Hospitality firms with online presence can introduce and sell their products not only to actual customers directly, but also to the networks reached by customer feedback. More people reading customer reviews means a wider market reach, as any people use travel review websites in planning trips and sharing travel experiences. It’s been shown that three quarters of online travelers use three or more travel review websites before final booking. But there’s a problem…
Recently, complaints about fake reviews posted on travel review websites have surfaced. Some small and medium firms are complaining about negative reviews and low ratings. According to these, there are reviews that refer to improbable situations and unreasonable expectations, when considering the service descriptions and offers made to consumers. Some negative reviews are attributed to false claims coming from people who are not really customers or from close competitors. While the travel review websites , such as TripAdvisor, assert that measures to identify and control false reviews are in place. Still, the situation exists.
Regardless of the source and actions taken by travel review websites, the posting of fake reviews can adversely affect firms by influencing traveler preference. False reviews also confuse traveler decision-making.
Any travel entity must realize the marketing outcomes fake reviews will eventually create. So, being proactive in managing possible fake reviews only makes good business sense. OTAs can manage possible false reviews by doing some measures to identify potential fake reviews and responding accordingly. As for individual hospitality providers, the following strategies seem obvious.
One – Be Involved
One – Be involved in travel review websites. Not all travel firms open their exclusive pages on travel review websites, as reflected by zero or very low response rate to customer feedback as well as slow pace of updates on information and offers. Opportunities to communicate marketing messages to customers are lost when travel review websites are neglected, despite having an active business listing or page on these websites.
Two – Monitor Reviewsy
Monitor positive and negative customer ratings and reviews. Overall average ratings on travel review websites reflect the general sentiment of customers towards travel firms. Reading the actual reviews can provide more insight to travel firms, particularly on quality of service, service delivery, customer satisfaction, common concerns of different market segments, and other information that identify the edge of travel firms and areas for improvement. Much can be learned from reading positive and negative customer reviews.
Three – Target Possible Fakes
Identify and analyze possible fake reviews. Read unusual negative reviews, particularly isolated reviews that rate the travel experience as terrible when most reviews are positive. Look for detailed descriptions in the comments that substantiate an actual travel experience. Most complaints include details of the situation that prompted dissatisfaction. Complaints that do not include details and can apply to any travel firm may be false reviews. Confirm the details of complaints. Find the identity of the reviewer and confirm this with your booking database. Most reviewers provide their home state or country and period of stay. Some even use their real names and provide contact details.
Analyze inconsistencies in the feedback. False reviews tend to contain contradictory or unrealistic descriptions of establishments, managers and staff, or service offers. Read the tone of the review. The words used, sentence structure, and punctuation marks indicate the emotions or mood of the reviewer. The emotions expressed should match the nature of the complaint. These are just some of the ways to identify possible false reviews. The important thing is to verify the truthfulness of negative reviews.
Four – Report Fakes
Post appropriate responses to possible fake reviews. A bad review, which could be damaging to travel firms, cannot be easily removed from travel review websites. These websites want to maintain neutrality and preserve credibility. At the same time, travelers read both positive and negative reviews. However, not all readers become concerned with the issues raised in complaints. The best move is to respond to possible fake reviews. Be professional and courteous in apologizing for the inconvenience experienced by the reviewer, pointing out inconsistencies in the review and suggesting probable reasons for the complaint, expressing your interest in discussing the reviewer’s concerns further, and inviting the reviewer back for a better experience of the firm.
There is no single appropriate way of responding to false reviews. The first thing to bear in mind is to provide hints to readers that the review might be false but without antagonizing the reviewer. A very emotional or aggressive response can make the firm look arrogant, unreceptive and insincere. The next thing is to propose a likely explanation for the dissatisfaction of the reviewer. Provide an explanation that is acceptable given the circumstances surrounding the complaint.
The last thing is to express the firm’s stand on the importance of not only positive but also negative reviews. Make sure that readers understand that the unusual negative review is an isolated case and does not encompass the entirety of the service experience. Even so, express your commitment to continuously improve customer experience based on customer feedback.