A recent bed and breakfast guest and subsequent reviewer on TripAdvisor.com posted this photo of Nelson House B & B and captioned the pic: "It-looks-like-this".
His review went on to call us a "gem" and with a wonderful turn of phrase summed us up as "Not for the faint-hearted but anyone with a joie de vivre will love this place - highly recommended."
That got me thinking about the pros and cons of online reviews. Our business predates the internet but reviews themselves are old news. Think of the "blurbs" that authors solicited from other authors. Think of the power and celebrity of old-time theatre and movie critics, whose every bitchy turn of phrase was analysed and agonized over by producers, directors and actors. Now, in this online world, even the humble, homespun B & B experience is open to a worldwide thumbs up or thumbs down.
Here are my top five reasons why you should embrace online reviews:
1. Reviews are human nature. They have been around and are not going away. They are just another form of gossip and face it, two types of individuals gossip, I mean review. You have guests who are so genuinely pleased with their experience that their true nature is to pass along the good news. Gosh - the world needs good news. Then, there is the bane of innkeepers, the guest who may have been very pleased by their stay, but whose nature tempts them to judge, criticize and revel in the authority of telling everyone just how it should be.
2. The proliferation of online review sites is due to those websites' realizing that we all love to read this stuff. The review websites tell hotels and guesthouses that the power lies in the fact that these reviews are by guests for guests. Sort of like reality TV. Yeah - right. I think the enormous draw lies in you reviewing the reviewer. Readers are searching for credibility. Depending on your analysis of the writer, you might take their recommendation of a B & B as valid or just know that the reviewer was having a headache day or tension with the spouse. Those things, we all read between the lines.
3. So I say to innkeepers, don't fear reviews. While the online review sites may wash their hands of the "personal opinion of the reviewer", they also have legal and policy protections in place against reviews posted by non-guests, outright lies and slander. The websites almost always permit the hotel or B & B to post a response to try and balance a particularly nasty slice. Don't worry over your inn's ranking. It's just a number. A highly competitive innkeeper who tries to hardsell guests into becoming instant authors of glowingly positive reviews will eventually face a comeuppance. For what it's worth, even a so-so review is bringing a link and precious eyes to your B & B website. In the long-term, it is far better to put your energy into providing every guest, even difficult ones, with a quality experience.
4. To review readers, I repeat the old adage that you can't please all the people all the time. A top-ranked bed and breakfast might not be the best choice for you. The variables are enormous. Do you want a quiet, adult, even romantic atmosphere(like us -hint-hint)? Then, it would be a mistake to go to the family-oriented establishment with twin beds and cots for the kids. Do you want to be within easy walking distance of downtown attractions, amenities & entertainment(again - that is us!). Then, the place across the bridge and twenty minutes by car from downtown would be best to avoid. Life is all about making the right choices.
5. To reviewers, I love you. I started off this post with quotes from a guest who recently surprised us with a kind and discerning look at our establishment. He got us. His stay was not without incident. A plumbing regulator device got jammed so that he was getting little or no hot water in the shower. Not good. He immediately mentioned it to Matthew, our Manager, and voila, it was fixed! Here is his review in full. So you trip advisors out there, just ask your innkeeper. We are here for you. We care and want you to be happy while under our roof. We promise you that we will listen to your concerns and questions. Life is not perfect but life in a bed and breakfast is as nice as we can make it.