This is a time when comment boxes, star ratings and unflattering amateur photography can be the making or breaking of your business. What effect has this review culture had on today’s consumers and how they choose to spend their money? And how can you adapt your business to ensure you don’t fall foul of 1 star review status?
In a study of 12,000 applicants, 53% said they would not book a hotel if it had no reviews. Similarly 31% of those applicants said they would avoid a restaurant if there were no reviews. Clearly it is important to have an online presence. TripAdvisor and its competitors offer a democratic platform where customers can voice an unbiased view to aide their fellow patrons.
It can also prove to be a highly positive and profitable experience for the restaurant/ hotel/ bar/ attraction in question. 65% of people from the study declared they would be more likely to make a booking if the establishment had won a TripAdvisor award.
More and more businesses are choosing to register with review websites. TripAdvisor offers a free service that provides great exposure with over 260 million visitors a month. Having an up to date photo accompanied with a description of your services appear in the top 50 search results is incredibly beneficial. Your customers are half way to making a booking, or at the very least knowing about your business.
Is the customer always right?
Despite being a useful marketing tool for businesses and a means to share views amongst consumers, review sites are open to abuse. An overtly negative post can have a damaging effect to the ranking and reputation of fledgling and established businesses alike. If the allegation is unfounded, it may be more than a disgruntled customer who received bad service. Some businesses have spoken out about blackmail, having been threatened with poor reviews if no discount is applied, or competitors leaving inflammatory reviews in an attempt to improve their own statistics.
A spokeswoman from TripAdvisor noted “It’s against the terms and spirit of our site to use TripAdvisor’s name to try and claim discounts or freebies”. She also expressed that there are safeguards in place to prevent such behaviours.
“We have a way for owners to pro-actively report such threats before a corresponding review is submitted by using our management centre, where owners can register for free. Our fraud detection experts will then investigate and where we find evidence of threatening behaviour, take action to stop their reviews from ever reaching the site."
But what if the complaint is justified? It is important to take the opportunity to learn something. If you recognise there are improvements to be made, make them. Share review feedback with your staff. If negative, it acts as an opportunity for constructive criticism to improve on in the future. If positive, it acts as a morale booster and lets them know their work is appreciated.
Some leading hoteliers advise to respond to negative reviews and to do so promptly. Attempt to draw the dispute offline and out of the public domain wherever possible. It is important to remain professional and polite when responding, always remaining balanced and sympathetic. This may be easier said than done when dealing with a particularly insulting review, especially if you feel it an affront on you personally, which can be the case when dealing with your own business.
If all else fails take solace in the fact that you can’t please everyone all the time. Everybody is entitled to an opinion and having a bad review amongst a sea of good shows your reviews aren't manufactured.