Have you ever wondered why people bother to write a review on sites such as TripAdvisor? There are many who think customers that take some of their valuable time to write up a review about a hotel property, a restaurant or an attraction, must be because there was something wrong or they want to share their frustrations. Think again!

Back in 2013, when TripAdvisor conducted its first massive TripBarometer research, surveying over 65,000 of its users and business owners, it found that 74% of travelers left a review “to share a positive experience with friends and network”. In its most recent TripBarometer research with 100,000 travelers and business owners, released in March 2015, it found that 83% of users left reviews “to share information and feedback with fellow travelers and give back”.

Reviews are positive, mostly

In its 2014 Hotel Reputation Benchmark Report, Revinate took a deep dive at more than 20 million reviews from 80,000 properties across 125 countries. Reviews were published on a variety of sites, including leading online travel agencies (OTA) throughout 2014.

Source: 2014 Hotel Reputation Benchmark Report. (Revinate)

Source: 2014 Hotel Reputation Benchmark Report. (Revinate)

Here are a few key findings worthy of mention:

  • 75% of reviews are 4 or 5 star reviews while 1 or 2 star reviews represent less than 10% of total!
  • 70% of reviews came from three leading sites: TripAdvisor, Hotels.com and Booking.com
  • The global average rating, on a scale of 1 to 5, was found to be… 4.04 stars!
  • On average, hotels respond to only 36% of reviews left on sites where management responses are allowed.

In other words, reviews tend to be generally positive. But that last statistic is the real shocker, and it reminds me of a different one, related to how many businesses are said to be managing their account and responding to reviews on TripAdvisor: 32%. As in, less than a third of business owners bother to manager their online reputation!

If you are going to respond, do it fast

Thankfully, for travel brands that get it and take the time to manage their presence on review sites, things are looking up. After all, online reputation management is now considered a key differentiator for travel brands in their marketing strategy, with impacts on customer service and delivery, public relations, sales and even recruiting. After all, consider that there are now 315 million unique visitors per month on Tripadvisor alone, all potential readers of that scathing review… and glowing remarks, too! When management answers, it not only gives context to the user’s review, but also shows good customer care and following up. In fact, we know that:

  • 84% of users say it makes them feel good about a property when they see a management response to reviews
  • Yet, 64% of users will have a negative impression about a property when management response is condescending or inappropriate.

In other words, it’s important to answer, but there is a tone and manner to ensure professionalism. Just like you would answer to a client at front desk… except here, you have 315 million potential readers, every month!

With more than 315 million unique visitors per month on TripAdvisor, the quicker a brand responds to reviews, the quicker these potential readers will have both sides of a given situation, complaint or praise.

One of the first reviews I wrote on TripAdvisor, back in 2011, was a 3 star review that had been read by close to 2,000 people after just one week! I never did get an answer to this one, but as you can see, the earlier, the better, since the longer management waits before responding, the more people are seeing a one-sided version of a review…

Respond fast2Should you answer all reviews?

The silver lining here is that, according to the most recent study by TripAdvisor, business owners who do manage their account and answer reviews, seem to have gotten the memo: they answer fast. In fact, over 60% of businesses claim to read reviews as soon as they come in, compared to 19% who check their reviews daily and 12% who check them on a weekly basis. Do they answer every review that comes in? As much as some may want to, it often boils down to a lack of resources and time to effectively answer them all. Revinate suggests answering according to the following rule of thumb:

Source: Revinate

Source: Revinate

Said differently, you should absolutely answer every 1 or 2 star review, answer every other 3 star review and discriminate amongst the 4 and 5 star reviews to see which one you should answer, depending on content and context. It’s a different story on OTA sites, in particular Expedia, where management responses aren’t published, so why not take advantage of this possibility on TripAdvisor, Yelp or Booking.com?

About the author

authorFrederic Gonzalo is passionate about marketing and communications, with over 19 years of experience in the travel and tourism sphere. Early 2012, he launched Gonzo Marketing and works as a strategic marketing consultant, professional speaker and trainer in the use of new technologies (web, social media, mobile). Reach him at frederic@gonzomarketing.biz.