By Richard Harrison, managing director, UK of Reputation.com
New research says online review management is increasingly important to the travel and leisure industry.
Here’s what we know, based on a recent survey commissioned with Monkey See:
- 71% of leisure industry professionals in accommodation and food services were concerned about how to manage their online reputation;
- 58% reported being unfairly reviewed in the past – in either the press or online consumer feedback sites;
- 25% acknowledged their businesses had suffered as a result of poor online reviews.
There’s no question that a negative review can be unsettling. But it’s not necessarily the end of the world. Things do go wrong sometimes, no matter how good your hotel or restaurant.
All it takes is a mix up with a room booking, on the back of a long-haul flight in economy next to a crying baby, to turn an innocent mistake that is quickly rectified into a full-blown rant on the internet.
Can a bad review ever be a good thing?
Actually, yes it can. Everyone makes mistakes. Contrary to how it may feel at the time, a bad review is unlikely to destroy your business.
(Bizarrely perhaps, no one trusts perfection so the odd negative comment can actually reinforce the credibility of the hundreds of positive reviews.) What’s important is less what’s in the review itself, and more how you handle it.
The good thing about online reviews is they let you know what people really think of your hotel, or airline, or restaurant – good and bad. Before the internet, people would just complain to each other in the pub, and then stop using your service.
You wouldn’t know why until it was too late. Now, you can listen in to what they’re saying about you. You can take genuine feedback on board, do more of the things people like, and stop doing the things they hate.
So as bad as a review can feel at the time, at least you can learn from it, and change the way you do things to improve your service in future.
Often a traveller just wants to be heard (admittedly, there will be the odd case who’s just after a freebie, but you can often spot those).
Responding quickly - and, importantly, acting on criticism or negative feedback - can have a more positive result for your business than the coveted five-star review.
In fact, 70% of customers who have their complaints resolved will happily do business with you again.
Make sure that your response and actions are visible, not just to the angry customers but to others as well, so that you get the credit you deserve for taking quick action.
Don’t sit and wait for reviews
The majority of people who write reviews proactively are upset – and those negative feelings motivate them to be scathing online. Conversely, most people who’ve had a good time on holiday or at a restaurant don’t write reviews.
You know how it is – you’ve had a great experience at a hotel, and you’re full of the best intentions to write a glowing review on TripAdvisor.
But once you’ve got home, you don’t quite get round to it. Would you have done it if an iPad had been on the reception desk as you checked out?
Probably. So make it easy for people to leave reviews. Ask your customer-facing staff to encourage people to review their experiences before they leave you.
That way, you’ll get reviews from people who had a good time, but probably wouldn’t have bothered to leave feedback, not just the people who complained.
And, of course, make sure they can get online. If you want people to go onto a review site to say nice things about you, you shouldn’t expect them to pay to do it.
Give them free Wi-Fi access. But don’t provide anything else – no incentives or discounts and no payments to write reviews.
If you just wait for reviews to happen, and don’t take control of the process, the negative will outweigh the positive.
It’s human nature. But by managing your reviews and encouraging more people to post, you’ll get the happy customers reviewing as well.