The adage “you can never please everybody” is altogether a bit terrifying when one considers that there are those people who will let their displeasure hang out for all to see on the likes of TripAdvisor and other review sites.
I was reminded of that this week when I read an article in The Independent about TripAdvisor’s seven funniest reviews.
From the reviewer who said the Grand Canyon was “an overblown sandy ditch”, to another who was exceedingly disappointed that while the idyllic shores of Tumon Beach in Guam had crystal clear water, it had too much sand, it became abundantly clear that our businesses sadly lie in the hands of individuals who are perhaps not quite critically acclaimed travel reviewers.
Even more terrifying for travel brands is that people are paying attention to those reviews. We already know that consumers prefer to read reviews by real people over what your own marketing material states or what they read in a magazine. When it comes to making a decision to book, a positive review is apparently almost as influential as the price of special offers.
According to a recent online travel booking poll conducted by Webcredible, some 29% of consumers consider positive reviews as the most likely factor to make them book a holiday online. The only factor identified as more important than reviews was price, with 38% of consumers identifying online prices and special offers as the factors most likely to make them book a holiday online.
And the reliance on reviews is growing. More than two-thirds of US Internet users trust businesses more because of positive online reviews, a massive increase from five years ago when 45% said they either didn’t pay attention to online reviews or didn’t let them influence them.
Over 260 million unique users plan travel on TripAdvisor each month <link to: http://bit.ly/1lRQC0I>. That's over 6 000 unique users looking at hotel reviews every second of every day. With numbers like these, TripAdvisor probably gives you more marketing exposure to highly qualified potential customers than any other online distribution.
A new study conducted by PhoCusWright found that 53% of respondents will not book a hotel that doesn't have reviews on the site. And an overwhelming 87% agree that TripAdvisor hotel reviews “help me feel more confident in my decisions”.
And reviews aren’t just valid for accommodation providers. Trafalgar Global Product Manager, Liesa Bissett, says feedback from guests through independent review systems like Feefo demonstrates how well the brand is performing and enables Trafalgar to jump on issues that need to be fixed quickly. “We have found that 89% of travellers say that reviews influence their decision to travel with a brand so we signed up with Feefo and in one year have managed to collect over 14 000 reviews that are prominently displayed on our website and filtered so that they are relevant to the guided holiday with which they are associated.”
The benefits of having reviews on your website include:
- Increasing the browsing time on your website
- Driving additional traffic to your website from other social media sites
- Leveraging word-of-mouth recommendations on your own marketing platforms
- Soliciting feedback from your customers and acting quickly to remedy complaints before they cause great damage to your brand
- Increasing your sales leads and, ultimately, your bookings
Bad reviews are good for business
If you’re not leveraging the power of reviews and recommendations, what’s holding you back? Are you worried that negative reviews are going to sink your business? Like it or not, no amount of ignoring reviews is going to prevent them from being aired. Brands no longer entirely control what is being said about them in the online space.
And remember, one man’s negative could be another’s positive. If your lodge is reviewed as not being child friendly, that may appeal to a honeymoon couple seeking a romantic breakaway without the pitter patter of little feet.
Plus there’s an element of ‘too good to be true’ when you see a TripAdvisor review with gushing positives and no negatives. Bad reviews can be good for business, says Reevoo <link to: http://bit.ly/1OZc0et>, which adds that it is important for brands to be wary of censoring all negative reviews, as 70% of people trust reviews more when they can see there’s balance.
Can’t beat ‘em? Join ‘em!
Reviews and recommendations aren’t going anywhere, but the reliance of consumers on these is… upwards, so travel brands that are not leveraging this trend will fail to reap the obvious rewards. Here are some top tips:
- Ensure that your accommodation establishment is listed on review sites like TripAdvisor and make sure that you actively check it and respond to reviews – positive and negative – timeously.
- Incorporate a review system on your website using an independent review system like Feefo or prominently display your TripAdvisor review feed on your website.
- Use Facebook as another mechanism to collect reviews or customer feedback and respond to these.
- Don’t be afraid to ask your customers for a review upon check-out and on your collateral. Then make it easy for them to review you. No lengthy forms and an easy ‘submit now’ button.
- Incentivise your customers to review you by entering them into a competition or giving them a small discount on their next booking. Similarly, you can do the same to incentivise them to refer a friend.
- Make it somebody’s responsibility within your brand to respond swiftly, professionally and eloquently to positive and negative reviews. Remember, how you deal with feedback online can make or break how someone feels about your brand.
- Deliver a compelling service or experience that will entice customers or guests to want to talk about you and then make it easy for them to do so by showing them where to do it with ease.