How Replying to TripAdvisor Reviews Keeps the Four Seasons No.1 in the City

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Ranking highly on TripAdvisor’s Popularity Index, a rating system based on quantity, quality and recency of customer reviews, is the best way to draw new customers to your hotel. Knowing that responding to reviews can entice others to write their own, the Four Seasons Hotel in Austin jumped 26 spots to become the highest rated hotel in the city. But how exactly did it happen?

General Manager Rob Hagelberg and his team used a specific messaging strategy to engage reviewers online. My company provides research on hotel management technology, and we broke down how the management team approaches responding to reviews on TripAdvisor.

Use Tracking Tools to Identify Online Reviews

When Hagelberg noticed about two and a half years ago that the Austin Four Seasons dropped seven spots to the 27th highest rated hotel in the city, they knew they needed a better way to monitor mentions of their brand on social media. Kerri Holden, senior director of public relations for the hotel, uses Revinate and Shoutlet for social monitoring and community management.

With these tools, Holden was able to track reviews about the Austin Four Seasons on Facebook, Twitter, TripAdvisor and others. She can also see the number of Facebook “likes”, Google “+1s” and new Twitter followers with percentage changes with monthly reports.

Knowing when and where comments about the hotel are posted gave Hagelberg enough time to develop a plan for responding to negative TripAdvisor reviews and reply before the corporate deadline is up.

Other Tactics the Four Seasons Austin Uses When Responding to Reviews on TripAdvisor:

  • Establish a Reasonable Deadline for Responding to Negative Reviews — Per corporate’s suggestion, the management at the Austin Four Seasons is expected to respond to negative reviews within 24 hours of its posting to increase the chances that visitors see a response.
  • Develop a Messaging Strategy and Structure for Your Response — When responding to negative reviews online, Hagelberg structures his posts in a strategic way that includes an apology and demonstrates that management is correcting the problems. The format of his posts follows this structure:
    • Thank the customer for their time writing a review
    • Acknowledge any positive comments
    • Apologize for the specific complaint or issue
    • Explain a specific, forward-looking plan of how the hotel will fix the problem
    • Invite the customer to come back
  • Add Personal Appeal to Positive Reviews — Hagelberg responds to positive reviews as well, even though he’s not required to by corporate, showing that he is receptive to any kind of feedback from guests. He follows the same structure with a thank you adding a friendly and personal touch, like wishing the guest a belated birthday.
  • Focus on Creating a Memorable Experience First — Reviews don’t pop out of nowhere. Prioritizing a great experience for customers. Hagelberg says most good comments mention an emotional connection the staff was able to establish through consideration and responsiveness to the customer. “The best tip is to think like the guest, put on their shoes, and respond positively,” he says.


Taylor Short has worked as a reporter and writer for six years, focusing on local coverage of city governments, businesses, schools and police. After earning a bachelor’s degree in Journalism from the University of North Texas, he worked for newspapers in Denton, Dallas, Argyle, Cleburne, Killeen and Austin. Taylor freelanced for Reuters News Agency before joining Software Advice where he focuses on covering the hospitality and not for profit industries.

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