Travel and hospitality brands have always lived and died by their reputations. And this is especially true now that we’re living in the age of social media and online reviews: 76% of consumers trust online reviews as much as personal recommendations from friends and family.
For hotels, airlines, restaurants and other hospitality brands, online reputation management is an integral part of an overall marketing strategy. Hotels can apparently increase prices by 11%—without losing market share—for every extra star they receive from an online review. However, just because it’s important to have an active presence on sites like TripAdvisor, doesn’t mean that travel brands shouldn’t provide customers with a feedback forum of their own.
Let’s take a look at how negative reviews are impacting travel and hospitality groups—and how they can go one step further to control their online narrative.
Why Brands Should Worry About a Bad TripAdvisor Review
TripAdvisor is an online travel platform that offers reviews and user-generated content, price comparisons and booking services for hotels, restaurants, bars, cafés and even National Parks, lakes and hiking trails. All of which influences tourist spending to the tune of $546 billion annually.
Why are people so reliant on these electronic word-of-mouth sources? For starters, it minimizes risk and boosts egos (people like being part of the majority), but it also provides honest feedback about a product or service. And that’s why bad reviews should be addressed: people are taking comments on TripAdvisor at face value, and accepting them as the unbiased, authentic truth.
Being talked about on TripAdvisor isn’t an entirely negative thing. According to a study by VU University, the fact that someone reviews you online at all will influence customers neutrally or positively in terms of potential sales. Getting a bad review is bound to happen—what matters is how you respond, and how you interact with customers to bolster your online presence.
What to Do with a Bad TripAdvisor Review
Someone at your company might have made a genuine mistake, like getting an order wrong. Or maybe there was just a little misunderstanding between the support desk and the customer. No matter the reason why a low-star review pops up on your TripAdvisor page, here’s what you need to do:
Step 1: Breathe. You don’t want to react irrationally out of hurt or anger.
Step 2: Learn more about the incident. Talk to the staff who were there to find out what happened and what the other side of the story looks like.
Step 3: Carefully craft what you should say (remember to always include a genuine apology!) and then respond. Replying to customer reviews, both good and bad, helps to improve your search ranking.
Step 4: Consider offering disgruntled patrons a free service or item, or a small discount to ease their concerns. Or, simply offer them a personal contact that they can reach out to so that you can better discuss how to address their frustrations.
Step 5: Build a community where people can talk about their experiences and feel heard. A strong sense of community is your best line of defense for negativity.
Step 6: Point customers toward your own website, blog or landing page so that you can better mediate the message. Here’s where a .SUCKS domain can help.
Build and Control Your Own Feedback Forum
Building a community is vital to surviving the ups and downs of brandhood online. Take Apple as an example: despite many controversies, the company doesn’t really feel the effect of viral negativity in any real way. That’s because Steve Jobs set Apple up as a company that users loved and would evangelize.
The best way to negate inevitable negativity is to build a strong community around your product and service. You can’t do this on a site like TripAdvisor because the messaging, look and feel of the platform is beyond your control.
This is why you should consider building your own feedback forum with a .SUCKS domain (think YourBrand.Sucks) to redirect people back to your ecosystem. This doesn’t mean blocking criticism; in fact, you should encourage it. But you definitely want to make an effort to bring these voices to YOU so that you get to choose what they see, how they interact, what data you can pull from it and how to improve going forward.
Sites like TripAdvisor aren’t going anywhere. But your reputation management strategy can it just needs to work with and around review platforms. Focus on meeting your customers where they are (like TripAdvisor) as well directing them to an owned channel, where you can help them flourish as an advocate of your brand.
Bad reviews suck, so make sure you have a solid strategy in place—one that includes a .SUCKS domain.
Photo Credits: Song_about_summer / Shutterstock, GaudiLab / Shutterstock, fizkes / Shutterstock