16 Mar TripAdvisor’s TripBarometer is rather revealing…
Let’s be honest with ourselves – online review sites are going to be here to stay, and businesses will never fully see eye to eye with the sites that offer them; after all, they tend to be a conduit for negativity a lot of the time and I would even go as far to say that guests are more inclined to write a poor or excellent review than an average one, unless they are heavy users of social media.
I decided to dig a little deeper in to reviews and their effects on businesses etc and was actually taken aback by how little data there is to actually tell a business just how much that review has had an impact, until I span the figures around a bit in my head and began to notice some interesting points in TripAdvisors TripBarometer report that has recently been released.
The largest online reviews site by far for hotels, is TripAdvisor – there is almost no hotel in existence that has not heard of it, let alone signed up for it, so when they present raw data from their surveys, you can be pretty confident that the results represent a fairly wide demographic and fairly proportioned set of travellers. Annoyingly their report is focused on US and Global measures, with no real ability to drill down to country behaviours, but here are my tuppenny notes about the data the released; all of this is based on survey results from nearly 16,000 travellers across the world and the statistics I will discuss are the global results (unless otherwise indicated).
96% of businesses say online reviews are important, but only 81% invite people to share their experiences. Hmmm… this is an interesting one as it seems to be a ‘take shotgun to own foot’ scenario – it’s actually quite scary because this means that out of every 100 businesses, there are 15 that see reviews as important yet do not promote guests giving reviews? This could be fear, lack of knowledge or skills or even sheer laziness, but whichever reason it is, surely there is not a ‘valid’ excuse. It also smacks of hypocrisy, like saying that reputation is important then deliberately peeving off every guest who walks in or declaring marketing as important and then giving no budget for it. Source
Only 45% of businesses increase staff training after a negative review, and only 65% actually respond to the review. I am one for believing that all feedback is a gift and that all reviews are golden nuggets of information to let you know where things can be changed. A negative review is also a ticking time-bomb waiting to be thrown in your face by a guest, referred to by another reviewer, or even worse creating a conformity-complaint (aka Sheep Philosophy where one person says or does something, so others do to follow suit, leading to one complaint about a cracked tile becoming an impression that every room has tiles falling from the walls; after the issue has been exaggerated by reviewer after reviewer who just wants to make their review that little bit harsher than the previous one). To see that less than half of businesses look at re-training after negative feedback, strikes of complacency or ignorance. Everywhere gets bad reviews or feedback at some point, and what you do as a result is important. Regardless of what happened, the negative review tells you that either the resolution given wasn’t the correct one, or the situation was not handled correctly, or even simply that you are not as good as you may think – swallow some humble pie and take action about it! I have seen hotels do this in a big way, with staff being relocated to other departments, staff being re-trained, disciplinary action and even demotion due to trending feedback. Accept there is a problem and solve it – if there wasn’t a problem you would not have had a negative review in the first place! As for the one-third of hotels that do not even respond to a review…. you are just telling anyone who reads that review that you do not care!
Now consider that when booking, people will consider on average 7 properties before making a purchasing decision (I am one of these people) and 93% of people say that online reviews impact their booking decisions, it is vital to ensure you are capturing every great review, and dealing with every negative one. Just as important as receiving a 5 out of 5 review is to show how you manage, accept and most importantly recover from or build upon, feedback you receive; especially considering that 40% of properties are looking to increase room rates this year.
The whole spectrum of reviews does not apply to post-trip either as over 50% of travellers use internet devices when on holiday – they could just so happen to browse on to a review site and write about the very poor dinner they had last night which means a change to service recovery models is needed, and perhaps a very dangerous one. TripAdvisor recently launched a blackmail reporting tool, under very little pomp and circumstance (but the important thing is that they launched one!) which would be great in a handful of circumstances, but it is not a failsafe (which it is in danger of becoming… after all would you not be tempted to feel like you held the upper hand when someone tries to blackmail you with a TA review?). Service recovery now cannot be delayed – the necessity to recover the situation there and then is becoming ever more important as over 50% of travellers write a review after a trip (with this being likely to increase as social media usage increases). 34% of travellers post updates to social media sites when travelling – that means the bad experience at dinner, the long wait at the bar or the photo of the dirty bath has a potentially one in three chance of being broadcast to all and sundry almost instantaneously….scary thought when 37% of people have written comments about their experiences and stay whilst on holiday!
Quite unsurprisingly is the revelation that consumers love freebies… and herein lies a problem – what is a freebie to a guest is a cost to the hotel, no matter how small. Wi-Fi is ever more important as 80% of people are influenced to book by free in-room wi-fi – comparing this to only 66% who want free parking, this makes for a bit of interesting information as people would rather pay to park, than pay for internet access.
The entire report contains a bunch of statistics that are useful, and definitely worth a read for any hotelier. To make it easier, there is a copy you can read here of the TripBarometer by TripAdvisor – Global Report – USA, but here are some particularly interesting snippets:
- Online review sites are seen as both the most useful and most trustworthy sources of information about places
- Price and location were the only factors that outweighed online reviews when considering accommodation – this falls exactly in line with what businesses thought so that was spot on from the industry – proves we know what is driving decisions!
- Only 7% of people said they booked through travel review sites – so perhaps that TripAdvisor Upgraded Business Listing may not be worth it after all?
- 75% of people were enticed in to booking by discounted room rates, but only 20% by special offers such as free wine etc – so drop that Groupon deal and start selling cheap room only rates?
- 50% of people said free breakfast was very important (scrap what I said about room only rates!)
- Australia was the most expensive place to stay at an average 170 USD per night, and Turkey was the cheapest at 86 USD per night. The UK came in mid-way at around 133 USD per night
- Only 10% of people took no social media interaction about their holiday – so 90% of people revealed all about their experiences on a social network!
- 16% of businesses were not concerned about negative online reviews…. what the hell (*slopes off to cry desperately in a corner*)…. just don’t get me started on this one
- Arrrggghhh… 13% of businesses do not even monitor their online reviews!
- 41% of businesses change operations as a result of negative reviews, but shockingly only 55% reward staff for positive reviews and 10% do nothing!
- 1% of hotels charge for a flat-screen television… really… just really…? where… and why…? And 2% charge for tourist information… talk about profiteering (or hopefully just misunderstanding the question?)
- Only 38% of businesses see social media as a priority for 2013…. oops, the other 72% may want to re-think that
The whole report is worth a read – perhaps you will begin to rethink 2013 as a result![box type=”download”] EDIT: Just found UK version through clicking flags on the side of the TA reports page – not too different from stats above, so leaving these stats in place for worldwide as above – Click here to see UK stats on the TripAdvisor TripBarometer Page or download the infographic here > TripBarometer – UK[/box]