When you are a kid in school, testing is not something you look forward to. In fact, for some of us, it can create high levels of anxiety and require many hours of preparation. This was especially true for me as I approached every test with a complex preparation plan that seemed to do little to relieve my anxiety. On test day, no matter how well prepared I might be, I always feared the worst: failure. In this context, we were conditioned to believe that testing had just one outcome – either success or failure. As a full-fledged adult, I’ve learned that testing can be exciting and anxiety-reducing and have multiple results, particularly when an entrepreneurial startup such as iResponze collaborates with a prospective client.
Three Lessons Learned
Earlier this year, we tested our signature online review response system in a pilot program with Marriott. Four Courtyard® hotels in four different markets participated. We selected these particular hotels so we could measure if impact was similar across multiple factors such as volume of reviews, ratio of positive to negative reviews, and the hotels’ current response rates to reviews. The collaborative approach of the hotels and the brand leadership during the pilot period helped us improve our services, not just in ways that addressed Marriott’s needs but also with improvements that benefit all our clients. Here are three things we learned from this test:
- One size does not fit all. While we intuitively know that every hotel is different, our initial implementation used a consistent system for onboarding and using the system. What we learned from our pilot hotels was that, while the system was sound, it needed modification based on individual hotel factors. More specifically, we needed to modify our services based on the staff resources available at the hotel and the level of online interaction generated by the hotel. Those two factors influenced what level of service the hotel desired, leading to development of a tiered service structure offered by iResponze.
- Limit GM disruption. In our system, we design alerts for reviews that should be immediately brought to the GM’s attention. What we learned and modified through the test was the types of reviews that generated alerts. From the pilot hotels, we created a list of Red Alerts, those issues raised in reviews that should be quickly shared with the GM. Those Red Alerts generally revolve around five key issues: safety, security, bedbugs, financial, and unusual (those reviews that fall outside of normal feedback patterns). Limiting the disruption to the GM allows that individual to stay focused on what is happening in the hotel at that time, serving today’s guests not responding to yesterday’s.
- Trust the connection between hotel and response team. Building trust that someone outside your hotel can respond on behalf of your hotel is the first hurdle we encounter. How can someone who has not been to your hotel respond in a way that reflects your hotel’s voice? We learned through the pilot that we needed to allow for time to establish a comfort level with the iResponze team. Once that important connection was firmly established, the hotel became much more confident that the iResponze team understood their property and could handle guest feedback in voice that was representative of the brand and hotel leadership.
Passing the Test
In the end, we do look for success and failure in testing through pilot programs, but unlike my school days, these tests allow for revision and improvement. The only grade we receive is whether or not the client wants to continue to participate. In this pilot, I would have to give our iResponze team an A+ -- not only did we successfully serve the pilot hotels, we learned valuable lessons that benefitted those hotels and will benefit future clients, including additional Marriott hotels.
Letting Go of Test Anxiety
“Learn as you grow” has to be the mantra for a new organization such as iResponze. Without testing our system, questioning our assumptions, and putting our product to use in real-time, we would not be able to refine our services and discover better ways to benefit our clients. Though it may take me some time to let go of my test anxiety, I am looking forward to testing our strengths – and weaknesses – with other hotels and brands so that our growth leads to increased success for them. Learn more about the Marriott pilot at www.iresponze.com/marriott.
Rose Mentrie, Chief Innovation Officer, at iResponze, helps hotel management companies create successful strategies for responding to online reviews. As someone who has worked with hotels and hotel brands for three decades, Rose understands that guests ultimately determine success at hotels. iResponze® partners with hotels by responding to online reviews on their behalf. This collaboration allows staff to focus on what they do best – delivering exceptional guest experiences.