Last week, the Phocuswright report taught us that 57% of tour and activity operators consider online reviews to be their most effective marketing source. We’ll be the first to say – we’re not surprised. The landscape of travel marketing has dramatically shifted. Today the customer journey almost always starts with an internet search. While your website, photos, videos and social media accounts are all on the radar of potential customers, nothing forms an opinion like an online review.
In fact, more than 90% of consumers depend on online, local reviews to help form their decision about a business. Much like getting a recommendation from a friend or co-worker, potential customers trust online reviews to provide an honest, first-hand account of your tour or activity. Their end goal – feeling secure that your business brings the value and experience they’re looking for. In other words, reviews are just as important to the customer as they are to your business.
Here’s a few simple actions you can take to make sure both you and your customers get the most out of them.
1. Respond to every review, positive or negative.
When customers share their experience via an online review it serves two purposes; to inform others customers and to communicate with the business owner. In not responding, you’re missing out on both a valuable touch point and an opportunity to lead the conversation.
Whether the review brings praise or criticism, it’s direct feedback from your customers – and that’s always a powerful tool for improving your business. Show them you’re listening by crafting a personalized response that touches on each individual point made in the review, rather than sending a canned message.
If you encounter a negative review, respond objectively. Be kind, professional and accepting of their perspective. The worst thing you can do is respond in a way that will discourage potential customers from wanting to do business with you. Yes, negative reviews are difficult and can be hurtful to a business, but they’re also an opportunity to improve.
When the review warrants more than your acknowledgement, try offering a small discount as an invitation for a better experience. This can be as simple as, “We apologize for your poor experience, that’s uncommon for us to hear. We’d love to make it up to you with 20% off your next booking. Please contact us privately for specific details.”
Take the same approach for positive reviews. Use the feedback to figure out what’s working. It’s just as important to know what you’re doing right as it is to know what you can improve on.
Create a document where you log both positive and negative feedback coming in from reviews. When it comes time to build a new marketing plan, update website copy or train new employees, you’ll have a clear list of customer-perceived strengths and weaknesses, suggestions and improvements.
2. Set aside time to manage reviews. Every. Single. Day.
To keep review sites from becoming a one-way conversation, you need to make yourself available. Let people know that they can rely on a timely response from you by making time to manage reviews, every single day.
Remember that almost every customer searching for your business will first look to online reviews. This is a valuable first impression. In terms of establishing trust and credibility, your odds go way up when they see that you’re involved in the reputation of your business and that you care about your customers’ opinions. Plus, when you’re hit with the occasional negative review, you’ll have the chance to respond and repair any damage before it even starts.
Many review sites give the option of sending email notifications when a new review comes in. Enabling notifications makes it that much easier to make sure you never miss a review, no matter how many review sites you use.
3. Follow-up every tour with a review request.
From adding review widgets to your website to passing out “Review Us!” stickers or business cards, there’s a way to turn almost any customer interaction into a review request. But we find that the most effective ways to encourage reviews are also some of the most simple.
As a general rule, the more often you can add a personal touch to your tour or activity, the better. This makes the classic in-person request hard to beat. It’s a natural sign-off and easy to work into your final goodbye. Plus, it’s personal enough that the customer will be more likely to log-on and leave a review.
No matter what approach you decide is right for your business, we suggest that you always send a follow-up email requesting customer feedback on your preferred review site. This email should be straightforward with a direct call-to-action. You can also use this email to link to your social media pages, to offer a return discount or to simply say thank you.
Send your follow-up email a few days after the customer’s tour to maximize engagement. You’ll already have an edge as the customer will be on their desktop or device when they open the email, making their five-star review just a few clicks away.
As a FareHarbor client, this can all be done directly through your Dashboard. You can automate custom follow-up emails to be sent out directly after the tour or even a few days later.
If TripAdvisor is your top performing review site, we suggest adding TripAdvisor Review Express to your lineup as well. Review Express is another email automation tool that sends a review request directly from TripAdvisor.
Of course, your five-star tours mostly speak for themselves. These tips are just here to help you make the most of the awesome reviews you’re already receiving.