Tuesday, September 6, 2016

What managers can do to turn an online consumer review into a "helpful" one?

There is plenty of empirical evidence to support the positive relationship between online review ratings and a business's bottom line. Not all online reviews carry the same effect, however. Those reviews that are exposed to more internet users will have a bigger impact on a business than the ones that are barely read by others. 

Generally speaking, all of those websites allow consumers to vote on the helpfulness of an online review and tend to feature the reviews with more helpfulness votes on the front page. The reviews listed on the first page will have a better chance of being "discovered" and read by others. Meanwhile, managers are usually allowed to reply to an online review with one manager response.
I recently conducted an empirical analysis with another key investigator, Karen Xie at University of Denver. In this study, we drew our conclusions based on a linear regression model with 56,284 consumer reviewers and 10,797 manager responses from 1,405 hotels on TripAdvisor.com.
While the detailed report can be found in International Journal of Contemporary Hospitality Management, with a blog discussion on MultiBriefs.com I am going to highlight the study's important findings and business implications as the following:

Factors contributing to the helpfulness of online reviews

We identified the following as the key influential factors that contribute to the helpfulness of online reviews:

  • Reviews with lower ratings
  • Reviews with fewer sentences
  • Reviews written by male reviewers
  • Reviews written by reviewers with higher status
  • Reviews written by reviewers with longer membership
  • Reviews written by those who visited more cities in the past
  • Reviews with a manager response

Implications for hotels and possibly other service businesses

  • Manager response is critical in general. It moderates the relationship between reviewer experience and the helpfulness of reviews in terms of reviewer status and length of membership.
  • Managers may respond to selective positive reviews to reinforce the positive reputation for the business.
  • Managers may respond to selective negative reviews with details of how they addressed the service failure issues, allowing potential consumers to form realistic expectations of the business.
  • Because "who" writes a review matters, managers may need to pay special attention to those reviews with fewer sentences, written by male reviewers or those reviewers with higher status and/or longer membership.
  • Because reviews with fewer sentences tend to be voted more helpful, managers should write a concise response just to get the key points across.

Implications for the webmasters on online review or retail websites

Webmasters may refer to our regression model and further test their existing algorithms. Then, we hope our model can help them do a better job in "predicting" those reviews with high potential of becoming "helpful" ones as soon as a product/service receives a consumer review.
If they have the power to predict the helpful reviews, webmasters can inform the business owners/managers with an auto-reminder so those reviews with a high potential of being voted helpful will be seen by the business owners/managers.
Then, the business owners/managers may decide how they want to deal with those helpful reviews. That way, the website will be able to provide more valuable service to their business partners as well as the consumers who are seeking "useful" reviews online.
Both Karen and I are hoping you will find our results and conclusions meaningful. In the end, we would like to encourage you to leave us some feedback and suggestions. Or let us know about any research or practical questions in your mind. If applicable, we would be glad to use the research questions you ask here in our future studies.

Thursday, August 18, 2016

Restaurants and hotels are finding ways to boost sales

I raised several questions in the my recent discussion on +MultiBriefs

Is the restaurant industry in recession? If so, how can we deal with it? The restaurants are now facing many challenges, including rising food costs and labor costs, as well as the travel threats created by the terrorists. One solution I proposed (among some others) was to work closely with the local community to boost sales. 

Co-incidentally, I also found hotels are luring travelers with local flavors, with the examples of the "running concierge" by +Westin Hotels & Resorts, rooms decorated by local artists in the +Park Hotel Tokyo, and the community engagement programs in +Hostelling International

Would you consider "adding local flavors" to a hospitality or tourism product/service as a trend for the industry? Have you recently observed similar examples where businesses offer more local flavors to customers? Please share your story with us. 




Monday, June 13, 2016

Instagram Is Becoming a Popular Medium for Marketers (by Dayana Abundis)


As a college student, my financial situation does not allow me to stay at a midscale hotel for my personal vacations, needless to mention the luxury hotels. Every time when I need to book a hotel room, I tend to go for the cheapest option of all with a convenient location. 

When my family and I go on vacation, however, we have the opportunity to stay at a nice hotel that comes with great customer service and great amenities. Since my family does not take vacations very often, when we get the opportunity to plan a vacation, it is always a fun experience. I enjoy looking for hotels that will make our vacation fun and will guarantee that we have a great stay.  

For our upcoming vacation, I gathered some ideas from looking through my Instagram page. Not only does Instagram promote certain hotels through the sponsored section, but also many bloggers that I am following or those with the popular pages give me great recommendations of hotels, together with their experience with their stay.

Bloggers have become a great means for promotions, no matter if it is for makeup products, clothing, or even their experience at different hotels. Today, luxury hotels are paying bloggers to stay at their properties to promote their hotels through their Instagram pages. For example, 28 year old, Marianna Hewitt, a lifestyle blogger, enjoyed a nice stay at the Mulia Resort in Bali, Indonesia. She got paid to go on vacation while uploading pictures of the resort to her Instagram page. Many of Marianna’s followers obtain the opportunity to see what it is like for the blogger to stay at one of the most beautiful properties, and from what Marianna posted, consumers may develop curiosity and interest in the hotel, which enhance their likelihood of staying in the same hotel for their future vacations. 

I see hotels that do marketing through social media such as Instagram are trying to mainly target the Millennials and those individuals who loves to browse pictures online. Looking at the pictures on Instagram and seeing others visiting a nice property and describing their experience really helps these peoples' followers develop a strong connection with the property. 

In today’s society, almost every individual has a cellphone. Technology has improved dramatically throughout the years, making it very easy and common to do marketing on social media. According to, The Wire Magazine, Instagram has 90 million monthly active users, and out of those users they post 40 million photos a day and tap on 8,500 likes per second. Thus, it would be crazy if hotels do not want to invest their time and money on Instagram for marketing purposes. 

Do you believe that social media marketing will one day become the best way to get through consumers in the hospitality industry? Do you think Instagram is a great way to target consumers who are always on social media sites and that enjoy real life experiences from those they follow?

About the Author

Dayana Abundis is a senior at the California State Polytechnic University Pomona. She is expected to graduate in the winter of 2017 with a Bachelor of Science in Hospitality Management. She wants to work in the hotel industry or travel and tourism. After graduation, she hopes to work for big hotel chains such as Marriott. She enjoys traveling and meeting new people and going on adventures.

References

How Many Users Does Instagram Really Have After the Ad Scandal? (n.d.). Retrieved April 15, 2016, from http://www.thewire.com/technology/2013/01/how-many-users-does-instagram-have/61139/
Want a free stay at a luxury hotel? Build up your Instagram following. (2015). Retrieved April 15, 2016, from http://fortune.com/2015/07/01/instagram-luxury-resorts-free/
The picture was downloaded via a LinkedIn discussion

Saturday, June 11, 2016

Public Relations and Social Media (by Marlon Wong Granados)


Every business interacts with a variety of publics: consumers, the general public, the financial community, the organizations’ employees, government, the media, suppliers, and many others. Public relations is the process by which the relationships with each to these publics is managed.” --- Reid and Bojanic, in Hospitality Marketing Management (2010, p. 492).

Just recently at my workplace, there was an incident regarding one of my coworkers. It turns out that he used Facebook’s personal messaging system as a medium to exchange harsh words with another person. This person was not in any way connected to our company, but after finding out where my coworker worked through my coworker’s Facebook profile, this person decided to post on our company’s public Facebook profile what my coworker had said to them for anyone to see. It appeared that my coworker said things that were not nice; and even though he thought he was having a private conversation via personal messaging with this person, this person exposed publicly what was said. The person also accused our workplace of hiring a person that was disrespectful and crass. The incident was handled by management, in essence it was a minor job in public relations, and as such the post was deleted, the person contacted by management, and after conducting an investigation, my workplace decided that my coworker must be let go.

This incident first made me think about our first amendment --- our freedom of speech. While my coworker said disrespectful words, was it right for the other person involved to accuse him at his workplace, to expose him on the company’s Facebook profile? Was it the correct decision for the company to let my coworker go? Secondly, I thought of the issue of public relations for company. A company’s public relations team might be an external company or it could just be an owner or a manager. Nowadays, companies should provide guidelines in employee manuals that refer to social media use, especially usage regarding the company. Even in the mentioned incident, where the private discussion was not about anything related to the company, the way someone projects themselves when speaking to another person, regardless of the medium, can be measured against the values of a company. While our company did have social media guidelines regarding the use of these tools concerning the company itself, and while there was nothing explicitly mentioned on the employee handbook about conducting oneself appropriately when speaking to other people outside of work, it was implied in our manual that we must conduct ourselves professionally in and out of work.

In the early days of Facebook, I wouldn’t think twice about posting any kind of status update, much less what I wrote in a personal message. In those days, while we still valued anonymity and privacy, as a society we were slowly changing. There was no Instagram or Yelp, and most people remained anonymous through nicknames and online handles. With the advent of social media sites, starting with Myspace, social media began to change. We started posting selfies, carefully manicuring our personal profiles, and increasingly communicating with one another online. Facebook came along and at first it was a college student only website. With the expansion of Facebook to encompass anyone in the world, including our parents and bosses, there were some issues that we began to deal with. 

Do we have to self-censor nowadays? If we do, does it inhibit part of our personality? What can companies do to protect themselves from incidents such as my coworker’s? As future managers, we will have to deal with issues such as this, and we must learn how to handle them effectively.

About the Author


Marlon Wong-Granados is a transfer student and Hospitality Management major at Cal Poly Pomona. His focus is on Restaurant Management. His ultimate goal is to be a restaurant operator and make a positive impact in the restaurant industry. He enjoys food, soccer, boxing, and travel.


References

Reid, R.D. and Bojanic, D.C. (2010). Hospitality Marketing Management (5th ed.). Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley & Sons, Inc. 

The picture was downloaded from the TopRankBlog.com 

Tuesday, June 7, 2016

The Elusiveness of Modern Brand Loyalty (by Rachel Watts)

In today's hospitality industry, companies are doing more and more to attract new customers. Money is poured into increased services, adaptations with changing technologies, corporate social responsibility programs, and intensive advertising strategies. So why is the concept of brand loyalty still so difficult to come by? According to Profitroom’s 2016 Report on Hotel Sales & Marketing Trends, consumers visit up to eighteen different websites before selecting a room. This includes company's social media pages, advising sites like Yelp, as well as the numerous OTAs (online travel agents) that are available.

The heavy argument in favor of OTAs is their sometimes-substantially-lowered price points and the fact that their presence increases competition and drives overall market prices down. In my time working for an independent 180 room hotel, I grew to resent the existence of OTAs. The expectation of a hotel visit is to have a nearly flawless experience, but OTA benefits abruptly stop as soon as the transaction goes through. I have watched numerous guests stand outside of the lobby frantically booking a room through a third party site on their mobile device and then waltzing in and attempting to check in. However, it can sometimes take up to a couple of hours for these transactions to get fully processed through the OTA and then integrated into the hotel PMS. Additionally, a front desk clerk will assume that anyone booking through an OTA is a one-time guest, and will not go through any extra lengths to improve the guest's stay. An OTA reservation will often be placed in a room that has fewer amenities, is a farther walk, or has a worse view. This is not intended as a slight on the customer, it is just a good business practice to save the better rooms for patrons that are more likely to give a return on the investment. With that in mind, if all a customer chooses to value is the dollar amount of the room, then it is reasonable to see the draw of OTAs.

Many businesses have intensive brand loyalty programs that promote a mutually beneficial relationship between the businesses and their consumers. According to the Pareto Principle, 20% of invested input is responsible for 80% of the results obtained. Therefore, in the hotel industry, it can be argued that 80% of profits derive from 20% of guests. Hotels are increasingly developing ways to personalize service, rather than separating guests into generalized categories. Although it is often considered a necessary evil, it is important to note the importance of email lists. Profitroom found that clients open e-mails with offers adapted to their needs 6% more often than those who read emails with no customized offers.

Other promotions such as sweepstakes can improve the brand’s image and awareness, and thus is an effective manner. “Marriott Rewards, the company’s award-winning loyalty program, launches its “50 to 50” campaign that includes a sweepstakes which gives members in three countries a once-in-a-lifetime chance to take a group of 50 of their friends and family to attend the game and enjoy an exclusive VIP Super Bowl 50 weekend in the San Francisco Bay area” (Herrera-Davila). Following the sweepstakes, Marriott unveiled a short film where the winner, alongside an NFL player, was able to tell his family the exciting news, which now has over 2.3 million views on YouTube.



The industry has barely begun to scratch the surface of how personalized service can rebuild brand loyalty. An overwhelming majority of modern hotel guests not only appreciate but expect highly personalized service at any property. It is clear that this is an inevitable trend that will continue to grow within the market; the only question that remains is which brands will be able to execute it successfully.

What are some other strategies that hotels can implement in order to build brand loyalty? How can current rewards programs be improved or modified to make them more appealing to guests?

About the Author: 

Rachel Watts is a junior student at The Collins College of Hospitality Management who transferred from the College of Marin in the Bay Area. She has years of industry experience at an independent hotel, and numerous serving/bartending jobs. Rachel is the 2016-2017 President of Eta Sigma Delta Academic Honor Society and will also serve as a Collins College Ambassador. Rachel is currently a Premium Management Intern with Legends at Angel Stadium. After graduating in spring 2017, she is planning to pursue a career in sports and entertainment.

References:

Herrera-Davila, N. (2015, September 10). Marriott International Creates Two Epic Super Bowl 50 Fan Experiences. Retrieved from http://news.marriott.com/2015/09/marriott-international-creates-two-epic-super-bowl-50-fan-experiences.html
Hotel Sales & Marketing Trends 2016. (n.d.). Retrieved from http://www.profitroom.net/trends-2016