It's hard to think back to a day when checking a hotel or restaurant on Trip Advisor wasn't a staple stage of making a booking.
We're in a "try before you buy" era where ironically the speed of ecommerce has been somewhat slowed down by a need to research products and services before a purchase is made.
There has always been a dwell time to purchases in the travel sector, people are parting with more than a little cash so understandably there's some deliberation involved, but many expected this to speed up significantly in the fast-paced digital space.
Trip Advisor has cleverly reflected the consideration phase of the buying cycle and embraced people's need for information. As a result, their customer review platform is now a key player in the travel and tourism industry.
Why is Trip Advisor so successful? Peer recommendations are extremely powerful.
According to Forbes, it has reported that 88% of people trust recommendations from their peers over advertising from a brand. Which makes sense, right?
If your best friend tells you about a fantastic B&B they recently stayed at, chances are you're going to be left thinking '' I'd really like to go there". Compare this to how you feel seeing an ad from a B&B in a magazine or online. It creates much less impact.
This is what makes Trip Advisor so powerful. Real people who have first-hand experiences are telling you what to expect. These people don't have a hidden agenda or a biased view, they're genuine sources of insight.
Reviews of your business exist, whether you are part of the conversation or not.
This review culture is a dominant behaviour and it's not changing any time soon. The best thing you can do is to join the conversation and manage the perception of your property.
Trip Advisor claim that 53% of people said they wouldn't commit to a booking before checking its reviews first. Isn't that reason enough to take a little control?
Equally, businesses who are active on the platform gain more exposure in search results, with Trip Advisor reporting that pages with high engagement rates (i.e. plenty of reviews and owner responses), receive four times more page views.
Make sure you encourage reviews from your guests. We know that sounds risky, but trust us on this one!
Start by cleaning up your profile. If you haven't already, take ownership of your business page through the management center. Then ensure all your information is correct and add at least 10 high quality management photographs so that your profile is an effective shop window to your property.
Next, start generating some reviews!
As much as some people do just love to complain, people love to share positive experiences too. If guests have had a fantastic stay with you then they will want to support your business and show their gratitude.
If you're confident that a stay has been smooth-sailing then use the check-out time to encourage those customers to share a review. All it takes is a mention, something simple like 'we hope you have enjoyed your stay with us, we're on Trip Advisor if you'd like to share some feedback, or if you use Trip Advisor please do share your experience of staying with us, we'd be really grateful for the feedback."
If the direct approach doesn't work for you then how about creating a simple business card to communicate the message for you. Something short and sweet like ''we'd be really grateful if you could leave us a review on Trip Advisor'', printed on a card that you can hand out at check-out or staple to a receipt will work too.
Some businesses promote Trip Advisor throughout their venue, through posters and vinyl's. This can work well to generate plenty of reviews but be aware that you're promoting the channel to people who may want to complain too.
Unfortunately, there will always be people who like to moan and groan!
It's the nature of the game, there will always be people who have something negative to say. Don't fear this on Trip Advisor though, just take back control of the message.
Address complaints with an apology and an offer to look in to the matter further. Publicly show that you care that this person has had a bad experience, you're listening to what they're saying and that you want to make it right. Provide an email address for that person to contact you directly so that you can ''look into this further to ensure it doesn't happen again.''- really, you just need to take the conversation out of the public domain as soon as possible.
If there's a simple and genuine explanation for the matter then do share that if it will provide others with reassurance that it isn't the norm, but don't appear defensive. You must maintain a "customer is always right" attitude online too.
Businesses are advised to reply to at least 25% of reviews, so take the time to reply to positive reviews too, thanking past guests for taking the time to share their experience and that you hope to see them again soon. These guests are your brand advocates and deserve your time just as much as the moaners!
Positive reviews are marketing gold!
Think back to the 88% of people who are influenced by peer recommendations, if you receive a fantastic review use it.
Share the quote on your website, in your brochure, on your social media, or any advertising you're running. People will care what "Susan Smith from Vancouver" has to say, and it will show your confidence in your guest reviews.
There you have it, the "virtuous circle" of Trip Advisor. You actively encourage reviews, listen to the feedback and continuously review your service, and therefore encourage even more positive reviews in the future.
Best of luck, let us know how you do!