Study shows hotel review responses affect online reputation management

Online reputation management is key to making sure your hotel remains at the top of its game to continue driving revenue to the bottom line. And now, recent research shows that hotel management responses can not only lead to higher ratings for properties but also more substantive reviews even if they aren’t all positive.

The study, "Online Reputation Management: Estimating the Impact of Management Responses on Consumer Reviews," by researchers from the University of Southern California and Boston University found that online ratings increase not because consumers are more satisfied with the business but because unsatisfied customers are less likely to post groundless negative comments.

“After hotels respond to reviews, they receive fewer negative reviews,” said Davide Proserpio, assistant professor of marketing at the University of Southern California Marshall School of Business and an author of the study.

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When hoteliers begin to respond to reviews, they receive 12-percent more reviews and their ratings increase an average of 0.12 stars, the study found. The authors claim that even a small change in ratings can have a significant impact on how hotels are perceived by consumers and how they are ranked by review platforms. However, the study found that when management responds, although there are fewer negative reviews, the ones that are posted tend to be longer in terms of characters.

“Responding to reviews is a good strategy to increase ratings, but you will get [fewer] and longer negative reviewers,” Proserpio said. “This is happening because by responding to reviews, it is signaling that management reads them. … The consumer feels the need to explain.”

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The study also looked at why ratings increase when managers start responding. For example, if the timing of management responses is shortly after hotel renovations, then it might seem that responding leads to better ratings when the true underlying cause is due to improvements in hotel quality. The authors ask: Is it just a coincidence that ratings increase when managers start responding or is there a direct link between responding and improved ratings?

Researchers found that when managers read and respond to reviews, unsatisfied consumers become more hesitant to leave unsubstantiated complaints, directly leading to higher ratings.

“Some people will avoid writing a negative review because the hotel manager reads and responds to reviews,” Proserpio said. “Providing details might be a problem for some people, and they don’t want to provide a review that is short and not defensible.”

However, Proserpio said the negative reviews that hotels receive, although longer, can provide valuable feedback for hoteliers to take to heart and improve operations.

And in the end, that kind of communication, if acted on, will only improve the guest experience that drives revenue and more positive reviews in turn.

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