Speaking at the hotel and hospitality industry’s No Vacancy expo in Sydney, the travel review site’s APAC business development manager, Leon Chan, said that many SMEs still struggle with the idea that people can’t help but to share their experiences and write reviews, including negative ones.
But he said that instead of trying to fight this, businesses should be trying to leverage reviews as much as possible in order to win new customers.
“People who write reviews on your business already spend money with you,” Mr Chan said. The trick, he said, is to use what is said to convert new customers.
And even if that review is negative, there are ways to turn it around to benefit the business.
According to Mr Chan, management responses to a bad review won’t necessarily improve that customer’s experience, but they do positively impact other potential customers reading that review, both now and into the future.
He said that TripAdvisor’s own research found that 65 per cent of its users agree that a thoughtful response to a negative review actually improves their overall impression of the business, and many are even more likely to use that business based on how it responds to criticism.
Be visible, be transparent
Even businesses with the best of customer reviews and ratings are unlikely to see this translate into new sales if they aren’t visible online, Mr Chan said, adding that positive feedback means nothing if nobody sees.
According to the BDM, 80 per cent of people — regardless of what it is they are looking to purchase — turn to the internet to research their options.
And rather than just one site, he said that “your online reputation is made up of reviews on a whole community of sites”.
He recommended as a starting point Googling the name of your own business to see how it ranks.
In theory, it should be at the top, but he noted that many companies actively target their competition online as a means of pushing them further down the search list.
Another way to boost visibility, and at the same time transparency, is to respond to questions publicly rather than privately.
This, Mr Chan said, is reassuring for prospective new customers, and also helps other people with the same question to find the answer faster.
Make it seamless
Multiple touchpoints and places in which to review a business online may be difficult to track, but another recommendation from TripAdvisor is to make your business website as seamless as possible to review sites.
Doing so helps to provide a sense of consistency for customers, which again provides reassurance.
This can be as simple as ensuring that contact details across review sites are the same as those on the business’s own website, and also having the same images appear on the business’s profile page on TripAdvisor or other review site.
You don’t get if you don’t ask
Mr Chan suggested that many businesses don’t actively seek feedback from their customers, in large part because they are afraid it will be negative.
However, he said it is purely myth that most reviews are negative, and that “times have changed”.
“People don’t write bad reviews because they have nothing to do,” he said.
“Don’t be afraid of the feedback... Treat every review as an opportunity to improve.”
Over time, reviews will also help a business to notice patterns and trends emerging, Mr Chan said, allowing it to see if its service offering is improving (or declining) and how new additions or changes are seen by users.
And doing so has a direct impact on the bottom line, he said.
According to Mr Chan, every half a point increase in the overall rating a hotel or business on the TripAdvisor platform has directly equates to an average 10 per cent increase in the price that can be charged for the service.