Review Sites: Help or Hindrance?

A couple of weeks ago now, wearing my Dunedin Host hat, my industry colleagues and I organised a summit based around the mammoth subject of Digital Tourism.  We were delighted to see a large uptake of the event with over 80 attendees from all sectors of our industry.  Speakers included Roger Slater of AA Tourism, Seekom’s Simon Casey along with Hamish Saxton and Josh Jenkins from Tourism Dunedin.  As well as acting as the MC for the event I also delivered a session on review sites, helping to highlight the importance of these much visited sites to our businesses.

Before going any further, as I did with those who opted into my workshop I only feel it fair to make it clear that I don’t consider myself any kind of expert on TripAdvisor or other review sites. What I have done however is researched the subject. What I am not is an employee or paid sales person for these business.  What I hope to do is just give a few simple pointers based on my experience.

Claim Your Listing

When chatting with people about review sites, it quickly became apparent that rather than trying to come to grips with what these sites have to offer, many opt to firmly stick their head in the sand – ostrich style!

For me…its simple, your consumer can and will post reviews of your hotel or service on the internet, whether you like it or not. You have a choice as to whether you check these reviews or not.

Whether deciding to check, or not to check, one clear piece of advise I will ask you take away is make sure you have claimed your listing on these sites!

In essence these listing are like any other on the web, it is a place to promote your business, ensuring the information available to your consumer is correct and up-to-date.  I ran for a few regularly searched terms such as ‘hotel Dunedin’ or ‘what to do in Dunedin’ for the purpose of the workshop. In each case that I tried the top ten results always included at least one listing from TripAdvisor and often other review sites too.  What surprised me was that these rankings were generally higher than many of the sites we would all pay to have our business listed.  To check out how to claim your review on TripAdvisor check out this short YouTube clip:

Replying to reviews

Once you’ve claimed your listing and updated your business it is your option whether you choose to respond to review or not.  Until now I had always decided only to respond to negative reviews, however after undertaking my research I have personally decided that I will endeavor to reply to each review, whether of a positive or negative nature.

If you choose to ignore them it is like ignoring a complaint letter that the world can see.

Check out this YouTube clip on the process of replying to a review on TripAdvisor:

The way I have dealt with reviews on review sites in the past, is to treat them like a complaint letter. Here’s some tips that I find work well for me;

  • Always thank the guest for taking the time to review you.  (Whether you agree with them or not, they have still spent time thinking about your business)
  • Briefly review what the person has said in there review, making sure you correct any thing that if wrong (factually, not wrong through your opinion)
  • At the very least let the guest know that you have taken on board their comments or concerns, by reading the review and replying you are automatically taking this information on – even if you don’t believe it to be right.
  • Then go on to explain if you have or will make any changes after reading the review. No matter how small it will help the person feel valued and listened too.
  • If you think that the situation warrants it perhaps you should invite them back or give a gesture of goodwill – a voucher perhaps. At times its best to just swallow a little bit of pride in these situations and sometime give a little more than you may think its worth, because ultimately if this person goes away happy (or at least happier) they may remove their negative review and you never know – could be a positive ambassador for your business.

I think that’s probably enough for now! Remember the way to get good reviews on review sites is simple – being market focused, listen to your consumer and act on their needs!  To get a few more reviews its perhaps a little bit harder, be creative and don’t be shy in asking people to review you.

3 Comments

  1. Genevieve Atkinson November 22, 2010 at 10:17 am #

    Great post, although I am biased I run an accommodation review website http://www.fossick.com

    I have amazed at how antagonistic some accommodation owners are. I can understand it’s hard to take critiscm – but they are even annoyed at some positive comments. There seems to be an underlying fear that has everyone ducking for cover.

    The problem is as you mention is “sticking our heads in the sand” so that we wait for the ‘difficult’ customers to have a rant. Skewing the results.

    Those that are doing well out of reviews actively seek them and thus it’s generating them more and more business – free business too – as it costs nothing to be on Fossick or Tripadvisor.

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