The guest reviews culture: why your customers play a major role in the travel PR strategy

In the last decade and a bit, we’ve seen a major boom in the popularity of online travel reviews. In line with the brave new world of the ‘sharing economy’, guest review form part of the online opinion sharing that is very much commonplace.

Guest reviews - go get ‘em

Affecting the hospitality and travel sectors majorly, reviewing culture has been both friend and foe to many businesses. For hoteliers and holiday rental companies, the likes of TripAdvisor, Trustpilot and Feefo can be pivotal in how accommodation is perceived beyond the photos and before a guest even steps over the threshold.

As peak summer season looms, there’s no better time to get your guest review strategy sorted.

Customer service and expectations

Travel reviews typically reflect the level and quality of service received by a guest. Delivering flawless customer service isn’t just good business sense. It should play a major role in your travel PR and brand reputation strategies too. If you can nail the ‘excellent service’ aspect and develop a third party review strategy, it should be very easy to benefit from guest reviews and really reap the rewards.  

But it doesn’t always come down to service. There will always be that 10% that will baffle you with their feedback, however hard you try. A customer’s expectations are individual and highly subjective. You can but do your very best, decipher what you can from the poorest of feedback and take the rest on the chin, and move on!

Here are a few of our pearls of travel PR wisdom when implementing a third party guest review strategy:

1. Ask your customers for reviews

Sorry for being so basic on this first point, but we have a motto here: “don’t ask, don’t get”. This is particularly pertinent to guest reviews. Not every guest will leave one, so if you really want them get out there and ask for them. It’s important to encourage reviews.

Even if you fear someone leaving a negative review, it’s necessary to understand the reasons why in order to act on them and avoid receiving the same feedback twice. Briefing staff to encourage positive feedback on review sites is important in order to gather any praise, suggestions or constructive criticism in writing.

Many travel or hospitality companies find it helpful to implement a post-visit email process in order to generate more online reviews.

2. Be aware of all the review sites

Make sure you’re aware of who is talking about you and where. It’s easy to focus on TripAdvisor as it’s arguably the most popular site, but don’t neglect the likes of Feefo, Reviewcentre, Trustpilot, Facebook, Google Business and any other third party booking site that your guest may have booked through.

The key is to understand where your customers are most likely to be hanging out online, and tailoring your guest reviews and travel PR strategy accordingly.

3. Don’t ignore negative reviews

Ignoring negative reviews is a bit like saying ‘no comment’ in a crisis management situation. In fact, it’s often worth applying a crisis management strategy to negative online reviews. It’s important to tackle the issue head on by acknowledging and apologising first, then outline how any issues will be rectified moving forward.

Inevitably, there are a number of reviewers who will leave bad reviews just for the sake of it and some whose claims you may deem unfair. But whatever you do, always resist the temptation for a Basil-Fawlty-esque rash response. Naturally, the attitude of ‘customer is always right’ is desirable default setting, but equally don't be afraid to (diplomatically and effectively) point out where expectations and reality were far removed from each other.

Just remember that in this digital age, your customers can influence your brand reputation more than you'd sometimes like. Hence the need for a customer centric communications strategy. 

4. Respond to guest reviews

You’ve gone to the effort of asking guests to review their experience at your venue, so keep the conversation going and honour their goodwill with a response of your own. Positive or negative, respond in a brief yet appropriate manner for the angle of review they’ve left and your brand’s tone of voice. Be consistent without being repetitive.

This is the kind of admin task that’s worth allocating diary time to, so you know it’ll get done. It might even be worth rotating the task between staff so that the team as a whole gets full exposure to guest reviews.

If you’d like to have a chat about online reputation management, a communications strategy for your business, or to discuss your travel PR let’s talk.