Last week we were exhilarated to hear that other people’s opinions are the one and only route to truth, according to Airbnb CEO Brian Chesky. Nothing else is required. It’s bad news for anyone who watches CSI, but very uplifting as we go into the festive season. He should maybe stay away from Twitter, would be our only advice.
But this got us thinking about reviews and whether, almost 25 years after TripAdvisor gave us the means to express ourselves about slow room service, they mean anything at all.
This week TrustYou released its Q3 report into reviews – because there’s nothing the sector can’t benchmark – which reported that review volume growth was slower than other indicators, such as the number of international arrivals or hotel bookings. It has not bounced back like travel itself.
The group said: “Not all guests choose to leave reviews after their stays. Since many other tourist providers are looking for travellers’ feedback, consumers have become more selective in leaving reviews, choosing to share only the best or worst experiences they had. That’s why it’s crucial to send live or post-stay surveys to capture more of your guests’ opinions.”
Back at TripAdvisor, the Q3 call was all about engagement and trip planning and less on how bad the wifi is. The group is, of course, using AI – in this case to “summarise reviews and deliver clear insights to travellers on key quality attributes as they consider their choices”. Depending on the level of trust you have in AI, not a bad idea, although are you robbing the people of reading the super-hilarious takes on hotel service which have made TripAdvisor such a must-read over the years?
The good news is no. The new system, said president & CEO Matt Goldberg, “provides the perfect way to summarise content at scale, trust is still at the centre of why people come to us, so in this feature we share the specific underlying reviews from our community of travellers that were used to generate each insight and provide a direct path to go deeper on what matters most to the traveller”.
The TrustYou study has echoes of social media in that polarisation is favoured over nuance when out comes to opinion, which leads us to think, like anyone exposed to more than 10 minutes of Twitter per day; surely there’s another way?
Are you encouraging reviews to drive bookings? It’s likely that a strong social media presence is more beneficial, particularly at the luxury end of the market. Or maybe join a strong distribution platform – OTA, loyalty programme or consortia, you choose.
Or are you gathering reviews so you can improve your operations? Time would surely push you down to no reviews at all if every complaint was acted on. Or no negative reviews, at least. Yet there are still plenty of thoughts gathering online.
Reviews have been part of the sector for decades, but, while hotels beg for them, do they really want them? Have we just got used to them, without questioning them? Aren’t online reviews just an indication that the guest couldn’t be heard any other way? For all the gathering and disseminating and summarising, wouldn’t it just be easier to talk to the guest if you want the truth?