Traditional and electronic word of mouth in hospitality and tourism management
WOM refers to ‘word of mouth’ – a classic, yet impactful element in your marketing mix
What is it? The things your customers say about you (good and bad).
Why is it important? Because customers trust other customers.
The customer voice is a powerful one – never underestimate it
The term ‘word of mouth’ is used across many industries, and has been done so for a number of years.
In fact, many question it’s presence in this day and age – we have so many new factors to take into account – technology, social media, online reviews… But no matter the changes, or latest trend in the industry, the idea that hotel WOM no longer holds value, is a myth.
Hotel WOM will forever be a key player in the reputation of your business
When people travel, they love to share their experiences with friends and family – especially if they have had a particularly good or bad experience.
These people, as you’d imagine, trust their friend or family members’ opinions, hence, their decision to stay (or not stay) with you is formed.
Not to mention, if they’ve been told about a particularly bad experience at your property, you face the risk of negative hotel WOM spreading. And the trouble with verbal WOM, is that once it’s already happened, there’s no way to rectify the situation.
Still asking yourself ‘is WOM still important in the hotel industry?’
Verbal hotel WOM vs electronic WOM – the influential scale
WOM and eWOM – what’s the difference?
Traditional hotel WOM is spread through verbal conversation.
Electronic WOM is via the internet – this involves sites and forums like TripAdvisor, Facebook, Instagram, and a wide variety of other social media platforms.
In today’s digital age, hotel WOM can reach hundreds to thousands of people
Earlier we mentioned how the industry’s shift towards social media and technology might lead some to believe that hotel WOM is no longer that influential. But really, it’s quite the opposite.
20 years ago, WOM meant that 1 person might spread opinions about your hotel to 5-10 people, and those 5-10 people might also share with 5-10 people. And while this is still very much true, the scale of influence has significantly heightened.
Today, a guest can simply log online and share to the world how amazing or terrible their experience at your hotel was.
With the introduction of eWOM, your guest’s voice now has the ability to reach hundreds (sometimes even thousands) of people.
How do you measure and influence hotel WOM?
Now that you understand the influence of hotel WOM, as a hotelier, you’re going to need to know how to measure it.
Traditional WOM can be difficult to measure, in that, this form of hotel WOM is transmitted via private conversations. There is a trail, you just don’t always know who or where it came from.
This is why it is so important to understand how your guest feels about you before they leave your property.
Verbal hotel WOM starts from inside your doors – rectify negative spread, before it happens
Before they check out, ask them how their stay with you was. If it turns out that they had a negative experience, take immediate action to rectify the situation. Offer a discount, talk through the problem, provide a voucher for their next stay – whatever you do, do it before they leave. Because once the guest is out the doors, it’s too late.
Always encourage positive conversations – ask your guests to share great experiences with others
On the other hand, if your guest has had a great stay with you, encourage them to share this with friends and family. You could try offering discounts for referring a friend, for instance. This will help create a chain effect of positive hotel WOM.
In similar to verbal hotel WOM, you should always consider the pre-emptive influence you can make by rectifying negative eWOM before it happens. But there are also many other approaches you can take with eWOM, that you can’t with traditional WOM.
EWOM is publicly available – keep track of it and respond when appropriate
Electronic WOM essentially incorporates all reviews and opinions related to your hotel in the online world – TripAdvisor reviews, public conversations between guests and friends on social media accounts, and so on.
The majority of eWOM is public, which means that you are able to respond to and rectify negativity – minimising the negative impact.
A rule of thumb for negative eWOM: when possible, always respond to negative online customer reviews in a professional and timely manner, and never be defensive.
The internet is immensely impactful – encourage guests to share positive eWOM
When a guest checks out of your hotel and is glowing with positivity because they enjoyed their stay with you, encourage them to share this feedback online. The modern traveller respects the opinion of other travellers, and hence, will often leave online reviews (eWOM) – so there is no harm in prompting them to do so.
It might be that you ask them to feature on a testimonial on your website, or perhaps fill in a review on TripAdvisor – whichever platform they choose, it will help spread positive eWOM about your business.
The guest voice is a powerful marketing tool – foster it
So, why is word of mouth an effective form of advertising in the hotel industry?
Because customers trust other customers.
When it comes to hotel marketing and advertising, never underestimate the power of hotel WOM (both traditional and electronic). The guest voice is an integral element of your marketing mix, and while you can’t manage it specifically, you can foster it.
Do everything you can to provide amazing guest experiences – and if bad experiences occur, take immediate action to rectify the negativity before the guest leaves and it’s too late.
And don’t forget to encourage and foster positive hotel WOM and eWOM – there is no shame in asking guests to leave you a review!