Welcome to “Insider Perspectives”, an interview series featuring travel industry insiders and veterans.
As competition in the hospitality industry heats up and the power of booking platforms expands, hoteliers need to stay on top of booking trends and have the right strategies in place to win over guests.
Tune in our webinar on July 18, as experts from leading hotel tech companies share their insights and innovative tactics on increasing conversions and direct revenue.
Before the webinar, let’s get to know our panelist Valerie (Carboni) Castillo, Vice President of Marketing at TrustYou, the world’s largest guest feedback platform.
Tell us about your role at TrustYou. What’s the most interesting and enjoyable part of your job?
I am currently the VP of Marketing at TrustYou and in charge of leading and executing our brand awareness, product marketing, and lead generation strategies. My favorite part of the job is working with my wonderful team of passionate, feedback experts who support these strategies.
Tell us a little bit about your product. In your opinion, what makes it unique? What’s your secret sauce?
TrustYou is a guest feedback platform that makes listening to reviews easy, powerful, and actionable for hotels and travel websites. Our secret sauce is the combination of the world’s largest database of hotel reviews (over 3 million collected every week for 700,000 hotels worldwide) and the sophisticated semantic analysis we run on these reviews to ensure that our customers can listen, understand, and take action on their guest feedback.
Based on the surveys hoteliers conducted through TrustYou, what are the top factors that influence guest experience?
Service is always the biggest factor. A hotel that meets expectations on every level but service will continue to see a downward progression in their overall scores, no matter how much they invest in WiFi, new bathrooms, etc. ‘
Another big factor is the hotel location, which is a bit unfortunate because there is less actionability for the hotel (they can’t just pick up and move it). However, hotels can be more proactive in ensuring that convenience is well established at their hotel, which is a big part of why hotel guests rate and review on the basis of location. For example, a hotel can boost a guest’s perception of their location within a city by adding free shuttle service.
How can hoteliers better personalize their interactions and communication with guests before and during their stay?
Hotels often think about sending surveys after the guest leaves the hotel in order to rate guest experience. But often enough, this is too late in the process to properly engage with a guest or provide excellent service. We offer our clients customizable pre-stay and mid-stay surveys to help hotels begin the engagement process before the guest arrives, and all during their stay at the hotel. The mid-stay survey provides a great opportunity for hotels to turn a negative review into a positive one by offering better service.
What are the common challenges hoteliers face when it comes to gathering, analyzing, understanding and/or turning guest feedback into actions?
I think the biggest challenge hoteliers have is always time. They are so busy with a million priorities, technologies, and guest services, it can be difficult to find the time to respond to online reviews and take actions based on what their guests are saying. TrustYou is on a mission to help hoteliers become efficient and for reputation management to no longer be a burden, but a necessity. We give hoteliers more efficiency and automation with a full suite of innovative solutions.
How can hoteliers easily turn positive reviews into marketing content?
95% of travelers read reviews before making a booking decision.
The most efficient way of delivering review content to travelers is through review summaries, or a Meta-Review, which compiles the most important sentiments from all the travelers who have reviewed a hotel and creates highlights that are easy to consume.
TrustYou offers these meta-reviews to some of the world’s largest travel websites, such as Hotels.com and KAYAK, and they are also available to hoteliers to drive more direct bookings on their own hotel website.
What are some new products or feature launches that you’d like to share with our readers?
With regard to helping hoteliers become more time-efficient, our upcoming features are going to help automate some of the actions that hoteliers are currently taking in their TrustYou account. As an example, we are looking at opportunities to use our semantic analysis to create suggested responses to reviews that hotels can either automatically post or adjust before posting. This will save them time in responding to reviews, and give them more time to truly listen to and understand their guests’ needs.
What are the biggest opportunities for growth for you and your company?
We recently expanded our business further into the restaurants and F&B sector, which has always been a popular industry for online reviews and ratings. We hope to share our knowledge and expertise in Meta-Reviews to help restaurants promote their best qualities and improve their services.
A lot of us who work in the hospitality industry are passionate about traveling. So what’s on your bucket list for travel?
It might be easier to talk about what’s not on my bucket list, but that would make this response too short. I’d say my top places right now are South Africa, New Zealand, and Thailand. I’ll look forward to the day when I can teleport everywhere and avoid the long plane trips 🙂
How do you plan and prepare for your leisure trips?
I’m a budget traveler, for sure. I like to use my free miles, look for special deals, and take advantage of group tours and rates. It takes some extra time and planning, but it’s worth it for me to have quantity over quality. Life is short and I want to see everything and be everywhere.
More About Valerie:
Valerie has over 9 years experience in marketing for hospitality solutions. Currently, she leads the marketing team at TrustYou, where she is responsible for all content, customer, and product marketing efforts. Valerie posts weekly to TrustYou’s hotel management blog where she shares tips and best practices for an effective hotel marketing strategy. Previously, she worked in product marketing at Cvent, an industry leading event solutions provider for event planners and hoteliers.