Opinions: 

Travel Tech

A recent ETOA Seminar in London focused on the topic "Moving Forward in Customer Ratings and Reviews", generally discussing the evolution of ratings and reviews, while showcasing some interesting industry case studies. Consumers in today's age really want to see strong businesses ratings and reviews, however, for the suppliers reviews are something they would rather not have to deal with. Unfortunately, there is really no way to circumnavigate this issue in the contemporary marketplace.

Reviews & Consumer Journeys

When researching travel, a consumer follows a unique journey all the way through to a booking or conversion. Naturally, consumers are influenced by the information they are provided with and read, but customer reviews and ratings are also important. 17 percent of consumers are more likely to click on 'star rated' organisations which are displayed in search results. This can easily be done by allowing search engines to search for reviews and comments relating to a brand, and carrying them back into the search results as rich snippets.

Consumers are also keen to be able to access granular information prior to booking a trip - anything from information about the tour itself, through the tour guides' names, to individual reviews of both tour guides and businesses. For consumers, it is all about additional content. This can be either or both user-generated or provided by the company, but the focus is on triggering engagement and involvement. As a brand, additional information can be added to user communication.

Getting Rated and Reviewed

In tourism, it is really important to encourage consumers to rate and review companies. On the one hand, it is important to receive feedback through a set of questions, and to be able to analyse what consumers are talking about, and what lessons are learned, based on text and keyword analysis. This feedback can help an organisation to identify positives and negatives, and help with crucial decisions in areas such as HR when issues are staff-related things, or overall product and service development. On the other hand, businesses can also manage issues and challenges by tackling these directly and efficiently, and thus turning a bad customer review into a customer for life. This final theme really emerged as one of the key findings as part of the seminar.

Ratings and Reviews in Practice

Actively working with reviews through TripAdvisor, but also solutions such as Reevoo and Feefo, can also help businesses to integrate ratings and reviews into a particular website. This can even be achieved for tour operators through the integration of tour-specific reviews, and an overall satisfaction rating in percentage terms. This not only helps the customer in their decision-making process, but also provides them with the opportunity to ask specific questions to travellers that have reviewed destinations previously. One might note that this system is already successfully utilised by major retailers such as Amazon.

Making all reviews public does not necessarily mean that consumers single out bad reviews. A good mix means reviews are balanced, and this lends the process honesty and authenticity. This can genuinely lead to a good conversion for a business from lookers to bookers.

Responding to Reviews

Once a business is actively integrating reviews into their website and overall activities, it is important that the customer service team responds to any reviews and comments, both positive and negative, but that the marketing team continues to oversee the review process. Training customer services about the specifics when responding to sometimes difficult reviews is a must in order to ensure that negative reviews decrease in number, and a satisfactory customer service is provided both online and offline.

Interestingly, a discussion sparked during the seminar which examined what percentage of satisfaction businesses should aim for. Various answers were given. 100% positive ratings and reviews, 95%, 90%, 85% - the invited experts recommended that depending on industry and standards, guidelines differ greatly. However, a good approach is to actually discuss within a business what a satisfactory target would look like, and then approach working with customer ratings and reviews accordingly.

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