Starwood Hotels & Resorts (NYSE:HOT) will launch on Monday a first-ever online review function that allows its customers to make unbiased comments about its hotels and service directly on its web site.
The new program follows a recent survey taken among Starwood preferred guests, which includes many business travels, in which 85% said they find value in consumer ratings and reviews on travel sites.
The reviews will be available for anyone to read and will even have the ability to be shared on social media networks such as Facebook and Twitter. The company hopes the reviews will deepen its customer relationships and encourage repeat stays.
“The open forum gives travelers a place to share and search for genuine hotel reviews – both the positive and the negative – so they can plan their ideal hotel stay,” Starwood said in a statement. “Starwood believes the key to building deeper relationships with its most loyal guests is through access to honest and transparent information.”
The company said it will ensure all comments are from guests who actually stayed at the hotels, including the Sheraton, Westin and W, by verifying reviews by hotel reservation confirmation.
The move by Starwood is notable because it marks the first time a major U.S. hotel line has allowed customers to write brutally honest reviews directly on its site – potentially bringing to light any weak links in its massive hotel chain. So far none of its primary rivals, including Marriott (NYSE:MAR) and Hilton, have attempted this.
However, the company’s senior executive, Chris Hodren, told USA Today that Starwood is not concerned over the potential for bad reviews, saying the company is confident in its hotels.
Reviews will include an overall rating, room comfort rating, a "staff met my needs" rating, room cleanliness and Starwood Preferred Guest recognition. Guests will also be able to filter review content by star rating, purpose of travel, frequency of travel, preferred guest level and whether or not the experience met expectations.
The ratings will be powered by Bazaarvoice, which already offers social commerce solutions under brand web sites including Best Buy (NYSE:BBY), Costco (NASDAQ:COST), Dell (NASDAQ:DELL), Macy’s (NYSE:M) and Procter & Gamble (NYSE:PG).