After a five year period, planning, designing and building Hotel La Tour Birmingham we were delighted to welcome our first customers in spring 2012.
Effectively, we’d been out of the market for some five years following the sale of a previous business.
Five years is a long time in business and the speed at which communications technology had moved during this period was enough to make an entrepreneur’s head spin.
Working in the hospitality industry, we’d heard a lot of negatives about online forums and how some of our competitors felt their business had been damaged following negative and, often, unsubstantiated reviews on Tripadvisor. Some brands had pulled out of Twitter and Facebook altogether, finding it too hard to manage negative information which came from these sources.
It all added up to scary times for a new company such as ours where rapidly building a good business profile was always going to be crucial.
So what did we decide to do? We embraced it all and decided we would have to make it work. I am not scared of you Tripadvisor you can’t frighten me … she bravely shouted from behind her computer screen!!!
One of the areas of our business I was confident about was the amount of effort and work we would put in to making sure our customers had a great experience in the hotel. Getting our customers to tell us what they think of us is essential to the success of our business so, why not use these internet-based forums as a fantastic free way to find out exactly what they think: the good the bad and the ugly?
From the outset we’ve been realistic: try as we might, sometimes a guest has a less than perfect experience and will share this online.
But my view was that we should trust our customers and their decision making: that they would most likely look at a number of reviews and then take an informed view about whether they would come and stay with us.
With that we set about positively gathering feedback, asking everyone who stayed with us to tell us what they thought: either through our own comment process or anywhere else they saw fit.
On the whole this has been a fantastic experience and we have managed to improve our business through the constructive feedback we have received. And when we say we value feedback and react accordingly, we really mean it: so far we’ve made changes to our showers as people were saying they weren’t powerful enough and reviewed our wine list. We’ve also changed the way we communicate our car parking system as people did not like this. How can you knock a system where you get this sort of feedback which genuinely provides comments which are tailor-made to help you improve your business?
We have also been able to praise our team for their hard work and it is a great motivator for them when they go to Tripadvisor and read that our customers think they are amazing. The down side of course is, it doesn’t matter how many good postings we get, it’s the occasional one which criticises us that hits us hard! When we read that someone has not had a great experience it hurts and we have to make sure that we don’t dwell on it too much or it overshadows all the great stuff completely. We give ourselves two minutes of wallowing and then we take the comments on board openly and honestly and we address them.
Our motto is, when we get it wrong we admit our failings and fix them. We do this deliberately and consciously so that we are using these comments to improve the hotel for our customers. We address and respond to every comment and ensure that the team sees them all.
All in all, I can honestly say that online forums like Tripadvisor have improved our business and all this feedback which, in the past we would have had to pay a fortune to get, is free… what more can I say?
See you online!