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June 1st

A strategy for traveller reviews, good and bad

Here is a strategy for ensuring you are embracing travel review sites and using them to your advantage. 

Visitors face a multitude of choices when travelling, and historically they turned to friends, family and travel agents as essential sources for tips and insider advice. These days however, travel review sites such as Trip Advisor have become one of, if not the, most important source of travel advice. But can you trust them?

There have always been questions around how trustworthy consumer reviews are; especially those on Trip Advisor, where it's occasionally   been reported that businesses have effectively been blackmailed into providing a discount, or risk a negative review.

The   reality   however,   is   New   Zealand businesses have a very positive rating, averaging 4.0 out of a possible 5 on Trip Advisor. According to Experian Hitwise, Trip Advisor.com is  consistently   the  most  visited  site  in the destinations and accommodation category, so it certainly  seems travellers are not only reviewing,  they   are  actively  reading  up  on destinations  before they hand over their credit card details and book.

Notwithstanding the   pros and cons of online reviews, it’s more important than ever that we have a great strategy for dealing with complaints or negative reviews. 

Even more importantly, we need a plan for fostering and encouraging our customers to say good things about us. The greatest defence to a bad review is a greater number of positive ones. So how can we achieve that?

First up, while this advice applies to all review sites, I'm focusing on Trip Advisor, it's the largest and most used by a long shot, and thus the most important as clients from every market are likely to use the site.

Must do

1. Claim your listing. It's easy to do, and best of all it's free.

2. Familiarise yourself with the management centre and read the guides, there's a wealth of information there.

3. Enrich your listing; add photos, video and a detailed description.

4. Sign up for notification of new reviews; if you don't know a review is online you can't respond.

5. Respond to every review promptly, positive or negative. It shows you're listening.

6. Be polite and original in your reply, and thank the reviewer for the feedback.

Managing negative reviews

 Most importantly, you must respond to negative reviews. Future visitors will base their decision to stay, or not, on how you respond. If you're angry or upset, step away from the computer; come back later when you are calm.

1. If there was a genuine issue, acknowledge it, apologise, and explain what steps have been taken to ensure it doesn't reoccur.

2. Don't argue back or respond aggressively. Remember, your response stays there and can't be edited. Invite the reviewer to discuss the problem off-site by phone or email.

3. If you think the review is false you can dispute it via the management centre.

Facilitating Positive Reviews

Your best form of defence against negative reviews is having lots of positive ones, here's how.

1. Don’t over promise. Deliver a better than expected experience, and you’ll get positive reviews.

2. Add the Trip Advisor widget to your website, it encourages reviews.

3. Consider business cards or flyers that you give people as they leave. Do they have your Trip Advisor, Facebook and Twitter addresses etc.?

4. Implement follow-up emails, ideally automated, including links to Trip Advisor, Facebook etc and a request to rate you.

5. Finally, respond even to positive reviews. 78 percent of users on Trip Advisor will think more highly of you. Do it!

Traveller reviews are now a key part of the decision making process for many visitors. Furthermore, whether you love them or hate them, Trip Advisor is the undisputed leader, so you need to get on the bus.

Focus on generating positive   reviews. It’s difficult, but don’t over-promise to your customers. Instead, seek to over-deliver when they are with you, and doing so will generate positive reviews. Every marketer knows word-of-mouth is the best form of promotion. Traveller reviews can be just that, they are your friend, not foe. 

Lawrence Smith is the chief cabbage at Cabbage Tree Creative

A big thanks to Lawrence and the folks at Tourism Business magazine, where the above article was originally published, for allowing us to share this with you.

For a printable version click here

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