To What Degree Should Hotels Solicit Online Reviews?

Filed Under: Hotels, Starwood Preferred Guest

I stayed at Le Meridien Dubai last night, which I was extremely impressed by. The hotel is right next to the airport, and has a dedicated building exclusively for club guests, which is separated from the main hotel.

Le Meridien Dubai club room

The club wing was recently renovated and is gorgeous, in stark contrast to the main part of the hotel, which is past its prime.

Le Meridien Dubai club wing

Le Meridien Dubai “normal” wing

This brings me to my one complaint about this hotel, which I faced while checking out. I’ve become accustomed to hotels basically begging for online reviews throughout stays. At a minimum they usually have a card in the room asking you to share your experience online if you were pleased. Then at check-out they’ll sometimes subtly mention that they’d appreciate if you wrote an online review. And then finally there are post stay surveys and follow-up emails soliciting online reviews. All of which I’m fine with and used to, in theory.

The service at Le Meridien Dubai was really good throughout my stay. When the associate asked how everything was at check-out I said “lovely, I was very impressed by this hotel and will definitely be back.”

Her ears perked up, and she was happy to hear that.

She then handed me a paper survey and asked me to fill it out, sharing my experience about the stay. I said “oh I’ll just fill out the survey they send after each stay,” but she didn’t react, which I took to mean that she’d appreciate if I still filled out this form, which I did. And that was fine.

After I spent a couple of minutes filling out the survey the conversation continued:

“Have you heard of TripAdvisor?”
“Would you please consider writing a review on TripAdvisor saying good things?”
“Please do, it is very important.”

Then she handed me a piece of paper with her name on it.

“Please mention my name.”
“Don’t forget, it’s very important you do this. Thank you so much.”

At this point I was starting to wonder whether I was a guest at the hotel or her employee.

So I still have a great things to say about the club accommodations at this hotel, because they’re fantastic. It’s my new favorite option for quick overnights in Dubai. The service throughout my stay was excellent, though it certainly sours my impression of the hotel when they literally beg for you to write a review, and beg for you to mention them.

I get why employees want to be mentioned online. As I’ve written about in the past, hotel chains give big incentives for employees to be mentioned in reviews. Last I heard, Hyatt gives associates $25 in cash if they’re mentioned by name in an online review, and I suspect Starwood offers a similar incentive.

But at what point are hotel staff crossing the line? Is it okay if they mention at check-out that they’d appreciate if you consider writing an online review? How about if they tell you how important it is? What about if they give you their name because they want to be mentioned?

Like I said, I still found the service at the hotel to be great, but at some point the begging sours my perception of the customer service at the hotel.

  1. When I stayed there last year, my room in the new wing had a massage chair in it! Wonderful property if you need quick access to the airport!

  2. Thank you for writing this post, doing this is against the terms of TripAdvisor. Quickly wrote a Report with a link to your blog post.

  3. I had a similar experience at Sheraton Park and Towers (Chennai, India) at the restaurant. I really felt odd. That was the only complaint during my otherwise excellent stay.

  4. Service was extremely good at the sofitel europe luxembourg, had the same experience as you whereby the lady at check-out asked for her name to be mentioned on a good tripadvisor review. Not complaining or anything, but indeed, she was really helpful, kind and polite.

  5. Prior to the miles and points hobby, I used to backpack a lot. Some hostels and hotels in Southeast Asia will give you voucher for a drink at the bar if you show them an online review you wrote. Backpackers will do anything for a free beer… even if the beer only cost 0.50USD during happy hour.

  6. The only place I’ve ever come across this was in Florida a couple of years back where this happened incessantly – hotels, restaurants etc. This was a new phenomenon to us whilst on holiday. I’ve not had it since – although I’ve chatted about Tripadvisor with hotel staff in a broader context. Which in itself proved quite illuminating.

  7. Because you stayed at the Meridien Garhoud, you can’t expect much do you!
    That hotel is losing a lot of money, and is planned to close soon. I guess they want positive comments until the end 🙂

  8. You engaged in the conversation and was polite about it so she must have felt comfortable pushing it further, I imagine if you hadn’t been engaging on the subject she probably wouldn’t have pushed it.

    I don’t see it as anything over the line or to be offended by.

  9. i stayed at this property just last Wednesday March 9 and was in a normal room (not club) and it was in a poor state, well past its prime as your rightly said. If I have known they were that bad, I would have either upgraded to Club or taken my business elsewhere in the area close to DXB airport.

    In any case, i faced the same experience as you; upon checkout the clerk asked if my stay was comfortable and if I was happy? I said yes. I lied. But it was 0630am and I was not in the mood to discuss my disappointment. Encouraged, he shoved a survey asking me if I would want to fill it out? i said sure. he typed away checking me out while I typed away checking all boxes marked as under-average/poor.

    When I was done, he glanced quickly at my answers, gave an air of disappointment, I smiled, said thanks and left.

    I left a review on Trip Advisor advising everyone on how poor their un-refurbished rooms currently are.

  10. Same experience at the Hard Rock Riviera Maya (all inclusive just south of Playa Del Carmen). Several employees mentioned TripAdvisor and handed me small cards (size of a business card) with TripAdvisor branding and their name on it. They MUST get compensation if their name is mentioned in a positive review.

  11. Your post was right on. Asking once or even twice is ok, but your experience was just tasteless.

  12. Just starting a trip to India so I’ve been reading a ton of TA hotel reviews. The large majority contain praise for one or more employees. Maybe this explains why, but I ignore any that do so.

  13. Ben’s experience crossed the line. Begging for a good TripAdvisor review can really sour an impression of an otherwise good hotel. However, I would not blame the front desk associate; I strongly suspect that this hotel’s management coerce its employees to engage in this obnoxious behavior.

    Thankfully, I very rarely ever come across this issue during my travels. I would be openly appalled if a hotel like the Connaught tried to solicit a favorable review from me. However, the Mandarin Oriental in Las Vegas will very delicately suggest, via email, that I “share my experience.”

  14. If you thought that bad Lucky, you should consider the rather unethical letter guests checking into the InterContinental Sydney were given, stating that “If you are unable to rate [in the InterContinental Hotels Group Post-Stay Survey] your overall satisfaction at the hotel as Excellent [Excellent underlined], or if there is even one aspect of your overall service received that did not exceed your expectations, please contact our 24/7 Manager on Duty”.

    That’s pretty dodgy, to sort of demand an Excellent rating in the chain post-stay survey, otherwise just keep it in-house with the individual hotel. Those chain surveys are performance management and surveillance tools used by the corporate head office of the chain brand (as individual hotels are not directly owned by the chain, so they have limited oversight). This sort of thing is akin to rigging KPIs.

  15. Or they want the chance to make things better while you are still in the hotel.

    The more ridiculous aspect is establishments expecting/demanding to always exceed expectations. That’s just not possible if you have a realistic idea of what to expect. It is a stupid standard.

  16. Ironically, the only time I’ve been solicited for a TripAdvisor review was at a two-bit restaurant/casino in Beatty, Nevada, population 1,010. The food actually was pretty good, though I didn’t ever post one, I don’t think.

    I don’t know if the work culture is the same in Dubai, but in India at least, compensation and ratings for people working in service industries such as hotels are influenced heavily by surveys. I’ve had the survey shoved in my face many a time in India, usually accompanied by a not-so-subtle request to check the highest rating available.

  17. Whenever I read a tripadvisor review that mentions someone by name, I assume it is fake in some way or another and usually just ignore it. I don’t ever remember names of people who serve me at hotels and restaurants. This post and the comments seem to confirm that these reviews are fake.

  18. It’s one thing for a B&B in the middle of nowhere to suggest that a guest write a review for them. They need word of mouth for anybody on Tripadvisor to even know the establishment exists. But an employee at a major chain trying to get its guests to write specific content in a review is simply wrong and would rightfully make anyone squirm.

  19. I have mentioned specific persons in a review on Tripadvisor only because i thought they provided excellent service and deserved to be recognized. In Lucky’s situation, i would not comply. It seems unseemly and i think only those people who truly deserve it should be recognized.

  20. I believe they use TripAdvisor much like restaurants use Yelp. They want all the positive reviews they can get and they respond proactively to negative responses. I posted a negative Yelp response for a dinner we went to where the food didn’t come out for a full hour after we ordered. We finally got up and left and were told there was a kitchen issue. I posted the negative Yelp response and was contacted by the owner and offered a free meal. I accepted and then in their note they sent with the free meal coupon they asked me to delete the negative Yelp post. That’s how much these businesses value online reviews. They want the exposure but not any negative responses.

  21. Hmm. Actually, I don’t mind at all when reminded to post a review when I’m pleased with the service. Especially when a property has just spent bundles on refurbishing, and Trip Advisor (and most travel sites) won’t accept nor post a press release from the hotel, it’s tough to reach their audience about changes and updates. Happy to help.

  22. When stuff is wrong at a decent hotel, the management wants to know so they can fix/address ASAP vs. someone just writing later “this place sucked…” in a review. For example, broken air conditioner: they want to know so they can move you to another room or have maintenance fix it, so you have a positive experience vs. just complaining later in reviews.

  23. I’ve definitely seen this behavior in Europe. I remember being given at check out a reminder card to write a review of the hotel on Trip Advisor. I use TA heavily for places I’ve never been before so I take these reviews seriously (and with a grain of salt). If I get pushed to write a review, then I usually skip leaving what would have been a good review and make sure to enter a poor review for a place that I found disappointing.

    Hotels should know that most travelers are savvy and not pander like this.

  24. Weirdly I had this same situation in a Yo!Sushi in London a couple of weeks ago! At first I overheard their team meeting in which their boss was telling them how imperative it was that they received customer feedback that day. I got handed the feedback card while I was eating and was literally begged to fill it out. Then I was reminded again at checkout. All the questions on the survey matched the service I was provided with which suddenly made the experience seem very contrived, e.g. ‘did the member of staff tell you about their favourite dish’ etc. Well, yes, I didn’t think they were ticking boxes so rotely.

  25. As a former Front Office employee, I can say that she crossed the line by being pushy and then asking for her name to be put in. Thats completely unacceptable. If you have had a good experience, you can choose to name certain employees.
    The reason that she was so insistent is that a prize might be on offer for the employee with the most positive mentions on TripAdvisor. But thats just a guess

  26. I think if they’re going to solicit Trip Advisor reviews they should at least have some sort of software that tells them whether the person has already placed a Trip Advisor review and thus they don’t get any further solicitation emails. I stayed at an Accor property receently and rated it poorly on Trip Advisor very quickly after checkout. Post stay I got both an email from Accor and the hotel itself soliciting a Trip Advisor review. Ugh.

  27. Had an experience in China where there was a flood in my room and I was moved (very quickly) to another room. At check-out the duty manager introduced himself and informed me that the room was free for the previous night as they saw I was a tripadvisor employee. Never worked for them, but investigated and saw that it said booked via tripadvisor on my invoice. Must have booked the room via a link on tripadvisor. Anyway, not complaining about a free room. Actually stayed at the hotel again, as it was in a good location and price

  28. EVERYBODY wants an online review. I buy a pair of socks at Kmart? The receipt prompts me to leave an online review and be entered in a drawing for a gift card. The sample included in my online order from a cosmetics company? “How did you like your sample of Luxury Lotion, Susan?” I fly BA TATL, and they send a 10-minute survey. I click to a new website, and within seconds a pop-up asks whether I’ll provide feedback about my online experience. Hello, corporate world: ENOUGH!!! My time and judgment have value. You’re not providing anything in exchange for the value you solicit, and it’s not even clear you pay any attention to the feedback.

    Hotel reviews are helpful to me, so I do pay it forward and write one, making sure I include information of value to a future customer. The corporate popularity contest (“how likely are you to recommend bookingenginedotcom to your friends”) I skip.

  29. This shows me how seriously hotels take the online reviews on Trip Advisor. Score 1 more point for democracy!

  30. Just to touch on some things mentioned by Kieran, Matt, and 747always.

    Kieran — Matt is right. You should give the hotel the chance to make it right for you before filling out a survey. Frankly, what possible reason would you have NOT to? It serves neither your interest nor the hotel’s for you to stew silently about a bad experience. Let the management team know (politely, of course) what’s going on and give them a chance to rectify it.

    747always — you are right that hotels often provide incentives for their employees to be mentioned by name in online reviews. And, I would suggest that it is for the best. Employees should be recognized for going above and beyond to the extent that they have managed to provide a memorable experience for their guests. After all, they are in the hospitality business!

    My personal feeling on this is that no Front Desk associate should badger a guest for a “mention” on TripAdvisor or any other review portal. If they have indeed gone above and beyond for a guest, and that guest is thanking the associate in question, that would be the appropriate time to suggest how much a positive TripAdvisor review would be welcomed. In sum, a front desk agent with whom the guest has no prior relationship soliciting a TripAdvisor review and a personal mention is unacceptable. Instead, the agent in question should have invited you to mention by name any hotel associates (if any) who made your stay particularly memorable.

    With that said, I believe in providing honest feedback. If there were shortcomings, providing that feedback is the only way the hotel will know to fix it. But, providing that honest feedback in real time is equally important. If you don’t give the hotel the opportunity to make things right for you, it is unreasonable to expect that the hotel will lend you a sympathetic ear after the fact. In my experience, if you treat the hotel and its managers with respect, more often than not that is what you will receive in kind (and then some).

  31. To matt and Food4Thought:

    The point is that the survey in question is a post-stay survey, that the guest receives some time after their stay. The hotel’s letter to it’s guest is explicit that it expects guests to rate them as Excellent (it was even underlined for emphasis) in the post-stay survey sent to them – not by the hotel, but corporate head office – or else to take it off line (and thus skew the survey). That’s the part that is clearly unacceptable conduct, as it’s an attempt to rig the reporting system that corporate head office uses to check on the hotel.

    It’s flippant to pretend this is just about improving customer service. If you hire me to paint you house, and before I even start work, I say you should rate my work as “excellent” if anyone asks you, you’d tell me to stop being silly because I haven’t even lifted a paintbrush yet.

    There is nothing wrong with a hotel saying “If you have any problems or concerns during your stay, please let us know how we can help” (many hotels say this – however I’ve never had a hotel link this to a requirement to rate the hotel a certain way in any post stay survey). But specifying that guests should rate you as Excellent in any survey is just wrong, wrong, wrong – especially when this communication happens when you’ve only just checked in and yet to have the opportunity to even form a informed opinion about your stay. It’s gaming an outcome, in a rather unethical way.

  32. Food4Thought, if your “personal feeling on this is that no Front Desk associate should badger a guest for a “mention” on TripAdvisor or any other review portal”, why would you think bagering a guest for a specific rating of Excellent in a post-survey send by the brand head office is acceptable?

    It’s the same thing, to all extents and purposes, pimping for praise that is unlikely to be deserved.

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