Web Startup Helps Track Customer Reviews

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This story appears in the December 2012 issue of . Subscribe »

Before he could get to the business of managing his company's six hotels each day, Gregory E. Alden used to spend more than an hour checking out customer feedback on Yelp, TripAdvisor, Expedia, Booking and other websites. Alden, CEO of Menlo Park, Calif.-based Woodside Hotels, knows how important reviews are to consumers when it comes to booking hotel stays--a few negative reports could knock his properties out of the coveted first- or second-place ranking they hold in their respective markets.

"It's a constant battle on our end to build awareness among our people," Alden says. "We tell them, 'Check Trip-Advisor. Check Yelp. You've got to be doing this multiple times a day.'"

When Alden got wind of Revinate, his life got a lot easier. The service aggregates what people are saying about a property across multiple sites and delivers those comments in one easy-to-use dashboard. After Alden signed on, his time spent monitoring reviews dropped to just a few minutes each day.

Launched in 2009 in San Francisco by boarding-school buddies Jay Ashton and Marc Heyneker, Revinate pulls reviews from top hospitality sites and feedback from Facebook, Twitter, foursquare, Google+ and other social media platforms. Ashton became interested in helping hoteliers navigate the make-or-break world of online reviews while president of online travel agency Five Star Alliance. A 2010 survey by Forrester Research for Trip-Advisor drove the point home: It stated that 81 percent of people consider online hotel reviews "important" to their booking process, and 49 percent won't stay at a property that has no reviews.

While Ashton and Heyneker won't disclose revenue, Revinate claims more than 15,000 customers, ranging from independent operators like Woodside Hotels to international chains like Wyndham Hotel Group and Hyatt. The service can be customized with options such as real-time alerts and "Social Buzz," which allow subscribers to republish reviews on their own websites and Facebook pages. Monthly subscription pricing varies based on the size of the hotel and its average daily room rate, which helps make the service affordable for both small B&Bs and large resorts.

Last year Revinate introduced its popular "Guest Satisfaction 2.0" reports, which analyze feedback from review sites and online travel agencies and see whether a property is trending up or down in keywords like "value" or "cleanliness." For Woodside Hotels' Alden, the reports help spot trends and anomalies, and in some cases criticism can be acted on immediately. With Revinate, Alden says, staffers can see that "their most brilliant acts and their weakest moments are going to happen in real time. I can see that if a staffer doesn't smile, how that can translate into someone saying that the people at this hotel are grumpy, which can translate into us going from the No. 1 hotel in the market to No. 2."

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