Bhupender Singh, CEO ofTeleperformance DIBS.
User-generated content is one of the biggest drivers behind building successful brands and businesses today. 91 per cent of people regularly read online reviews, and 84 per cent trust online reviews as much as a personal recommendation. We live in a 24/7 digital age where people from all corners of the world love cataloguing moments of their life on social media, from the sights they saw to what they ate.
This growing trend of using third party recommendations has become particularly useful for travellers, where travel aggregator sites have become a part of the holiday booking process. It’s a place people can record their holiday experiences to influence other travellers, which can in turn benefit the hotel or airline.
However, the growing amount of content shared online also means an increase in unreliable sources and reviews. Whether it be videos, images, written comments on blog posts or travel aggregator sites, there’s always the risk a piece of user-generated content will deviate from what is true and genuine. When companies allow users to post on their website, they are handing over their control; travel providers are then under immediate pressure to verify the authenticity of these reviews.
The UK government has announced plans to introduce legislation later on this year to mitigate the growing spread of fake news and malicious content. Media companies are under constant scrutiny to be fair and accurate. Given that every individual with a social footprint has access to posting information at the click of a button, monitoring content is now a mandate across all industries, including travel.
Fake reviews are a growing problem for travel sites, as customers increasingly flock to popular online platforms to share their experiences real-time. According to an independent report by The Times which analysed tens of thousands of reviews across the world’s best-known travel websites, the top-rated bed and breakfast hosts at tourist hotspots have almost twice as many “fake” reviews as lower-ranked accommodation. Two thirds of reviews posted about top B&Bs in some hotspots are thought to be suspicious accounts.
Fake reviews don’t reflect the genuine experience of a holiday abroad, and can significantly affect a brand’s reputation. So, businesses are waking up to the fact that users can either be their ally or their enemy. This is why content moderation has become one of the biggest challenges for online travel agents and travel aggregator sites.
Business leaders need to prioritise ways to reduce, flag up and take down high volumes of fake reviews in real-time around the clock. Their reputation is on the line every day, with users from all over the world contributing to their sites with fake clicks, fake social media followers, fake statistics, fake reviews. Sites are not just battling against fake reviews created by people, but also from bot-controlled accounts that can create content to drive purchases.
The challenge of content moderation is being thorough whilst limiting the impact on user experience. The scope is essentially about Assisted Intelligence which marries Automation tools for precision and Emotional Intelligence for the all-important context. Those items that are not automatically flagged up can always fall back on human moderators for another layer of review or assurance. By having human and technology working together, businesses can reduce case backlogs, deliver optimal efficiency, increase productivity and improve response time.
Travel sites should consider being more attentive to online reviews as they will be influential in both the attraction and retention of existing customers. Not only does this affect the travel review sites themselves, but also the associated holiday destinations, hotels and airlines.
Therefore, the industry as a whole needs to become more alert, as this will evolve from just affecting online reputation to becoming the ultimate bottom-line for travel businesses.