People trust other people, much more than they trust you. That means your potential customers trust the semi-anonymous reviews written on online review sites more than all that great text on your own website.
Do you regularly monitor what is said about you on TripAdvisor, VirtualTourist or Igougo? How about mainstream booking sites like Hotels.com, Expedia or Orbitz?
If you are a fairly small business, you may have no reviews or only a few reviews on these sites. One cranky person can leave a huge mark on your online reputation. So it is critical that you take action.
First and foremost, improve your service. We’ll all draw an undeserved negative comment on occasion, but we can all stand to improve. While you may want to brush off a bad review or get defensive, it’s more productive to treat every comment as a chance to deliver better service.
Next, encourage positive reviews. When a hotelier in Scotland stapled this card to my bill, I thought he was smart. He’d already made sure I was satisfied, and he was encouraging me to tell others.
If you want to encourage reviews,
- Start with your satisfied current customers.
- Focus on the few review sites that actually send you the most customers.
- Consider contacting your biggest fans to offer reviews.
I can see some possibility for controversy here. Are we skating too close to manipulating? I’d love to hear your take on this in the comments.
Leverage reviews in bigger ways
Are you feeling brave? Let’s take comments back from the online review sites. Let’s open our own sites for reviews:
- Open a comment section on your own website.
- Allow comments on your tourism association website.
Do you think that could work? Do you know of any examples of a tourism business or association allowing open reviews?
This article is part of Tourism Tuesday, a series of posts for tourism businesses and associations in small towns and rural areas. If you have questions you’d like us to address in this series, leave a comment or send us an email at email@example.com. This is a community project!
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elle marketing communications says
Great advice! I posted a link to your entry on my blog for my readers to view.
Deb Brown says
Great advice Becky. I read the reviews when I book travel online and it just makes sense to return and write the review of the place I visited. I like how the Inn in Scotland asked for your review, smart marketing. Now I’m thinking about whether I should write about my local places – I know them, and might have a local’s insight for the reader.
Becky McCray says
E.M.C., thanks for the link.
Deb, that’s a good extension to the idea. We all have local restaurants, attractions, and more we could review.
Becky McCray says
Mom sent along this example of requesting comments. She got this email after unsubscribing from a list:
Dear former OKMoments subscriber,
In April 2009, the Distincly Oklahoma Magazine joined forces with the Oklahoma History Center and Cox Communications to create OKMoments, a daily insight to our great State and the people, places and events from our past. This is a completely free subscription that we would like to share with all Oklahomans.
We are asking for your help to make the OKMoments site better for all. The reason we have chosen you: we have learned that you cancelled the subscription after only receiving the daily “Moments” for a brief time.
If you would answer a few questions to help us understand how we can make this more appealing to you, it would be greatly appreciated.
Please respond to this email to help create a better overall experience.
1) Why did you choose to opt out of the daily emails?
2) Have you visited the OKMoments site since you “opted out”? http://www.okmoments.com
3) What could we change on the OKMoments site to gain your subscription once again?
Thank you for your time and attention in helping us to encourage pride for the Great State of Oklahoma.
OKMoments- Oklahoma’s Story Teller
I happily write reviews of places I’ve stayed at. I am brutally honest, but fair. I think if a place asked me to write reviews on a specific site, I’d be happy to oblige them.
Becky McCray says
Thanks, Chaz. Glad to have your opinion.
Excellent advice! Positive reviews can do a lot for every business, not only a hotel business. Customer feedback is very important. I read a post about it by Andy Wibbels and it inspired me to set a program, encouraging customer feedback. As for your example of requesting comments, I find it a bit long. I think it’s better to keep such things short and easy for the customer to follow-up. Anyway, thanks for the great write-up!
We just twittered a link to your post via @wrike.
Steve Gaines says
I don’t see anything manipulative about encouraging comments. As long as you are simply asking in a way that indicates you value someone’s feedback. Having an open comment section on a business website is a very strong approach in my opinion. It makes it easy for non-tech saavy customers (who may not know about opinion sites) and it also shows that you’re very open to feedback. All kinds of feedback.
I get concerned when a business owner is reluctant to have an open comment section for fear of getting negative comments. This is not grasping a scary reality: If someone wants to post something negative about an experience they had with your business, they will most definitely find an outlet to do so. It’s must better to be able to see that right away so it can be dealt with immediately in two productive ways: 1- Open a dialogue with the poster; and 2- As you wrote, be open to learning about something you may need to improve on.
Becky McCray says
Daria, thanks for your feedback, and thanks for sharing our post. :)
Steve, you’ve brought out an essential point. People will talk whether or not you provide the forum. It takes courage to do this. I’d love to see some examples of tourism businesses actually allowing reviews and comments.