Review Incentive Policy Community Memo & Updates

TL;DR

  • Several pay-per-review incident reports.  We have become aware of several vendors have been offering pay-per-review without knowing that this is against HTR’s incentive guidelines
  • This is against HTR’s guidelines and the rules of the awards.  While this is a level I infraction (least severe), it is still against HTR’s policies and therefore not permitted, in violation of the rules of the 2022 HotelTechAwards
  • Penalties for current HotelTechAwards competition. Vendors caught in breach of this policy will have the reviews from the trailing 30-days be unpublished and will not be counted towards the HotelTechAwards competition as it is against the rules
  • Several vendors have claimed not to be aware of this aspect of the incentive policy.  Several vendors have pointed out that the confusion lies in the fact that other review sites do permit this type of pay-per-review incentive
  • Implications for incentives on the community.  While these reviews are against the rules of the awards competition and HTR’s incentive guidelines, HTR will amend its policy effective January 15, 2021 to permit pay-per-review with fair disclosure in accordance with FTC guidelines.  Incentivized reviews will be clearly designated in the UI and ratings will not factor into overall averages.

HTR Vendor Community,

It has come to our attention that a handful of vendors were unaware of HTR’s policy not to allow direct incentive reviews on Hotel Tech Report so we wanted to reach out to all vendors and clarify HTR’s policies about incentivized reviews to make sure there is no confusion.

Overview of Current Policies & Perspectives on Incentivized Reviews

Since inception, HTR’s policies around incentivized reviews have remained the same which can be found in more detail via the help center.  In summary, HTR’s perspective and stance on incentivized reviews to date has been: 

  1. Reviewing B2B software is not the same as consumer goods.  When a guest is reviewing their hotel on TripAdvisor for example there are intrinsic motivations like scrap booking to catalogue their journeys, building online clout/credibility or sharing an experience with friends.  Reviewing B2B software is quite different in nature and carries lower intrinsic motivation which is why incentives are a helpful tool to gather more feedback and foster knowledge sharing.  Incentivizing a review of B2B software is similar to paying for a survey completion - compensating for a busy individual’s professional time without biasing the content of feedback.
  2. Incentives as a way to thank customers are encouraged.  Incentives are common in the B2B review space.  Companies are asking their users to take time out of a busy work day to help with their sales and marketing by advocating for their product. As such, offering an incentive is not only acceptable but we actually encourage it.  So much so that we even subsidize incentives for Premium Members and have an incentive matching program for basic members
  3. Outreach may never be phrased in a way that introduces bias.  While incentives are encouraged, there are obviously guidelines to follow to ensure that the way the incentive is phrased to the user does not introduce bias into their review.  Specifically, to date HTR has outlined several permitted and not permitted scenarios which vary in level of severity and of which examples can be found below:


Scenario

Explicit bias

Implicit bias

Policy

Infraction Level

1) Randomized giveaway

No

No

✅  Allowed

None

2) Limited giveaway

No

No

✅  Allowed

None

3) Pay-per-review

No

Yes

❌  Not allowed

Level I

4) Pay-per-POSITIVE review

Yes

Yes

❌  Not allowed

Level II


Vendor Infractions & Penalties for Pay-Per-Review

There have been three separate occurrences of vendors in the community being reported for pay-per-review (scenario 3) which is a level 1 infraction but none-the-less, an infraction and against the rules of the HotelTechAwards.  Since the inception of the annual HotelTechAwards four years ago, the rules have explicitly stated that direct pay-per-review is not permitted.  The reported incidents were Level I infractions (scenario 3) and were not found to introduce explicit bias.  Given that there have been several occurrences all claiming that the nuances of the permitted incentives were not clear--vendors identified will not be immediately disqualified from the competition however they will incur the following penalties:

  1. Vendor will have 72-hours to respond to the violation report and show that they have corrected their outreach messaging with screenshot evidence
  2. Reviews collected within 30-days of the correction will be unpublished and will not count towards the annual HotelTechAwards competition.
  3. Vendors who have been reported for breaching this guideline will be marked under close watch for up to 90-days where their account will be monitored closely and reviews will appear in a separate moderation queue where moderators will keep a closer eye on activity.
  4. Vendors in breach will only be permitted to collect reviews via the Review Manager in the dashboard for 45-days where HTR can more closely monitor their activity and outreach strategy
  5. Vendors will receive a strike meaning that any future incidents will incur more severe immediate level II penalties without option to cure


Future Amendments to HTR’s Incentive Policies

Vendors have shared 3 main reasons for the confusion around review compensation rules on the site: (a) HTR allows indirect incentives/giveaways (b) pay-per-review is permitted by other review websites and (c) pay-per-review is common in the B2B reviews space.  

Despite these points, HTR’s current (and historical) policies don’t permit pay-per-review (only randomized giveaways).  After discussing with hoteliers and vendors, we have found the consensus belief that pay-per-review should be permitted if certain conditions are met to disclose incentives to website visitors and hotel tech buyers.

The general governing body for online reviews and issues around consumer affairs is the FTC, which states the following:

  • “Knowing that reviewers got the product they reviewed for free would probably affect the weight your customers give to the reviews”
  • “reviewers given free products might give the products higher ratings on a scale like the number of stars than reviewers who bought the products.”
  • “If you've given these customers a reason to expect a benefit from providing their thoughts about your product, you should disclose that fact in your ads.”
  • “If you’re offering them something of value in return for these reviews, tell them in advance that they should disclose what they received from you.”

In light of community feedback and FTC guidelines, HTR will amend our policies after the current year awards competition to allow for direct incentives when there is fair disclosure (effective January 15th, 2022).  Disclosures will be incorporated into the hotel tech buyer user experience on the Hotel Tech Report platform.  So how will this work?

  • The write a review form will include a field for hoteliers to indicate whether direct compensation has been offered for their product feedback
  • Vendors will have a toggle in their dashboard indicating when they are running a pay per review campaign (on or off platform)
  • Vendors found to be running direct incentive campaigns without using the toggle will have all reviews within 6-months of the incident report immediately marked as ‘incentivized’
  • Directly incentivized reviews will NOT count towards the quantitative ratings averages.  Their volumes will count towards the average review thresholds and geographic targets, however, ratings like customer support, ease of use, etc. will not be included in overall ratings in order to ensure “apples to apples” comparisons amongst all vendors for buyers without the possibility of potential bias

Conclusion

Ultimately, incentives are a positive and encouraged mechanism to thank customers for their time, effort and expertise but all endorsements must reflect the honest opinions or experiences of the endorser (Source: FTC Endorsement Guides).  

Therefore while HTR will be expanding its incentive guidelines to permit direct incentive reviews, these reviews will carry a clear designation to consumers about the nature of the incentive.  Additionally, companies who have been in breach of this rule to date will receive penalties commensurate with their breach to ensure that (a) the behavior is immediately corrected and (b) reviews collected in this manner will not be counted towards the 2022 HotelTechAwards competition but will not be deleted fully from the site as they will be re-added after the competition is over with the new incentivized review designation.

Likelihood to Recommend Rating Into Focus

 Previously the review form used to capture an overall rating and a likelihood to recommend rating.  Since both were essentially two versions of an overall user rating they were duplicative which is why likelihood to recommend was (and always has) been the 'overall rating' factored into the HT Score to avoid duplicative counting of similar ratings.

In order to simplify the review form and show the more important variable front and center, the overall rating (/5) has been deprecated fully to reduce form fields and avoid capturing ratings that didn't count towards scoring and likelihood to recommend now shows in the UI in areas where the overall rating showed previously.  Likelihood to recommend has always been the most important rating in the HT Score and therefore it is being moved front and center in the UI to better reflect its significance.

FAQS

  1. Does this change impact scoring? No, this DOES NOT impact scoring in any way.  It just changes the primary variable that shows in view in notifications, the review form and review manager as the focus variable
  2. Was likelihood to recommend rating captured before? Yes, this variable has always been collected and has always been the most important of the ratings.  The only change is that it used to be on page 2 of the review form, now it is the first question on the first page.

As a result, there are three areas you will see the likelihood to recommend rating surfaced as the focused variable:


1. Moved from Page 2 to Page 1 of the Review Form


2. Moved into Focus in New Review Notifications

3. Moved Into Focus in the Review Manager


10 Feature Updates to Make Running Review Campaigns Even Easier

This week we're rolling out several new features to the review manager to help streamline your workflows and make it easier to filter through large lists.  

  1. Simplified List Management 
  2. Improved UX
  3. New Workflows
  4. Enriched Exporting


1. Simplified List Management

1a. Clear out customers that you no longer want in the review manager

  • What is it? Ability to select customers and soft delete them from the review manager without losing their event history and timeline. You can also re-add them later and their old status and activity history will repopulate in the timeline
  • How does it help? Remove customers that you don't want to reach out to for reviews to clear out and organize your review manager as your customer list grows.


1b. Clean out your review manager to start fresh with a single click

  • What is it? As you run campaigns over time the review manager continues to build up more and more customers which can make it harder to manage over time.  Eventually, you may get to a point where you just want to start over and from scratch and that's where this nifty new 'start fresh' feature comes in.  Reach out to HTR at any time and we can do a soft reset of your review manager quickly and easily to help you start fresh with your campaigns.
  • How does it help? Reset your review manager to re-start your campaigns and outreach with a clean slate


1c. Streamlined clients tab, filter by status and archived is now unsubscribed

The archived tab used to be a place where you could send customers that you didn't want to send further communications to but it showed in the flow of the review manager which was a bit confusing because it meant a customer could have left a review, but they could also be in archived.  Instead, we have deprecated 'archived' and rolled out 'unsubscribed'.

  • What is it? Simplified view of the clients tab now with statuses
  • How does it help? Filter the clients tab by status to get a quick skimmable spreadsheet view of your customers and where they are in the review collection process and also be able to easily unsubscribe/re-subscribe


1d. New customer tags to create and manage segments

  • What is it? Create custom tags that you can use to create unique segments of customers in the review manager and filter the review manager by your custom tags.  Import your lists with tags to streamline your workflows and be able to create custom segments.
  • How does it help? Tags allow you to be able to create customer segments to slice and dice your list in any way that you'd like.  Add campaign tags, geographic tags, batch tags, start date tags, property type tags, language tags or anything else you can imagine.





2. Improved UX

2a. Pick up where you left off with ease

Previously when you selected a customer in the review manager the background would scroll to the top of the page making it difficult to find where you left off.  Now, when you select a customer the background customer tile has a selected state to bookmark where you are visually and the page remains static so you can more easily keep your place.  Improvements include: 

  • What is it? Bookmarked state for selected customers 
  • How does it help? Page no longer shifts when clicking into customer timeline detail view so you can more easily keep track while switching between customers


2b. Improved customer selection UX

  • What is it? Previously the bulk select/select all feature would 'select all' that were on the tab.  That meant if you had thousands of users that (1) there would be lag and (2) you couldn't easily move smaller groupings/segments between tabs.  The select all button has been updated to now only select the customers visible on the current page you are on
  • How does it help?  Eliminate lag, more precisely and easily move customers between tabs to simplify your workflows


3. New Workflows

3a. Filter the entire review manager by campaign

When you've run dozens of campaigns and have thousands of customers in the review manager it can get really overwhelming and difficult to figure out how to filter the data to make sense in a way that is actionable, not anymore.

  • What is it? Filter the entire review manager by campaign so you can
  • How does it help? See exactly how a campaign is performing (or performed) so you can take strategic actions to execute personalized followup by segment


3b. Ability to send customers follow-on campaigns

  • What is it? Previously, once you ran a campaign to customers there was no way to run another campaign to them.
  • How does it help? Now you can quickly and easily move customers who had been in an old campaign right into the campaign setup tab to be able to send them another campaign


3c. Re-trigger verification emails to customers 

  • What is it? Manually re-trigger the verification link to be sent to customers for 'unverified' reviews
  • How does it help? This is particularly helpful if you have a client who left a review but didn't click the verification link and they're saying they never received it. Now you can manually re-trigger it to be sent to them on the spot




4. Enriched Exporting

4a. Export customer statuses to leverage in your own tools

Previously the 'export suppression' list feature only exported (non-anonymous) customers that had left a review.  Now, this export includes all (non-anonymous) customers from all tabs of your review manager along with the tab they're in (aka their status) so you can import this data to your CRM or other external tools.

Review Manager: New Guides & Sending Limits

Tips & Best Practices Front & Center Throughout the Campaign Setup and Launch Flow

While the review manager has always had in app messaging pop up with tips and tutorials and the help center has had best practices and templates, they now sit from and center in the campaign flow and review manager to make sure everyone on your team is able to optimize your campaign to follow best practices, save time and increase conversion.


New Campaign Daily Sending Limits to Improve Deliverability

With the rebuilt review manager and improved performance more companies have been sending more campaigns and larger campaigns.  To ensure strong deliverability new daily sending limits have been implemented which include (1) 250 users/campaign (2) 500 requests sent/day


New Pre-Written Base STARTER Templates

If its your first time sending a review campaign it might take you some brain racking to figure out what the heck to write to get users to leave reviews.  The review manager now has new pre-written base STARTER templates to save you to time.

Its important to remember these are STARTER templates and are meant to serve as a starting point but you ABSOLUTELY SHOULD CUSTOMIZE AND MAKE THEM YOUR OWN.  Remember, your goal is to follow all of the best practices but most importantly: 

  1. Make sure you are sending your campaigns from someone users have rapport with and will recognize in their inbox
  2. Make sure you customize your templates to sound like a personal 1-to-1 email to each user (not a generic mass marketing email!) 

You can also check out more pre-written starter templates in the help center and

Partial Reviews Displaying in Review Manager

As a way to monitor review form conversion and make sure we capture as much content as possible in the event of a reviewer having an issue with the review form we capture partial review content.

This is solely for internal monitoring purposes as these reviews cannot be published since they are (a) incomplete and (b) lack verification and approval from the user (since they did not finish the form and submit their review).

Last week when we rolled out a performance improvement to the automated review manager some partial reviews appeared as 'pending' reviews.

This issue should now be resolved but please feel free to reach out with any questions or if you are still seeing a partial review in your vendor dashboard.

We apologize for any confusion this may have caused.

10 New Review Manager Features

  1. Vendor verifications
  2. Link Pre-Filling
  3. Mass Followup
  4. See Anonymous Reviews
  5. Filter Reviews by Product
  6. Filter Reviews by Status
  7. Improved Template Formatting
  8. Send Test Campaigns
  9. Review Exports & Suppression List
  10. New copy/paste templates library


Vendor Verifications

Get unverified reviews verified faster with self-verifications. Premium members can now utilize a new type of verifications, self verification.  Self verifications mean you have to reach out to hoteliers fewer times while getting more reviews approved and verified.


Link Pre-Filling

Pre-fill links to run targeted campaigns to users and pre-select the products they use to reduce fields and increase conversion.

⏯Pre-filling links (in the review manager)

⏯Pre-fill links (outside of the review manager)



Mass Followup

Followup with users who didn't leave a review after campaigns are complete without going 1-by-1. Once users complete a campaign, then what? Instead of going one by one you can now bulk select and send a mass outreach template to lots of users at once.


See Anonymous Reviews

Feature request shout out: Michelle @ HelloShift


Filter Reviews by Product

Filter reviews by product to save time flipping between profiles. Save time flipping between profiles to read reviews and see which products each reviewer chose to review right from the review manager and filter your reviews by product to more easily find specific reviews.

Feature request shout out: Michelle @ HelloShift


Filter Reviews by Status

Easily sort reviews by status to see when reviews are pending, which reviews you need to respond to or to hunt down rejected reviews and get them verified.

Feature inspiration shout out: Elena @ Monscierge


Improved Template Formatting

If you have tried pasting text into the custom templates in the automated review manager previously you may have noticed that the formatting carries over and can lead to inconsistencies if you don't reformat the styles from within the review manager.  Now the templates feature will automatically strip out excess formatting to ensure consistency in your templates.

Feature request shout out: Marvin and Ari @ RoomPriceGenie


Send Test Campaigns

Preview your campaigns before you press send.


Export Reviews

Members can now request an export of review data for internal analysis to share with product, customer success and marketing teams right from the review manager. (Note: Only company admins can access this feature). You can also download a suppression list right from the review manager.

👏 Feature request inspiration shout out: Saahil @ Oaky


Copy/Paste Templates Library

We recently added a new templates library section to the help center that includes inspiration for copy/paste templates for your team to use and to add to the review manager to help you save time and increase conversion.  Be sure to check out our latest high converting templates for collecting reviews during COVID times.

New Review Verification Options for Hoteliers

Hoteliers at small independent properties or vacation rentals can now leave reviews and get verified without needing a hotel email domain using one of our new approved verification options built right into the review flow.

👏 Feature request inspiration shout out: Elena @ Monscierge

IMPORTANT: Hotel Tech Report cannot share information other than what is in the Review Manager

We've had extremely high levels of inquiries about off-platform review campaigns. Please note that Hotel Tech Report does not have any visibility into your review campaigns unless they are run via the Review Manager.

The only information we are able to share about reviews is what is visible in your Review Manager.

Read more: Visibility into off-platform review campaigns

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