It's a well known fact that consumers are less trusting of controlled content usually found on TV, magazines and direct mail. There have been far too many instances where I personally, as a consumer, have trusted an advertisement only to be disappointed when consuming the product. Travellers in particular have traditionally been sold a hotel room with a view, a short distance to the beach or a picture of a room that looks spacious only to arrive and be disappointed. Research indicates that individuals are more likely to believe other guests rather than structured sales and marketing material.
As a result, there's been a boom in travel related reviews from the well known TripAdvisor to independent accommodation portals offering customer reviews on their own website. However, in the past there has been much criticism over how these reviews are acquired. TripAdvisor, for example, allows anyone to post a review anonymously and adversely with the potential to be false. Other popular travel sites such as Expedia require a guest to have stayed at the resort by booking through their own website. In some cases, and in particular with eTourism Holidays, if the accommodation was booked through their website, the travellers name will be attached to the review. eTourism Holidays is said to be taking another step to void criticism by including other guest information within the review, of course with the guests approval. They also believe that the next step for user generated reviews will be to provide a way for guests to easily identify friends and relatives that have posted reviews previously.
In discussions we've had with our clients, most understand the importance of guest reviews but admit they are lost to know how to reply and usually don't have the time. A report by Market Metrix conducted on a sample of Hotels on TripAdvisor states that 90% of hotel managers think reviews are very important and almost 81% visit review sites at least once a week. The report also finds that 85% of hotels and resorts do not have any guidelines in place for monitoring or responding to these reviews.
What are you doing to monitor your reviews? Do you use software or are you manually checking them? How often are you checking? And do you have any tips for responding to negative reviews when or if they come about?