As an accommodation  owner,  you may find your customers tend not to say anything when they’re happy but certainly do when they’re not. Receiving criticism  is difficult and unfortunately with online customer reviews you can’t adjust your privacy settings. So it’s not surprising that many accommodation owners feel rather nervous about the process even while recognizing that reviews do drive business. The younger generation might seem comfortable with their new ‘public personas’  but many businesses are not overly thrilled sometimes.

But we have to recognize that  online customer reviews are part of the future of the accommodation industry. Part of your future.  To help you understand the shift change, here is a list of some good articles on research into this user-generated content business. Most of the research is American based so not always directly translatable to our market – however it does give a good indication of where we are headed.

Brand Republic: Online reviews key to purchase decisions.

“..84% of respondents said they were more likely to check online for reviews before making a purchase than compared to 12 months ago.” Read the full article.

Hotel Marketing: Expedia’s Jennifer Davies on user-generated content and booking conversion

“..users look for authentic information that doesn’t appear too skewed towards the positive or negative…” Read the full article.

Bizzare Voice: Power of Word of Mouth.

“Most word of mouth is positive. Across all of Bazaarvoice US clients, 80% of product ratings are 4 or 5 stars out of 5. Across all of Bazaarvoice UK clients, 88% of product ratings are 4 or 5 stars out of 5. (“J Curve,” Bazaarvoice and Keller Fay)…” Read the full article.

Forbes: The upside of Bad Online Customer Reviews.

“eBags is among the only 50% of online retailers that offer online ratings and reviews, according to the latest figures from Forrester research. Meanwhile, 80% of Web buyers troll reviews when shopping online. The lingering fear: Negative reviews will send customers running the other way…” Read the full article.

Biz Report: 84% of Americans influenced by online customer reviews.

“What is more interesting is that half of respondents turned to online customer reviews early on in the decision-making process. “This is critical for companies to understand as they fight to be considered by consumers and look for ways to be ever-present through a variety of channels and media outlets….” Read the full article. Customer Product Reviews – the next Generation.

“Customer product reviews are becoming a fixture on retail and consumer brand websites, with over 80% of retailers planning to feature them by the end of 2010. The accelerated adoption of customer reviews indicates a more enlightened approach to handling negative comments—that is, occasional negative reviews do not hurt sales…” Read the full article.

IT Business Edge: Online Customer Reviews: Take Bad with the Good.

“Taking a more proactive approach to participating in, monitoring and controlling online reviews may very well be one of the many ways organizations can influence both consumer consideration and, ultimately, the buying decision…” Read the full article.

Focus: Using Customer and Peer Reviews Efficiently for Cross-Channel Marketing Purposes.

“If you are brave enough to open your site and other online presences in a professional and “open” manner for honest customer reviews, you will benefit greatly: trust, a better conversion, SEO, links, buzz, cross-channel interaction possibilities, user-generated content, customer satisfaction, sales, important opinions for his business, you name it…” Read the full article. Research confirms importance of opinions of others.

“The fact that consumers are influenced by others, is an opportunity, a threat and at the same time probably an expression of the sociological phenomenon that people seem to form their ideas less than before. However, what else can you expect from a world bulging with information and opinions?…” Read the full article.

So what can you do..

  • Encourage reviews – Try to get everyone whose stays to write a review especially people who tell you they had a good time
  • Stay informed – No point sticking your head in the sand.
  • Find out what ‘s being said about you – Sign up for any free tools… Google Alerts, (we’ll email you when a review is left).

The best way to have a good reputation is to manage it, rather than waiting or reacting . Customize your listing, join in the debates, be active.

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