty report. You’re talking about a few reviews, two, three reviews, maybe in 90 days. But, that’s not what’s affecting a guest. I think it’s probably – and again we created it and I’m and obviously I’m super high on it and I’m just fascinated by the data that it’s producing – but I would say it is the most important reputation report you can look at on a daily basis. A hundred percent right now, especially, it’s the thing that I would be fixated on. And it’s something that I would be constantly looking at to see how do I improve and how do I make it better? And especially now where you’re talking about less guests, it’s leveraging as many of those guests as possible to help with this, to lead positive information and to give guests that are coming in more information. So if the last time you received a review, was 90 days ago and a guest has no confirmation as to the cleanliness of your hotel, as to the operations of your hotel right now, you know, from other guests. I think you could be in trouble. And I think sitting back and waiting for a guest to leave a review is not the strategy. So taking this and creating action around it, I think is really important and so I think I kind of answered it at the top. And that is, I think it’s extraordinarily important and even more so now probably than ever.

Ryan Embree:
Well in a world where the key to getting occupancy and travelers in through your doors, is really circled around consumer confidence and comfort level. What better way to gauge that than a reputation tool that looks at your first impression? You know, this is the type of scrutiny that travelers are going to be looking under a magnifying glass for, you know, a long, long time after this. And in order to convert them, you’re going to need to impress them with what they find online about your hotel. The great news is that you know, you and your team have done a great job of doing that. You know, one part of a of a hotel’s first impression or where travelers will just become aware of your business is through social media. I know it’s not a part of the 1st Impression Score formula, but how does social media fit in there?

Jason Lee:
I mean, I think it’s in that same realm of guests really seeking information that confirms a buying purchase and confirms a reservation. Social media has become a big part of that, so Facebook and Instagram and Twitter and Pinterest, they all influence guests in different ways, either through search or searching of those platforms. So having a page, having current posts on there, so having posts that – and I think a lot of people, you know, with all of this going on were like well I don’t have guests so maybe I don’t need to post and you could not be more wrong. You do need to post. And it is the place where you could put really valuable information. And I think guests now more than ever are saying, “I just need to make sure that this hotel is going to be clean. I just need to make sure that my family and I are going to be safe on this trip.” So using social media to give that messaging is extraordinarily important. Not to mention the fact that guests also leave comments, they leave tweets, they leave comments and posts. So staying on top of that and being mindful of that information that’s being pushed out there is really important. And I think we’ve tried to push some of these things together. So we’ve created some, some assessments for hotels. So if you’re a hotel that’s out there and you’re thinking, this is interesting, you can contact us and we can actually give you some of this scoring. We can give you 1st Impression Score, we can also give you scoring around traditional reputation and also social media. But as you bring all these things together and you start to really assess your digital footprint, you start to really assess what it is that is influencing guests that has specifically to do with my location. I think it’s very eyeopening and you’ll start to see that maybe doing business the way you were doing it before needs to be changed. And it’s not a huge amount of effort. There’s companies like ours that help you, but even if you want to do it yourself, there’s also a lot of tools and a lot of things that could help you put a plan, put a strategy together to put yourself in the very best position to capture guests. But going back to your original question, I think all of these things play a part and it may not be as direct a route as reputation because you’re getting reputation scores hitting you on every point of journey, but every offshoot of that – so just a general search, I find a property I want to do, I do a general search of that property and Facebook jumps out, you know, and you go that go to that page and it’s a place page that’s never been claimed or it’s a page that the last post was from 2017. It’s going to hurt you.

Ryan Embree:
I completely agree with you. I think especially in this time, it’s a time where a lot of hoteliers are reflecting on how they used to do business and how things are going to continue moving forward, and I think one of the key indicators of what that might look like – cause those are the questions we’re trying to answer right now is when are we going to get travelers back through our door? How successful and how quickly can we do that? This 1st Impression report that we can provide for you is going to give you a very clear indicator of a starting point and where there might be some need to improve on. Jason, we’ll wrap up here just with any final thoughts that you have a very exciting time and launch, I know, but just any final thoughts around today’s episode?

Jason Lee:
The one thing I’d say is that Travel Media Group, what we try to do is we try to help hotels on a lot of fronts and I think we assemble a lot of data, we push a lot of these things together, we try to put it under a really easy to use dashboard to assess all of this stuff, but you can do some of this on your own. If you’re listening to this podcast and you’re like, “I want to know what my own 1st Impression Score is.” I mean, some of this stuff you could go in and you could look through all of your sites and check it out and do it on your own if you wanted to. We use this data and this algorithm that we created to really help hotels and that’s really our primary goal. That’s what we’ve been doing throughout this entire crisis is helping hotels. And I know sometimes it’s like this is a podcast from our company, about our company, but you know, at the heart of what we do, it’s less about how much money we make off of these things and more about what it is that we’re doing to help hotels understand this information and really truly change the course of their business. So, if you’re a current customer of Travel Media Group, we provided 1st Impression Scoring at no additional charge, it’s just part of our base of what we give and we’re going to continue moving in these directions where the things that we do add value and really do add meaning to the services that we offer, but also to the services that you can do yourself because we don’t influence every single site. So there’s a broader strategy that can be played out there and the analytics and tools that we give are really about that broader strategy. It’s about really truly changing the course of how you serve guests, how you clean rooms, how you interact. So it’s not all about positive information, creates positive reservations. It’s really about positive change, creates all of these things. And that’s really what we’re trying to accomplish through this.

Ryan Embree:
Couldn’t agree with you more, Jason. You know, as I mentioned at the beginning of this episode a lot, if not all of our innovations come from ideas and insights from our current customers, the hotel world out there, what we’re seeing, and the trends that we’re seeing. So congratulations again, Jason. Thank you so much for being on and explaining this new exciting feature, 1st Impression Score.

Jason Lee:
Thank you.

Ryan Embree:
If you are interested in learning your hotel’s 1st Impression Score or have any questions about any of the content that we talked about today, can always reach out to us (407) 984-7455. Thank you so much for listening to the Suite Spot. Hope everyone is safe and healthy and we will talk to you next time on the Suite Spot. 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 Anne Sandoval with cover art by Bary Gordon. I’m your host, Ryan Embree, and we hope you enjoyed your stay.

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