Great guest experiences happen when properties, Booking.com and the guests themselves all work together. Adrienne Enggist, director of product development at Booking.com, explains how.
Great guest experiences aren’t just about chocolates on pillows or welcome drinks at check-in. The experience begins the moment guests look at a property online, and those first glances should set realistic expectations, says Adrienne Enggist, director of product development at Booking.com. Her role includes leading the strategy on user-generated content (UGC) – any words or images that guests provide about properties or destinations, from one-word reviews to detailed tips about what to see and do. Together with a team of product managers, she explores ways to encourage more UGC.
“We think of it as a sort of loop,” she explained. “We find that guests are most motivated to read through the content that other guests have created, and that one of the primary motivators for contributing is to give back to the community and to share with the property.”
By giving back in this way, reviewers are directly helping properties – good reviews encourage more guests to book. Plus, when reviewers give constructive feedback, they can help a property to improve their services.
Only those who have actually stayed at a property can leave a review on Booking.com, which asks guests to contribute through prompts in follow-up emails and notifications in the app. Guests are given one month to write their review, so their experience is still fresh in their memory.
‘The most successful properties in terms of moving the review scores are the ones who really listen to guests and take action on the information they get out of the reviews.’
But a new recognition system is helping to encourage even more contributions. “If you write an especially long review, you can be a ‘Wordsmith.’ You can be a ‘Destination Guru’ if you’ve been to the same place more than once and contributed content. For example, I’m a Singapore Guru, and I’m a Level 2 Wordsmith. I’m also a ‘Helpful Hero’ because I received a certain number of ‘helpful’ votes from other reviewers,” explains Adrienne. ‘There are no incentives. We don’t pay for reviews. We don’t give away stays or discounts. It’s completely motivated by recognition.”
And properties also have a role to play. “The most successful properties in terms of moving the review scores are the ones who really listen to guests and take action on the information they get out of the reviews,” says Adrienne.
That involves facing up to the bad reviews, rather than just saying thanks for the good ones. “One of the best things you can do is reply to the more critical reviews, and explain what it is that you want to change, or thank people for their feedback. It really places the property as being focused on the guest experience, and helps win new customers.”
By giving future guests an honest picture of a property, Booking.com, reviewers and the property itself can make sure that travelers aren’t disappointed.
“You can have a one-star hotel in a city that will be reviewed as 9.8, with thousands of reviews, because the expectations are very clear,” says Adrienne.
It’s also not always about achieving that perfect 10 review score, since guests can be a little suspicious of perfection.
“Having a perfect 10 can be hard to live up to. But if you have say, a 9.6, we’ve seen over and over again in user tests and surveys that it adds an element of reality.”
That element of reality is often what convinces people to book, whether it’s a slightly imperfect score or a tiny detail mentioned by a previous guest. In testing, guests tend to look for small insights in reviews that aren’t mentioned in the property description, says Adrienne.
“If I’m traveling with the family and other family travelers say they had a great experience because the kids felt really comfortable, and they didn’t feel that their child had to be on their best behavior, these little subtleties are really important to helping people make the right decision,” she explains.
“So many properties are doing such a great job,” she adds. “If you as a property have something unique and delightful, we want to make sure that the guests can see it and can find you.”
Here are a few important points to take away:
- Properties with higher scores tend to make improvements based on review feedback.
- Replying to critical reviews, and explaining what you want to change, or thanking people for their feedback can really make a difference.
- Booking.com’s new recognition system actively encourages guests to leave reviews.
- As your score rises higher, the challenge is to keep it that way – consistently meeting guests’ expectations.
- It’s usually the tiny review details that convince people to book.