Robin Sheppard, chairman of the Bespoke Hotel Group – which includes over 50 UK and international hotels in its eclectic portfolio – says, let’s learn to love TripAdvisor.
TripAdvisor seems to be the subject of almost as much news and as many reviews as the England rugby team at the moment. At the Bespoke Hotel Group our position remains the same – TripAdvisor is big, getting bigger, and it’s here to stay, so let’s approach it with a positive frame of mind.
This is the age of the internet-savvy, rights-aware consumer. If TripAdvisor weren’t there, disgruntled hotel and restaurant customers would find some other way of making their opinions known.
Of course, reports of guests trying it on, resorting to blackmail even, are concerning, and we need to be vigilant. As ever though, a big part of the answer lies in training front-line staff, rather than trying to limit the rights of the 99 per cent of honest punters. If staff are given techniques and clear, agreed procedures for dealing with these types of threat, then there’s every chance that the majority of them can be allayed.
Setting aside the extreme cases of people who are clearly on the look-out for an upgrade or a freebie, again we go back to basics. Let’s give our guests and customers as few reasons to complain as possible. Let’s address any shortcomings in product or service as quickly and genuinely as possible – never forgetting that you can make more friends in the way you make up for a mistake, than if you’d never made a mistake in the first place. Let’s encourage and train our staff to be aware of these issues.
The bottom line is, if you’re running a great hotel or restaurant; if your service and your food are fantastic nine times out of ten, then your TripAdvisor reviews will be great nine times out of ten. We’ve always had to live with reviewers from the media whose articles are often based on relatively isolated experiences or on their own subjective opinion. But we revel in the good reviews, cringe at the bad ones and carry on working hard.
Is it possible for TripAdvisor to filter out every single review of questionable motive or veracity? No, probably not. But consumers are, on the whole, bright enough to take an overview. Very few will make a purchasing decision based on one isolated opinion. And most will check a variety of sources before booking a room or reserving a table.
In the old days, many hotels and restaurants used to rely on word-of-mouth. If your rooms or tables were full, you knew that those words being disseminated by mouth were mostly good ones. TripAdvisor is word-of-mouth marketing, but we get to listen in on what our guests are saying about us. That’s a good thing, surely?