If you already have an established travel business you probably already appreciate how difficult it can be to make sales before you have any reviews. If you’re just getting starting be prepared. The most difficult phase of any tour operators business is getting your first sales before you have any reviews. Once you have 5 or more good reviews it starts to build trust with travelers and making bookings gets a lot easier.
Just how important are online reviews? Here are a couple of stats that should convince you.
- 88% of visitors trust online reviews as much as personal recommendations by friends.
- 80% of potential buyers will reverse a purchase decision if they find negative reviews.
- 72% of consumers will buy only after reading a positive review!
Only 12% of potential customers indicated they don’t look at reviews or that reviews don’t influence them. This means if you don’t have reviews you better be hoping you are talking to this small sliver of the general population. What follows are 6 steps to getting good reviews and getting them published.
1. Where to Publish Reviews. Getting Started on Tripadvisor.
There are a ton of websites out there that publish online reviews including Touristlink. While we love Touristlink we will be the first to admit that probably the most important place to get reviews is on Tripadvisor. This is the website most used by travelers and most trusted when it comes to reviews. Before you can list your business on Tripadvisor you must your website online and available (you can check the requirements here). Safaribookings.com is a good website to get reviews on for safari operators. Other websites like Touristlink, Trustpilot or Sitejabber are also good, but just remember that in the mind of the traveler that Tripadvisor is the gold standard of reviews.
2. Setting Expectations During the Sales Process
Potential customers appreciate honesty and getting all the facts upfront. Mentioning important exclusions can help build trust. Just because a customer does not ask does not mean you should withhold important information. Screen your customers and make sure they know all the details and costs before they arrive to avoid potential arguments. You might lose a sale or two in the process but in the long run you will have a lot more happy customers and that’s what matter.
3. The Actual Service or Trip
Put yourself in your customer’s shoes and behave accordingly. Keep your promises and be on time. If problems happen be proactive in solving them and keep in constant contact with your guests. Remember, that guests are guests and learn their names and take special requests seriously even if you’re a budget tour operator.
4. End of Trip Meeting
Meet personal with every guest at the end of the trip. Farewell dinners are a great way to manage this for multi-day tours. Listen to feedback and take feedback seriously. Engaging and listening to what guests have to say means a lot. Guests realize that mistakes happen and most are forgiving. What they won’t forgive is you not caring. If you did mess up make an effort to make amends. A free hotel night or free city tour can go a long way towards making guests feel better about your service.
5. Post-Trip Follow-up
Send every guest a follow-up email after the trip asking how everything was and soliciting feedback. Here is your chance to listen and account for any problems. If a guest had serious problems you might consider offering a full refund or a partial refund. Oftentimes, guests will refuse this if they feel you have done your best to manage things.
6. Ask for the Review and give the Link.
If everything has gone well now is the time to ask for a review. Only ask for reviews after the guest has reported a positive experience to you. If you skip Step 5 above you will find your guests going straight to the review site to make a complaint. Be sure to include the link to the page where you want the guest to post the review in your email to make it easy and thank them in advance for their help.
Dealing with Disasters
Problems happen sometimes that are beyond your control. Some guests are especially difficult to handle. Just remember that every disaster is also an opportunity. When things go wrong take it on yourself to go the extra mile and solve the problem. Often times the guests whom you solve difficult problems for will end up being your most loyal clients even if they are initially angry. The absolutely most disastrous option you can take is to avoid the problem and disengage.
Will a bad review ruin my business?
It can do a lot of damage. It depends also on what the reviewer has claimed. Drunken guides, sexual harassment and other issues brought up in online reviews have the potential to ruin your business. Do your best to avoid these issues in the first place. Give guests your contact details and be let them know your available 24/7 to handle any problems. Offer a refund if required. Your online reputation is essentially the most important part of your business so manage it wisely.
How can I get my first review?
It’s best to follow the above procedure. It’s okay to ask past guests for reviews also. Don’t ask friends or family to post fake reviews. For one thing, posting fake reviews is against the policy of all review sites so can get your account deleted. Just as importantly don’t fool yourself. Potential customers can spot fake reviews better than you think. Stay honest with your guests and put their welfare ahead of just making a profit and you will be surprised at how successful your business will be.
Suggested Additional Reading:
Triple your Travel Sales: Master the Art of Email Follow-Ups
10 Effective Email Strategies to Increase Travel Sales