The shine has come off TripAdvisor’s share price recently…
The question we are asking ourselves is ‘Is the market beginning to realise that independent review sites may have had their day?’
We are not asking this for any other reason than to be able to take an educated guess about the future influence of these sites on behalf of our clients.
Let’s look at Yelp (the biggest general review sites on the planet – market cap $4.2 bn):
And the oldest review site of them all, Angie’s list, now quoted, and off a frightening 53% since listing (and an even more from its peak of nearly $20 in February) :
…is that independent sites will struggle against the might of Google. Yelp and TripAdvisor (at $10.4 bn) look massive until we remind ourselves that Google is currently capitalised at $369 billion.
And this ‘struggling’ may lead them to do some interesting things to placate their shareholders. probably in terms of increasing commissions and fees. We will keep an eye out.
We are advising all our clients to take Google reviews seriously. Businesses cannot afford to ignore the power of Google reviews: to drive business or deflect business. A positive presence there is, in our opinion, bound to become more and more influential as the months pass.
One of the reasons hotels appreciate Dialogue is the effect it has on the way they are portrayed on TripAdvisor. Here we examine that effect in relation to properties which rank differently in their given locations.
Top hotel in your area / Top 30 hotel in London
Dialogue will get you even more great reviews – to enable you to consolidate your position on TripAdvisor.
The fact that we can guarantee that more of your guests will write great reviewswith Dialogue enables us to confidently make this promise.
It will also enable you to retain the custom of those guests who were not unhappy enough to post a review anywhere on the web, but who may not otherwise have communicated that they might not return. The option to have reviews displayed on your own site to drive direct bookings can also be key. Top 10 Hotel in your area / Top 100 Hotel in London
As above, with the added bonus of the potential to both consolidate your position and move up the rankings. More great feedback and enhanced guest retention. Less OTA commissions.
Mid ranked hotel / 100 – 400 ranked hotel in London
Providing the product* is right, Dialogue should enable you to steadily improve your relative ranking and score. and this will happen from day one. Here is an extract from a chart of the performance of a client hotel:
While this chart shows the actual results for a single client, they are replicated across our experience for all clients. The chart illustrates Dialogue’s proven ability to generate more positive reviews (5 and 4 star) and less negative reviews (3,2 and 1 star).
Some of you will read the caption and question why we include 3 star reviews under ‘negatives’ when TripAdvisor call them ‘Average’; it is for two reasons: first, TripAdvisor penalise 3 star reviews reasonably heavily when they calculate the CSI so you don’t want them for that reason alone and second, most three star reviews are actually pretty damning (and therefore damaging) in their content.
This hurts your ranking as well as bookings
Hopeless basket cases excepted, if the will is there then Dialogue will help your TripAdvisor ranking reflect the improvements you are making.
If you have recently refurbished or made other significant improvements then Dialogue will see that investment reflected quickly.
There is not a hotel on the planet that will not look better online with Dialogue. This we absolutely guarantee!
*…the product is right: If rooms or service have enough issues to leave a significant proportion of guests dissatisfied then we suggest you address these before considering Dialogue. We will be happy to advise if you have any doubts.
Last night one of our staffers and his significant other paid a visit to a highly recommended new local Italian (by the Times’ A A Gill, no less).
This morning he related their experience:
Location: Great – walking distance
Decor: Good – bright, modern English with an Italian twist
Welcome: Good – from two young and enthusiastic staff
Now for the food:
Him: delighted – service was ‘bright and cheerful’, they were ‘happy to bring tap water’, ‘olives, parmesan and three kinds of excellent bread were brought while we waited’, main course was ‘as good as you could expect outside Italy’ and ‘recommended wine was good value’
Her: everything as above until it came to the main course: ‘Pasta on the uncooked side of al dente’ and ‘lukewarm’ but ‘not a big enough deal to send back or complain’
So far, so ordinary, you are all thinking. So why the subject of an article here? Because of the punchline:
‘We won’t be going back’
Now, before everyone launches in with ‘Give them another chance’ and ‘Why didn’t they complain when they were in the restaurant?’ let’s explain why we’re relating this tale here…
There is a better way!
What we did not say before is that the restaurant was empty except for our couple. In central west London. At 8.30 on a Tuesday night.
This restaurant needs help, urgently. And it cannot risk letting custom like this slip away into the night. It needs to engage with its customers in a way that will work better than simply asking them ‘Did you enjoy your meal?’
It needs to formally invite feedback. And not just to hear that the kitchen occasionally sends out undercooked pasta. Much more important than that, it needs to do it so it can reclaim the custom of people like the couple above.
They should ask their customers for their email addresses*. As a matter of course, when presenting the bill. They could (should!) have a card specially printed which explains why they need the email and how they will use it.
They will then send customers an email asking them if they enjoyed their meal. If the answer is in the negative they can then do whatever it takes to entice the customer back to give them another chance.
You know what they say in marketing: ‘There’s only one thing better than a happy customer, and that is an unhappy customer you have made happy.’ But to achieve that you have to identify the ‘unhappy customer’ and invite them to become ‘happy’.
And that is just what Dialogue is all about. It will enable your customers to tell you what they might not otherwise tell you face-to-face; on top of that it will take their positive comments and post them onto your website and then get them on to Google – where your potential customers are looking**.
*When we first advise businesses to do this we get all kinds of objections, usually along the lines of ‘Our customers won’t do it because…’ Well, we’ve been able to prove otherwise: customers will do it, and they will do it with a will.
** To date 50,308 people have seen this restaurant in search – and it has only ONE Google review showing there.
When one of your business practices has a term coined especially for it by your customers it’s probably time to question that practice.
The term in question? ‘Hostage reviews’.
The CEO of Yelp, Jeremy Stoppleman, braved Reddit to answer questions. To give you a flavour here are the top comments…
The Yelp ‘filter’ is unique; that means one of two things: they’re geniuses who have found a solution (in this case to ‘dodgy’ reviews – reviews written by competitors or the business in question, in the main) or the idea is flawed.
We think there is a solution, Mr Stoppleman. One that is fair to the businesses you are trying to sign up and equally fair to the businesses who politely decline your salespeople’s offer.
Yelp is a community. Instead of the ‘filter’ (oh! – sorry, since 2013 Yelp don’t use the term ‘filter’ any more, it’s now calling the ‘filter’ ‘recommendation software’ – see here), allow anyone in the community (including all businesses) to flag up a review that they think is somehow flawed or tainted. Then employ moderators who can contact the reviewers and the businesses concerned to make a reasoned judgement.
Junk the ‘filter’ (sorry – ‘recommendation software’ is just such a mouthful) and replace it with human beings. You can afford them, and businesses are just too important to the economy to be randomly discriminated against by software that appears to be influenced by the need for Yelp’s thousands of salespeople to have a ready bargaining chip when they phone small businesses.
This case also brings into question (again!) the Yelp ‘review filter’ – there have been 95 reviews of this orthodontics practice and 90 – yes, ninety – have been filtered. We had a long hard look at both filtered and unfiltered reviews to see if we could divine any logic. Let’s have a look…
First the five unfiltered reviews:
Five star – the reviewer has written 19 more reviews and has 13 Yelp ‘friends’
Three star – the contentious review. The reviewer has written 70 more reviews and has 27 ‘friends’
One star – a troll who has written no more reviews and has no ‘friends’
One star – another trolling review. Has written fourteen more reviews and has three ‘friends’
Five star – 73 more reviews and 43 ‘friends’
Now the filtered ones:
Most, both positive and negative, are singletons (that is: they are the only review posted by that reviewer).
Now, we would understand the logic behind Yelp’s filter if the two blindingly obvious trolling reviews had been filtered. But they have not. Here they are so you can judge the value they give to the Yelp community (and anyone searching for an orthodontist):
We fail to see why anyone would vote either of these ‘Useful’ but 13 Yelpers have to date
The message for UK medical professionals
All of this kind of comment is unhelpful to medical professionals. Sites like Yelp ought to do more to ensure the reviews they publish are written by people with first hand experience of the business being reviewed. But they are seemingly reluctant to push too far down this road for purely financial reasons. Instead they appear to be focusing on lobbying state legislatures to toughen up freedom of speech legislation to allow any ‘genuinely held opinions’ to be submitted and published. They seem to be blissfully unaware that the same people who write their reviews are the kind of people – the ‘Stepford Wives’ of Shellie W’s review – who will lose their jobs when, in turn, their own employers fall victim to unfairly damaging reviews.
In the meantime businesses (and medical professionals should see themselves under this heading for the purpose of reviews – they are treated no differently) owe it to themselves and their patients to find a better way of engaging with reviews.
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