“TripAdvisor is the virtual place where your customers speak about you and, more importantly, decide if, when and how to come to you.” So, now this has been settled, we can put our minds at rest.
“Sooner or later, a negative review, with the benefit of the statistics, will almost certainly reflect negatively on your income.” It’s hard to accept, but yes, a review, whether it’s true or not, will always affect your earnings.
“A hotel offering the same services, which can boast a better reputation than another, can sell its rooms at double the price.” This is starting to look interesting.
The concept is clear and certainly comes as no surprise: the quantity and quality of your hotel’s reviews undoubtedly determines the success of your business. So the question is: how can I increase my reviews, without running the risk of encountering negative comments from my customers?
When I worked as a web marketing consultant for a number of tourist structures in Florentine Chianti, I implemented a series of strategies to encourage the guests to leave positive reviews and today, those 3 bed & breakfasts/holiday farms hold the top 4 positions for the area of reference (Montespertoli) on TripAdvisor.
So let’s see which strategies can be implemented:
1. FOCUS ON THE EXTREMES
I know you have hundreds of jobs to attend to every day during the day-to-day running of your business: whether it’s a hotel with 400 rooms or a family-run B&B, the commitments change, but not the urgency or the quantity. How can you find the time to promote reviews, too, when you have a thousand other things to do?
Try to automate the process as much as possible and forget “the ones in the middle”. Let me explain: in the tourist structures where I worked as a consultant, we always sent our guests an email about a week after their return home. In the mail, we thanked them for choosing that particular place to spend their holidays and presented them with a small, personalized digital photo album or video (put together as a sequence of photos or with a few short film clips). At the end of the video and the email, there was a call to action to write a review.
Did the strategy work? The owner of one of the 3 places used to say to me: “It’s simple, Fausto: if we send “the thanks”, (this is what we called them) we’ll get the reviews, otherwise we won’t“.
Theirs was a particular case: they were small structures with extremely high percentages of customer satisfaction. Looking on INDEX I see that none of the positive opinions (positive sentiment) go below 96% on TripAdvisor’s reviews and one even reaches 100%. In short, there was no need to focus efforts: “mass” communication could be used and everyone was sent the same request, although it was personalized with different videos or photos. It wasn’t necessary to know whether the users had a positive or negative opinion of the structure, because in 99% of the cases, the opinions had the maximum level of positivity.
Is it the same for everyone? Unfortunately not, and the more the business grows, the harder it is to ensure that all of the guests have a positive experience. How about making a personalized video or album for each guest? Impossible. As I was writing this post, I asked myself how to optimize efforts: when a guest leaves, instead of sending a request for a review immediately, send a survey. Ask the guests what their experience at the hotel was like: the questions must be closed to save time. Assessments using stars or numbers are the best, and you can always include a paragraph for users to write what they want. Use Google’s “Forms” tool to do this; it’s free and ideal for this purpose. What information can be gained from this?
- Hypothesis A: If the guests don’t respond to the survey, they are unlikely to bother going to a review channel to talk about you.
- Hypothesis B: If users leave average opinions, which are neither too positive nor too negative, they are unlikely to feel motivated enough to write a review; apart from geeks, users only write if they had an extremely good or extremely bad experience. In short, don’t bother with those who are not interested and indifferent, focus on what really matters: those who take a position.
- Hypothesis C: Very critical answers, one way or the other, are the ones that must drive you to take action; nothing encourages a review more than a negative experience and you must avoid creating situations, which make people want to speak badly about you: contact the “extreme negatives” immediately and try to solve the problem. Give explanations, apologize and offer a stay of one or more nights at your structure to compensate. It will probably cost you less than a bad review.
- Hypothesis D: And what if the answer to the survey is extremely positive? Here’s where the magic starts! Now it’s up to you to send a mail thanking them and asking for a review.
2. IT’S PEOPLE, NOT MACHINES THAT WRITE THE REVIEWS
I won’t go into detail here explaining how to write a good email, but let me give you three simple pieces of advice for the “extreme positives”:
- Personalize the content of your email as much as possible; include incidents that actually happened during the stay.
- If you can, include a feature that makes it clear the email was written especially for that guest. In the previous examples, we had an album or a video; when guests leave, they usually go back to their routine, and everyday commitments take the place of happy, carefree moments spent on holiday. How would you feel seeing pictures of those moments passing before your eyes, accompanied by a carefully chosen song that plays on your emotions? Wouldn’t you want to talk about your experience? Now ask yourself: “What could I send my guests to play on their memories?”
- Be careful with calls to action: you can’t expect a cold button with the words “leave a review” to work. Instead, write something that involves you as much as it does the user, for example: “If you enjoyed your stay with us as much as we enjoyed having you, tell other travellers about your experience!”
And another thing: always remember to send these emails in your name, even if you don’t actually send them yourself. Knowing that you are speaking to the owner or manager changes a person’s attitude.
3. DON’T BE AFRAID OF TRIPADVISOR
As we said before, some people will talk about you on TripAdvisor or on other review sites, whether you like it or not. So, being afraid of TripAdvisor and pretending it doesn’t exist, is counterproductive. Instead, use it to your advantage: “If you can’t beat them, join them”; change your approach towards users’ opinions and you will already have taken a major step forward. Who stands the most chance of reaching the top of the mountain of competition? The person who feels the most comfortable in that habitat.
You can’t afford to be left out of the race, so hurry up!
4. THE FIRST REQUEST WASN’T A SUCCESS? TRY AGAIN!
Organize your mailing list so you know who has left a review and who hasn’t. Even though several people answered the survey saying they had a fantastic time at your hotel, they won’t necessarily write a review. Does this mean the user is lost forever? No! Let a little time go by, say a month, and then write again: “Hello, how are you? We know you enjoyed your stay with us but you still haven’t told other travellers who would love to hear about your experience. Tell them now!”
Two tries are better than one.
5. COMMUNICATE AFTERWARDS, BUT ALSO IN BETWEEN
Encourage reviews at your structure, too. I’m not saying you should go and ruin the German tourist’s dinner by asking him to write on TripAdvisor, but there are other ways. When they leave, present them with a little gift and wish them a safe journey home, if their holiday is over, or say you hope they enjoy the rest of their holiday, if they are continuing. It doesn’t take much, a small gift, but it’s important that whoever receives it, associates it with your structure.
Do you use a captive portal for the Wi-Fi connection (which we hope is free) in your structure? Once access is obtained, take the opportunity to tell the user “You are surfing free of charge. Tell people on Tripadvisor!”
These are just a few of the many ideas; it’s up to you to choose the right moment to ask for a review; I wish you all the best and good luck with your climb. And remember, if you need a simple tool to monitor all of the reviews left by users on the various channels, INDEX is the tool for you. Take a look, you can try out it for free!