Do you have the confidence to post raw, unedited guest reviews on your hotel’s website? Recently, French hotel group Accor took the bold step of doing exactly that, featuring a live TripAdvisor feed alongside property descriptions on its multi-brand portal, www.accor.com.
Until now, hotel websites were the last remaining online channel still fully controlled by hotel marketers and untainted by the chatter and opinions of travelers. While many hotels feature TripAdvisor links and widgets, most are upscale properties with top rankings in their destination.
Accor takes things a step further by featuring reviews directly on its website and doing so for every property on its portal, from economy to midscale to luxury brands. To my knowledge, it’s the first major hotel group in the world to make this a brand-wide policy. At the same time, the company is taking a more active role in managing reviews—a prudent strategy given their elevated prominence.
Considering how unpredictable reviews can be, is Accor risking scaring travelers away? Or is this a way to keep travelers on its website, a show of confidence in its brand, and a progressive move destined to become standard in the hotel industry?
To get Accor’s perspective I consulted with Jean-Luc Chrétien, Executive Vice President of Marketing & Distribution. Here’s a condensed version of our Q + A session.
Dan: Tell us about Accor. What makes you unique as a hotel group?
Jean-Luc: Three things:
1) We are the undisputed hotel leader in Europe, with 3,350 hotels and 250,000 rooms in this region of the world (out of the 4,100 hotels and 500,000 rooms we operate on a worldwide basis in 90 countries).
2) We are the number one hotel operator in the world as we own and/or manage close to 80% of our properties. We only have 22% of our properties under a franchise contract.
3) Through our twelve brands we are the only group that offers hotel products that target all market segments: from budget (Motel 6 and Etap Hotel) to economy (Ibis and All Seasons) to midscale and upscale (Novotel, Mercure, MGallery, Pullman) to luxury (Sofitel). We are also present in the mid-stay to long-stay segments with the Studio 6, Suite Novotel, Mercure and Adagio products.
Dan: Tell us about your position and responsibilities.
Jean-Luc: I am in charge of Marketing and Distribution. As such I oversee the development of our brand strategies, the implementation of our policies on the direct and indirect distribution channels we use, and the coordination of our global sales teams. I also supervise the development and deployment of the Accor reservation system and the Accor worldwide loyalty program, A Club.
Dan: How did you arrive at the decision to post TripAdvisor reviews on your website?
Jean-Luc: Accor has always been very keen on quality and guest satisfaction. We have implemented an internal web-based system to measure guest satisfaction throughout our network and use it extensively to control and manage our properties and their teams.
As you know, more and more travelers are searching the web for advice and to compare properties. It was a natural move to extend our own internal measurement system to one we could share with our guests, as we want to be very transparent and to provide our web visitors with all the information they need to make their decision.
We had two choices: an unknown solution or a ‘reference’ site. TripAdvisor is the worldwide reference for traveler reviews. We decided to lean on a trusted worldwide partner. Furthermore, TripAdvisor was one of the main sites visited by our web users after visiting our site, as well as one of the main sources of visitors. TripAdvisor is also widely used worldwide and therefore is a useful tool to attract and convince foreign travelers who are less familiar with our brands.
Dan: Does this policy extend to all properties as well as brand and individual property websites?
Jean-Luc: We have included all properties except our HotelF1 brand, a very low-cost brand that is present only in France and targets a very domestic market. Reviews are only available on our multi-brand portal, accorhotels.com, and not on our individual brand websites.
Why? accorhotels.com aims at being a full-service hotel distributor that attracts new guests to our properties. Brand sites target guests who are familiar with and/or are regular users of the brand.
Dan: It’s a pretty bold move, considering how unpredictable travelers can be. Upon perusing your website, I saw reviews warning guests to stay elsewhere. Why risk this?
Jean-Luc: We are confident in the quality of our hotels and we are transparent with our guests. Furthermore, guests trust results as a whole; they don’t take one or two bad results for granted. We know that can happen but we also have mobilized our hotel teams behind this project.
Dan: By providing a link to TripAdvisor, don’t you fear that travelers will be lured away by other hotels? Or by an online travel agency like Expedia?
Jean-Luc: No. The customer can see the last five reviews in his native language inside accorhotels.com. Consequently, we see them staying longer on our site. We have also seen that customers visiting Expedia and other travel agency sites end up booking with us.
Dan: Have you noticed any change in booking patterns since you implemented this policy?
Jean-Luc: No – but we have received very positive comments from our web users who appreciate this new service.
Dan: What is your policy on responding to reviews? Do you respond to all?
Jean-Luc: We give recommendations to hotel managers on how to respond and which reviews to respond to, whether good or bad. We definitely encourage our managers to answer as this is also a way to develop more dialogue between our hotels and their guests.
We give brand recommendations to reflect the brand positioning. We encourage hotel managers to answer individually. There is no response template.
Dan: What do your hotels do to encourage favorable reviews? Are all guests solicited, even those who had difficulties during their stay?
Jean-Luc: We send an e-mail seven days after departure to ALL customers who booked their room on accorhotels.com
What do you think? Leave your comments and take my hotel review poll at www.danieledwardcraig.com
Daniel Edward Craig is a former general manager turned hotel consultant and the author of the Murder at the Universe. His articles and blog about issues in the hotel industry are considered essential reading for hoteliers, travelers and students alike. Visit www.danieledwardcraig.com or email firstname.lastname@example.org. Twitter: dcraig.
Copyright © 2010 Daniel Edward Craig
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