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Analyzing Guests' Sentiment: A Scientific Look at Reviews

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Created on: Jan 17, 2012 10:17 AM by meredith - Last Modified:  Feb 26, 2014 3:24 PM by meredith

The proliferation of online reviews and ratings has aroused interest from science and business sectors alike in the process of analyzing the sentiment of customers. By identifying relevant content in reviews, this data can be utilized not only as a marketing tool, but also to assist in controlling a business’ reputation and getting to know customers better.sentiment.JPG

 

Reviews can be a contentious topic for vacation rental owners and managers. Each traveler’s experience is utterly subjective, and can be based on a myriad of ever-changing criteria. There are no common rating standards or service levels in the vacation rental industry; what constitutes a 5-star stay to one guest may be a 3-star experience to another.

HomeAway has an extensive collection of reviews across our multiple websites. Brent Schneeman, one of HomeAway’s senior software engineers, decided to dig into this data to find out if 5-star reviews have certain characteristics which distinguish them from 4-star reviews, and so on.

 

Ideally, the star rating in a review matches the sentiment expressed therein. However, there are often examples of failure in this process. For example, the text may indicate unhappiness with some attribute of the property, but the star rating is high. Alternatively, the text may describe an incredible experience, but the traveler, in error, gives a low star rating. In both cases the owner/manager suffers from the inaccuracy, and trust in the reviews system is compromised on both sides.

 

A study of our small sample concluded that this kind of error occurs about 5% of the time. While in the future, we may be able to improve the accuracy of star ratings by using sentiment analysis, for now here is some interesting data we have collected.

 

Schneeman also extracted the top three-term collocations, or sequences of words, that occurred in the sample set of reviews. Here are his findings in descending order of significance.

 

1-Star

2-Star

3-Star

4-Star

5-Star

pots and pans

pots and pans

washer and dryer

vacation rental was

washer and dryer

accused us of

needless to say

thank you for

washer and dryer

comforts of home

needless to say

washer and dryer

letting us stay

helpful overall recommend

look forward to

thank you for

walking distance to

look forward to

within walking distance

glass of wine

did not work

taken care of

across the street

recommend this vacation

thank you for

during our stay

within walking distance

within walking distance

satisfied with the

across the street

when we arrived

did not work

vacation rental was

thank you for

exceeded our expectations

upon arrival we

during our stay

thank you so

property manager was

plenty of room

there was no

when we arrived

recommend this vacation

plenty of room

forward to returning

do not rent

make sure you

away from home

look forward to

within walking distance

security deposit we

vacation rental was

helpful overall recommend

happy with the

work with and

would not recommend

prior to our

property manager was

more than satisfied

thought of everything

 

Taking an objective and methodical look at reviews can reveal a lot about your customer base. In this case, it is clear that providing quality pots and pans is a seemingly simple way to meet travelers’ expectations and avoid a negative review (as the phrase pots and pans occurred frequently in 1 and 2 star ratings.) Consider your reviews as data from which you can pull valuable information to continually improve your processes, and provide ultimate customer satisfaction. 

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