Speaking at Caffe Culture yesterday, Stevens said TripAdvisor ranking is increasingly important to business success, and urged operators to do everything they can to come out on top.
In order to improve TripAdvisor ranking, businesses must first actively encourage reviews, said Stevens. “Encourage customers to leave a response, you will find that the majority are positive. And a good response to negative feedback can generate even more customer loyalty.”
He said operators should not be afraid to ask customers directly to leave reviews, adding that some businesses have even started leaving a laptop near the till so customers can type in a review there and then.
Operators can also capture customers’ emails and send them an email inviting them to submit a review, or include a link to TripAdvisor in the regular email correspondence they have with their customer base.
All operators, Stevens stressed, should install the TripAdvisor review widget on their website.
Of course, every business will receive some bad reviews, but Stevens said operators can minimise the chance of negative feedback by ensuring they are offering an experience that matches customer expectations.
“If their experience differs from their expectation they are likely to write a review and it will probably be a bad one,” he said.
Operators should pay particularly close attention to customer service – with the majority of restaurant and café reviews commenting on the quality of service rather than the quality of food.
“There is no product or service good enough to overcome a bad customer experience,” explained Stevens.
He added that most of the time, operators can head off a bad TripAdvisor review by offering an alternative means of communication that allows the customer to resolve the issue offline.
“Unresolved issues will result in bad reviews,” he said. “Operators should concentrate on fixing problems there and then without getting to the review stage.”
Handling negative feedback
If you do get negative reviews, Stevens said it is always important to respond. “Businesses that respond appropriately to negative feedback get a much higher rating on TripAdvisor,” he explained.
However, he warned against responding immediately. “You need to respond within 12 to 24 hours, not within five minutes,” he said. “A kneejerk reaction often won’t help the situation.”
Operators should always avoid personal insults in their responses, and think carefully about what level the response should come from. “If a complaint is serious the response should come from a manager,” said Stevens.
Is it a crisis?
Although receiving a bad review might feel like a big deal, Stevens said it should not be considered a crisis unless the review was posted by a celebrity, suggested some sort of danger or hygiene risk, or was one of several negative reviews in a short space of time.
If it is a crisis situation, operators should follow the following four steps:
- Apologise to the customers involved
- Take the conversation away from TripAdvisor to private emails or phone conversations
- Do something nice for the customers involved
- Publically declare the crisis over
Stevens added that businesses receiving any kind of regular negative feedback should pay attention to customer comments, rather than dismissing them as ‘idiots’. “If you are getting the same complaint over and over again, you need to change your processes,” he stressed.
Dealing with false or malicious reviews
Of course there will always be people that leave reviews for reasons other than a poor customer experience. BigHospitality recently highlighted claims that a restaurants are being blackmailed into providing free meals to customers threatening to leave negative reviews on TripAdvisor. There have also been stories of rival businesses posting negative reviews to discredit the competition.
However, Stevens said that if an operator feels the review is unfair, or has been posted by a rival business, they can approach TripAdvisor and ask them to remove it. “TripAdvisor are very good at removing false or malicious reviews, as long as the operator can provide evidence to back up their claims,” he explained.
A four point plan for boosting your TripAdvisor rating:
- Encourage customer reviews through verbal and digital communication
- Do not dismiss customers who leave negative reviews as idiots, pay attention to what they are saying and change processes where necessary.
- Share your good reviews widely e.g on your website, across social media
- Respond quickly, personally and appropriately to reviews. Never resort to insults.