Successfully manage hotel reviews in the digital world

Negative online reviews, often considered a problem by hotel managers, offer opportunities for improvement, according to a study involving an IFTM researcher

Research Corner | A partnership between Macau Business and the Macau Institute of Tourism Studies (IFTM)

A study involving an academic from the Macau Institute of Tourism Studies (IFTM) offers a guide for hoteliers on how to positively address for their business what researchers call “negative electronic word of mouth” or ” negative eWOM”. The work, based on research covering hotel establishments in Hong Kong, points out that effective handling of negative online reviews is essential for any hotel today.

The study identified a set of “three practical recommendations” for managing hotel reviews online. First, hotels can “improve their visibility on ‘electronic word of mouth’ websites” – such as the popular international travel platform – by increasing the volume of guest reviews and improving the ranking of their hotels. on these websites, it was suggested. Second, each hotel must have “a comprehensive mechanism” in place to manage and manage negative reviews online. Third, hotels should “harness and transform ‘electronic word of mouth’ into business intelligence”.

The study was carried out by IFTM researcher Dr Yvonne Chen Yi Fan in partnership with Professor Rob Law of Hong Kong Polytechnic University and Mr Kirk Yan Ka Kui, the latter a former researcher from the ‘IFTM. The results were presented in the academic article “Negative eWOM Management: How Do Hotels Turn Challenges into Opportunities?” published last year in the Journal of Quality Assurance in Hospitality and Tourism.

The research included interviews with senior and middle managers working in high-end and luxury hotels in Hong Kong, with respondents asked about their responses to negative reviews online. In addition, the management responses of the searched hotels published on TripAdvisor regarding online reviews – covering a 12-month period – were uploaded for content analysis.

The results revealed that hotel managers perceived “electronic word of mouth” not only affected hotel reputation and company revenue, but also made it difficult to manage guest expectations. “Positive ‘e-word of mouth’ motivates management and the team to keep up the good work, while negative ‘e-word of mouth’ is customer-focused learning that pushes hotels to identify issues and fix them. ‘continually improve,’ the researchers concluded. .

destructive power

The researchers pointed out that “in the digital age, the Internet offers angry consumers an easy way to express their displeasure.” Negative communications shared among online users “exert a strong and destructive influence on the hospitality industry”, they added.

The research team suggested that hotels – especially smaller and mid-sized properties that are lesser-known in the market, and any property that relies on bookings made online – should “actively manage their presence on “electronic word of mouth,” for brand image building and revenue generation.” In this regard, increasing review volume could improve a hotel’s visibility on review websites, have “Hotels can place iPads at service counters and prompt guests to write a review when they check out,” the researchers suggested, offering drinks so guests can take their time writing reviews, the researchers said. ‘team.

In situations where a guest has already left the hotel premises and posted a negative review online, “hotels may invite complainants to post a few words in addition to their initial negative reviews” after management resolves with success the problems mentioned in the original message. “These subsequent reviews can turn the influence of a negative comment into a positive one,” the researchers noted.

Hotels can also invite bloggers or other online opinion leaders to write reviews for their products, according to the study “These professional writers know how to skillfully write a desirable review and are particularly influential with the younger generation of Chinese customers”.

The researchers also highlighted the need for hotels to put in place a set of corporate policies and guidelines to “effectively and effectively monitor and respond” to negative online reviews. “To safeguard and manage corporate image, hotels should be alert to the various risks posed by social media and establish a specific mechanism to monitor, capture and transmit signals of potential crises to the designated response center for follow-up. fast,” he said. was suggested.

The study also highlighted the potential of online reviews as a valuable but inexpensive source of business intelligence. “Having gained a deeper and broader understanding of ‘electronic word of mouth’, hotels can better leverage the modern trend of online social networking to enhance their product competitiveness and effectively build e-marketing strategies. appropriate,” the researchers said.

– Researchers

Dr Yvonne Chen Yi Fan is a lecturer at the Macau Institute of Tourism Studies (IFTM). She holds a PhD in Hotel and Tourism Management from Hong Kong Polytechnic University. Dr. Chen’s research interests include service marketing and hotel management. She also specializes in leadership and talent development.

Prof. Rob Law is currently Professor of Smart Tourism at the University of Macao Development Foundation (UMDF). He is also an honorary professor at several other reputable universities. Prof Law holds a PhD in Computer Science from the University of Regina, Saskatchewan, Canada. He has received numerous research-related awards and accolades, as well as several external and internal research grants.

Mr Kirk Yan Ka Kui is currently Assistant Food and Beverage Manager at MGM Cotai. He was a lecturer at IFTM from 2014 to 2017. His professional experience includes work for various high-end hotels and restaurants in Switzerland and Hong Kong, as well as integrated resorts in Macau.

– The paper

Yi-Fan Chen, Rob Law and Ka Kui Yan: “Negative eWOM Management: How Do Hotels Turn Challenges into Opportunities?” », Journal of Quality Assurance in Hospitality & Tourism, published online in April 2021.