Online reviews: Help or hindrance?
Last week saw the news of an increase in TripAdvisor users blackmailing hotel owners by threatening to post negative reviews of their stay if their demands are not met. Demands such as a free bottle of wine or dessert, a reduction of the total bill or room upgrades are amongst the requests from so-called dissatisfied customers.
So what really is the value of a customer review?
For much of the hotel industry, particularly B&Bs, sites like TripAdvisor are a key driver to bookings throughout the year, and achievement of their accreditations speaks volume to prospective guests.
In fact, 77% of people regularly reference TripAdvisor when selecting a hotel and 80% say the reviews give them more confidence in making travel decisions.
A few facts about TripAdvisor:
- More than 4 million businesses and properties in 140,000+ destinations, including 810,000+ hotels, B&Bs, and specialty lodging, 2.2 million restaurants and 420,000+ attractions
- More than 21 million candid traveler photos
- More than 100 new contributions are posted every minute
- More than 60 million emailable members worldwide
- On average, nearly 2,800 new topics are posted every day to the TripAdvisor forums
- More than 90 percent of questions posted to TripAdvisor’s English-speaking forums are replied to by other travelers within 24 hours
So therefore, the value of these review sits and user reviews is obvious because of the role that they play in the booking process.
But what happens when they backfire?
False reviews or blackmailing
Due to the increase in hoteliers and B&B owners reporting an increase in users threatening to leave poor reviews or feedback in order to receive, the question of true value is actually brought into question as to the genuine importance of these reviews.
Of course, these sites and their content will always play an important role in driving traffic to a hotel property, and in the main the majority of reviews will be legitimate, but hotels and users need to be mindful that they are open to the potential threat of abuse, meaning users should read some reviews with a pinch of salt.
From a hotel perspective, management need to remember the importance of a balanced marketing mix to spread the reach of acquisition channels, and also to appropriately allocate resource. Based on their position within the travel industry, TripAdvisor marketing costs tend to be fixed price with very little room for movement or performance data available, so businesses need to offset campaigns with investment into other online marketing channels to ensure their eggs are not all in one basket, so to speak.
Sadly for a lot of hotels though, the likes of TripAdvisor play such an important role in converting visitors to bookers that they feel they simply can’t afford not to be active within the environments, leaving them exposed to such threats.