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September 2008

Reviews: The Real FAQs

Over 40,000 reviews are posted on BedandBreakfast.com, and that number is rapidly climbing. The numbers prove that inns with reviews get more traffic than those without. Without a doubt, travelers want reviews. Not convinced that you need them? Here are some frequently asked questions about reviews, with examples taken from recent reviews and innkeeper responses.

Q: Is generating reviews a waste of time?
A: Not if you want to increase your occupancy. Building and maintaining a strong Internet marketing presence, offering online reservations, and having lots of current reviews are the three most important marketing elements for innkeepers. In addition, in the current economy, you can be certain that travelers want to be extra sure they are picking an inn they’ll love.

Q: Do reviews affect consumers’ behavior?
A: You betcha. This has been conclusively proven by a zillion marketing studies; here are quotes from a few:

  • 24% of purchasers read online reviews before making a choice. Consumers were willing to pay 20% to 99% more for top-rated companies. Of those in search of hotels, 87% said reviews played a big part in their choice. (comScore/The Kelsey Group)
  • Of online travel researchers who check consumer-generated content, 56% use it to verify hotel choices before booking. (JupiterResearch)
  • Over 40% of online travelers using user-generated content consider the opinions of other travelers to be highly trusted and influential in both accommodation and destination choices. (US Online Travel Consumer Survey, 2008, JupiterResearch)

Q: How widespread is the review phenomenon?
A: Reviews are now available for an extraordinary range of products and services. If people read and post reviews before spending a few bucks on bandages, rest assured that they want to see them before planning a B&B stay.

Q: Won’t guests only post reviews when they are unhappy?

A: Surprisingly, this fear is largely unwarranted. Altruistic motives are common: “Online travelers who contribute to consumer reviews or recommendations are more than twice as likely to be motivated by a desire to share good experiences with other travelers (36%) as they are to want to share bad experiences (17%), according to Jupiter. And the more opinions that appear online, the more balanced views emerge.” (JupiterResearch)

Q: What can I do to increase my reviews?
A: Ask and ye shall receive. While guests are at your inn relaxing and taking it easy, they have every intention of posting a review when they return home. Then life interferes, and only one in 10 guests actually finds time for the review. The following approaches help generate reviews without imposing on your guests:

  1. Add a link from your website to your reviews page on BedandBreakfast.com, asking potential guests to read your reviews and past guests to post them.
  2. Distribute or display the business card-sized reminders and postage paid reply postcards, available free from BedandBreakfast.com. Some innkeepers staple them to the invoice they give guests at checkout.
  3. Use your property management software to send an automated letter to guests after they’ve checked out. Thank them for the stay, invite them to sign up for your email list, ask for any ideas or recommendations, and last but not least, provide a link to your reviews page on BedandBreakfast.com and suggest that they take a few minutes to post a review.
For every review posted for your property between August 29 and October 31, we will give you a $5 credit toward Inn of the Month auctions, up to a maximum of 10 reviews. You'll get more traffic because of your ratings, and you'll get up to $50 in credit for Inn of the Month auctions to further promote your property.

Q: Can my reviews increase my website traffic?
A: Absolutely! Properties with significant reviews on BedandBreakfast.com receive double or triple the traffic of comparable properties in the same destination. In addition, every city, regional and state page on BedandBreakfast.com has a Featured Review that changes every time the page loads. The more reviews you have for your property, the better your chance of getting featured! (Only reviews with ratings of four or five balls are displayed in Featured Reviews.)

In addition, reviews increase your search engine optimization because your BedandBreakfast.com reviews are relayed automatically to Google via a daily feed. Here’s what Robin Miller of Fleming Jones Homestead wrote:

“Today I received a phone call from a fellow who chose our B&B based upon our reviews on Google. Feeling confused, I thanked him and went check Google to see what he meant. Sure enough, the Google reviews came from BedandBreakfast.com! I thought it was really neat and wanted you to know it put a smile on my heart.”

Q: Can reviews help me win a Best of BedandBreakfast.com Award?

A: Yes. Award-winning inns are selected primarily on the basis of both the quantity and most especially the quality of their reviews. The winners for 2008-2009 will be announced by the end of the month.

Q: Should I ignore negative reviews posted about my inn?
A: Not on your life! When potential guests read a negative review that has no innkeeper response, they are likely to assume (incorrectly, of course) that you simply don’t care. When BedandBreakfast.com receives an unfavorable review, we first ask the guest for proof of stay; when that’s submitted, we post the review and notify the innkeeper. We are pleased to help you craft an effective response that will let potential guests know that you are a caring and concerned innkeeper, as well as actions you’ve taken to avoid this problem in the future. Here’s an example:

“We didn’t get the room we requested and were given neither a choice nor a discount. Their website says that rooms have TVs with VCR/DVDs. The truth is they have no access to TV channels and a limited selection of VHS movies. There was no storage for skis, boots, or places to hang snow gear. The breakfasts were FANTASTIC. We did not see much of the staff. They didn't even plow or clear snow the day of our departure by noon, and we had to carry luggage through the snow to the car; then the car got stuck in the driveway. Minimal sound-proofing; bed sloped toward the center. No signal for our cell phone; the only way to call out was to use a phone card, which we no longer carry. It is very beautiful, but these shortcomings were a concern.”

Innkeeper’s response:
“Thank you for your review of your visit. We consider this a chance to improve our guest experience overall. First, I am so happy that you enjoyed our breakfasts! In checking our records, I see that we upgraded you to a larger room, which we do when possible. We should have let you know this ahead of time, and will be sure to make this a regular part of our policies. We are also sorry that we didn’t explain about ski/boot storage – most guests leave equipment in their cars, and bring boots into the heated foyer. Thank you for letting us know the bed was not to your liking – we will check the mattress carefully, and replace it if needed. We have also updated our website, making it clear that only movies are available, not live TV. On phones -- our confirmation letter states that your cell may not work here, but that you can get service once in town. We are located just outside a small mountain town, and have in-room phones for local calls, and offer guests use of the house phone when needed. Lastly, on the snow removal –you stayed with us during heaviest snow of the season. We apologize for the problems in our parking area; our snowplow service was late due to the heavy accumulation. Our staff was happy to shovel you out! We appreciate your candid review and hope you will visit us again!”

Q: What about mixed reviews?
A: Mixed reviews lend tremendous credibility to the reviews program. They tell readers that this program is honest and is not an advertising deal in disguise. It’s similar to reading balanced restaurant reviews; if the review is good with a few criticisms, you believe it. If it’s entirely positive, you assume that it’s been paid for by the restaurant. Mixed reviews also present an excellent opportunity for you to respond, carefully and constructively. Here’s an example:

Review: “Beautiful mansion with uniquely lovely guest rooms. We experienced a comedy of errors during our stay; what could go wrong did go wrong. Yet we were very impressed with the innkeeper. He puts his customers first, and customer satisfaction is key. He listened and responded to our concerns. You can never go wrong when dealing with someone like that. He made everything right and we can not thank him enough. You can't find that kind of service any more. Because of how he treated us and resolved our issues, we plan to return to his B&B soon.”

Innkeeper’s response: “We appreciated your understanding during a challenging week and look forward to your return visit.”

Q: Can reviews help me improve the quality of my inn?
A: Yes! Although you should be encouraging guests to tell you directly when something is not working well, they won’t always do so. Remember that A Complaint is a Gift, and use guests’ suggestions to improve your inn. Here’s an example from a recent review:

  • Review: “Beautiful location in the countryside. Unfortunately, we were locked out of the house on two occasions in the afternoon -- only gaining entry by knocking at the back door to alert a man inside. Breakfast was delicious and our room was lovely, but our room was not freshened/cleaned on the second day.”
  • Innkeeper’s initial explanation: This particularly guest got locked out by another guest; we were here and unlocked the door. Not a big issue. The room being tidied is because they were in their room until 11:30 a.m. I have in my welcome letter that we only tidy until 10:30 in the morning. The guests never came to me to ask if maybe we could tidy later.
  • Innkeeper’s public response: We are delighted that these guests enjoyed our beautiful location, our delicious breakfasts, and our lovely décor. We will use their constructive comments to help improve our B&B. We have been thinking about installing Simplex combination door locks to eliminate rare occasions when guests are inadvertently locked out, but will investigate this ASAP. We will make the information about the 10:30 tidy time more obvious in our welcome letter, and will add information letting us know if they want a later time. We invite these guests to return soon to experience our hospitality once again.

Here’s another example:

  • Review: We love the place with all it has to offer, and have been several times before … but we won't be staying there again because of the low water pressure. My wife was afraid to wash her hair because she was not sure she could get all of the soap out. If it wasn't for that we would be back to share your hospitality.
  • Innkeeper response: We regret that you experienced inadequate pressure from the shower head in your room and thank you for bringing it to our attention. We are trying to balance environmental concerns and guests’ comfort, but we never want it to negatively impact their experiences. The problem has been corrected with new showerheads that give guests a choice of high or low flow. We want you back for many future visits; mention this note and your next night is on us. Again, we appreciate your bringing this to our attention and look forward to your return.

Q: Can reviews help me indentify weaknesses in my marketing?
A: Yes. If you frequently see comments about how low your rates are, think about increasing them, especially during times of peak demand. If you often get reviews that mention that your inn is much nicer that it appears on the Internet are telling you that you desperately need new photos. On the other hand, reviews that complain that your photos make your rooms look nicer than they are indicate that either your photos are misleading, due to the overuse of a wide-angle lens and extensive retouching, or because you need to freshen and redecorate your rooms. Here’s an example:

“Beautiful view and walk down the property to the water and the dock. The innkeepers have created a pleasant and relaxing environment, and are always available for an enjoyable conversation. The website photos do not do justice to this B&B.”
For more advice on generating reviews, responding to negative reviews, and complaint-proofing your inn, log in to your Home Base, click Reviews. From the list on the left, click Links, Awards and Review Reminders and scroll down. To read another article on reviews, click here.

This Month's Sponsor

Reviews = Reservations

No doubt about it: travelers want reviews, and they are more likely to stay at an inn that has reviews posted. An easy way to get more reviews on your listing is to add a badge, like the one below, to your website. Log in to your Home Base. Click Reviews, then click Links, Awards and Review Reminders to download the badge and other helpful review tools. Earn a $5 Inn of the Month credit for each review posted from August 29 to October 31! (Up to $50.)

Online Trade Show

Visit our newest vendor members!

Inventive Stained Glass
New Vibrant Surroundings
Canterbury Barn Candles
Tole Tray

 Click here to view our Online Trade Show. Are you a vendor? Click here to get featured!

Inns for Sale -- NEW!

Inns for Sale is brand new!

SPECIAL INTRODUCTORY OFFER: Get a free upgrade to the next level if you sign up by September 30!

New features include:

  • Newly designed listing pages, with large photos, links, and great content.

  • Highly qualified traffic!

  • Excellent search engine optimization.

  • Ongoing marketing support.

  • 24/7 access to update listings and photos.

  • Interactive map search.

  • Video upload.

Check it out! Contact us for details: 800-G0-B-AND-B or Support@BedandBreakfast.com.

BedandBreakfast.com Blog

Check out our new blog! BedandBreakfast.com editors regularly post trip reports, B&B specials, and interesting B&B-related tidbits. Sign up to receive updates via email. Who knows? You might soon read about your inn!

Referral Program

What’s better than three month’s free membership? How about six months? Or a whole year? Refer fellow innkeepers to BedandBreakfast.com, and if they join at the Silver level or above, your membership will be extended by three months for each B&B that signs up. If four B&Bs sign up, your membership is free for a year!  For details, log in to your Home Base and click Referral Program under Free Member Benefits, or call 800-GO-B-AND-B (800-462-2632).

Advertising Auctions

Featured Property and Inn of the Month auctions are easy, affordable and effective ways to drive traffic to your website.

Member Information

To update your entry, check your traffic statistics, and renew your membership, please log in with your property ID and password. Don't like your password? Once you're logged in, click "Membership," select "Change Password," and choose another that's easier to remember. More information

“Our reviews on BedandBreakfast.com have been really effective. In July alone, we received more than 10 requests, and almost all turned into reservations.” -- Ruth, Old Doctors House B&B, Bavaria, Germany

Innkeepers' Info Center

Need more info? You’ll find lots of educational articles on our site for your convenience.

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