It makes sense for businesses in the hospitality industry to pay close attention to social media feedback, as lodgings are one of those consumption categories that tend to elicit strong reactions from customers, both good and bad, which have a way of making their way online (ecstatic over the chocolate on the pillow, pissed off about the mildewed towels, etc.). But it’s harder to effectively respond to social media feedback, especially for large hospitality chains where some establishments may be operated as independent franchises.
To help hotel owners and managers stay on their toes with social media, Medallia, which creates customer experience management software systems, has developed a “Social Feedback for Hospitality” product that promises to do more than simply capture data from online reviews on social media sites (although it does do that, including sentiment analysis for reviews and customer comments on places like Facebook, Twitter, TripAdvisor, Hotels.com, Booking.com, Travelocity, Expedia, among other online sites).
The “customer-recovery” capability allows hotel owners to answer every piece of feedback they receive via social media, though the accounts most hotels already have set up with the review sites. Of course hotel owners can also connect directly with disgruntled customers through other channels like email or phone (if they judge it appropriate and collect this information themselves). The Medallia hospitality product also helps improve an individual hotel’s social reputation by identifying customer promoters from survey feedback and routing them to key review and social sites. Finally, it offers local and brand-level competitive set benchmarking for key areas of service.
Medallia CEO and co-founder Borge Hald said the company’s hospitality clients realize “it's not enough to just monitor social media feedback at the brand level; they also need to act on feedback at the property level. A company that fails to act on public feedback will be viewed as non-responsive at best, and inept or uncaring at worst.” Michael Morton, vice president of member services for Best Western International, agreed: “It's extremely important to manage social media channels because of the impact they have on our revenues. Medallia enables us to hold hotels accountable and help them manage their online presence directly.”
Although online reviews are undoubtedly a key area of information about consumer sentiment for the hospitality business and companies in general, there is also a lot of “noise” in the form of fake reviews. Back in August I wrote about software created by four Cornell students to identify fake online hotel reviews. The students described their efforts to combat “opinion spam” in a report titled “Finding Deceptive Opinion Spam by Any Stretch of the Imagination.”
Overall, the Cornellians claim their software is able to spot fake reviews 90% of the time, versus just 50% for human subjects, focusing on fake positive reviews and irrelevant comments which, say, post links to other Web sites for promotional purposes. With this focus in mind, the authors say roughly half of all online hotel reviews are fake -- four times the proportion guessed by human subjects (who estimated fake reviews as 12% of all reviews).