Customer reviews are now very much part of the commercial landscape and cannot be ignored. Within the travel industry TripAdvisor is far and away the largest review site with in excess of 40 million reviews.
I am a staunch believer that all companies should deliver exceptional levels of customer service and I will not hesitate in telling one of my clients if I believe they are found wanting. For that reason I am a supporter of this burgeoning use of customer reviews on sites across the web.
However my basic moral compass pivots on fairness and I am concerned that reviews could cause harm (intentional or not) to individuals.
While for some hospitality providers, TripAdvisor has become such a positive tool that the site’s reviews are published on the pages of the provider’s own website, for others the site has caused misery. Those business owners see the site as a bête noir threatening their very existence. This anti TripAdvisor feeling was explored in the Channel 4 documentary ‘Attack of the Trip Advisors’
Whether you are a fan of TA or not, it is important to remember that if you are not actually managing your reputation then someone else is. Your property might be enjoying good reviews now but what if it should fall from grace? You could have a long way to fall with no quick way back.
Take the case of Monica Charles, the owner of Crystals in Saint Lucia. With an overall TripAdvisor rating of 4.5 (out of 5) Charles was quoted as saying: “Just to show you what the power of a few negative reviews can do. My small mom-and-pop business has gone from April  being 90% occupancy for 11 months of the year [to] no guests and no one has booked for two months.”
My belief is that by focussing on creating a customer-centric business, although you might not avoid receiving negative reviews, you will be managing your reputation and you will not be beholden to any review site. Most importantly you will be creating a business that attracts loyalty, repeat customers and advocacy.
Next time – Take back control from TripAdvisor – Part Two – I shall consider how you might deal with negative reviews.