Something or someone must have been off-kilter at the Bellagio over the past few weeks because there’s one keyword that shows up in the reviews streaming in from travel sites around the Internet. “Rude shows up a lot for Bellagio,” Heyneker says as he points at the screen. “I bet they have no idea that rude shows up 30 times in the last few weeks, because they only look at individual reviews on individual sites.”

Contrast that obliviousness with the hyper-awareness Debbie Riga has about online activity that relates to the luxury hotel she manages, Morgans New York, on Madison Avenue in New York. Riga relies on Revinate to let her know whenever a new review has been posted, particularly those on TripAdvisor. And Riga doesn’t just want to know they’re there. “I respond to every single comment,” she says. “There are so many guests who say they have selected the hotel because of the comments they have read from me.” It’s not hard to see why. Scrolling through TripAdvisor reviews of Morgans, which are overwhelmingly positive, even effusive, one will see Riga’s name everywhere, thanking guests in a personal way for their praise. “I try to read them as though they are letters,” she says. “And I respond as if they are letters. I try to be fun and amusing and to say something about New York City or share an anecdote or personal story or talk about staff in a personal way.”

“We can track what people are saying abouttheir staff, their sheet count, their facilities or their restaurant.”
That personal, concerned touch is especially apparent when there is criticism. Not long ago, in an otherwise glowing review of the hotel on TripAdvisor, a guest mentioned how a staff member had pointed out her shopping bags were from a discount store and spent the next 10 minutes trying to convince her to shop in the much more chic Meatpacking district. “It seemed pushy and a bit unprofessional,” she wrote. In response, Riga promised to take action. “I will certainly address this. I am always shopping at discount stores and if it isn’t on sale, I do not buy it! This is not what Morgans is about, and I apologize for this awkward interaction. I feel uncomfortable just reading about it!”

Not everyone is capable of that sort of deft communication, though. In fact, it’s enough of an open question that staff and particularly owners of hotels might not know how to handle less-than-flattering comments that Revinate provides its customers with a constantly updated handbook of tips on how to respond to reviews. “The longer a complaint is left to fester, the more business it will drive away. But first thoroughly investigate the incident, draft a reply, sleep on it, delete all threats and curses, and have it reviewed by a highly literate and judicious colleague,” reads one tip. In other words, the manual says, don’t say this: “How dare you insult my bootiful hotel! I spit on your mother’s grave!”

Trying to smooth things over with disgruntled guests — or thanking those who are pleased — is just one way to utilize social media. But the tools and data provided by Revinate also allow hotels to make changes internally that will, at least hopefully, improve how they operate and make complaints less likely. “Now they are getting this immediate, full feedback, and they can use it to improve their operations,” Ashton says. “We can track what people are saying about their staff, their sheet count, their facilities or their restaurant.”

As president and COO of Joie de Vivre, a hotel group that manages properties across California, Ingrid Summerfield looks at the social media feedback she gets from Revinate as a way to monitor how her company is doing as a whole and find specific places to make improvements. “I go in once a week and look at our whole portfolio and track if an individual hotel decreases or increases their weekly scores, and then I go in and look at the specifics of what’s going on at a property,” she says. If an individual hotel is receiving an average review score of less than 4 on a scale of 1 to 5, then Summerfield tries to find out why.

Summerfield says this kind of feedback is helpful in setting up competition and incentive programs between hotels, writing training programs and even deciding on capital-improvement budgets. For instance, Summerfield will examine the keyword analysis at individual hotels, and if the word comfortable is not mentioned often, that may tell her the property needs some investment. Summerfield also sees it as a way to get a leg up on rivals. “I can pick my competitors, see how they are being ranked and where I fit in the pecking order,” she says. “And then decide what to do to improve my lot in life.”