There can be few people in the travel and tourism industry who fail to recognise the importance of TripAdvisor to holiday consumers. Love it or hate it, TripAdvisor is a tourism tour de force.
Use TripAdvisor wisely and it can be an invaluable business tool giving you direct access to your customers in a more realistic way than any number of personalised surveys could do. The majority of ordinary users see TripAdvisor as a completely unbiased forum on which to record their grievances and/or delight at the services they encounter on holiday. I don’t think I’m treading into exposé territory when I say that not all the reviews are genuine and it is without doubt manipulated by some unscrupulous hoteliers, restaurateurs and social media intermediaries to falsify ratings. TripAdvisor needs to work harder to eliminate those rogue practices.
But learn to pick your way through the charlatans and what you’re left with is customer feedback without the expense, trouble and potential bias that tailor-made surveys produce. As a provider of destination-specific content for online travel websites, I keep a close eye on TripAdviser and have become wise to a few of its anomalies.
Firstly there are the five star reviews from first time posters with no bio’ details or avatar who have all joined TripAdviser at around the same time and just before they posted their review. These I ignore.
Next are the occasional disgruntled guests who for whatever reason have had a bad experience and feel the need to vent their anger at everything to do with the hotel or restaurant. If they buck a clear trend of otherwise good or great reviews, these I also ignore. Finally there are one or two impossible-to-please moaners for whom nothing is ever right. A quick check of profiles and previous reviews reveals a patently miserable individual who’s far too fond of the sound of their own voice or one who’s quite likely to be seeking recompense as an habitual pastime. These reviewers I get to know and then ignore.
That leaves the bulk of the reviews by people who have actually eaten at the restaurant or stayed at the hotel and are giving their honest opinion on what they found. These rich veins of customer feedback are priceless.
Earlier this year we stayed at a hotel where the room, grounds and staff were all of a high standard but the food was simply awful – some of the worst we have ever experienced. We gave feedback to the hotel on the spot and to the company who had arranged our visit for us. But on checking reviews on TripAdvisor to see if this was a recent decline, we were amazed to see constant reference to the bad food dating back over two years. The hotel in question has no social media presence whatsoever and has clearly never read, or worse, chosen to ignore what is consistently being said about them. What that says to me is that the hotel doesn’t care about what its guests think about it.
In a previous life I was a business consultant specialising in marketing, communications and strategy. Advising businesses to obtain and use customer feedback was one of the mainstays of my portfolio and although it invariable required either a considerable amount of time and effort to gather and analyse the feedback in-house or a sizeable chunk of expenditure to contract it out, the results brought massive returns on investment.
It seems incredulous to me that there are still so many businesses who have not cottoned onto the free business consultancy being provided for them by TripAdvisor and brought directly to their screens at zero cost. When are they going to wise up?
Andrea (Andy) Montgomery is a freelance travel writer and co-owner of Buzz Trips and The Real Tenerife series of travel websites. Published in The Telegraph, The Independent, Wexas Traveller, Thomas Cook Travel Magazine, EasyJet Traveller Magazine, you can read her latest content on Google+