Ben Jost, CEO, TrustYou
It goes without saying that the internet and user feedback have changed the way people make purchases, in nearly every vertical market. The travel space is one that’s been heavily impacted, with the rise of Online Travel Agencies (OTAs) such as Priceline and Expedia, and more recently the growth of sharing economy organizations like AirBnB.
When engaging a potential customer, the importance of a first impression has never been more prevalent, as there are more options than ever before. It’s critical to also realize that these first impressions are no longer being forged in-person or over the phone. They’re happening online, driven by the results of search engines. In fact, more than 90% of travel bookings are informed by search results and a Google search is the most common source of inspiration for travelers.
One of the most common results in online search is user feedback. Whether this is by design (Amazon incorporating feedback into its product pages), or not, consumers are flocking to the internet to discuss their individual experiences with products and brands. Therefore, companies need to be prepared to address feedback, both positive and negative. Here are three ways that organizations can incorporate online feedback to improve first impressions.
- Address criticism. In a recent study, nearly 80% of respondents explained that seeing management responses to reviews made them feel as though the brand cares about their customers. While it isn’t always simple to address negative feedback, there are things that companies can do to attempt to rectify the situation. There are three critical components to a strong response to a negative review. The first is an thank you; your customer has gone out of their way to let you know how they feel. The second is an acknowledgement; let your customer know that you have heard their concerns, and when possible, explain how you plan to rectify the situation. Finally, companies should an offer a chance to try their product or service again; it’s counterintuitive, but companies who are confident in their suggested remediation will often earn a second chance with a customer.
- Spotlight reviews. Amazon is one of the best known companies to have incorporated online feedback into their product pages, but they’re certainly not alone. In the hotel space, thousands of properties have done so, ultimately aiming to give potential guests peace of mind when making their booking decisions. The click that takes a customer from a search result to a buying opportunity can add an element of continuity, and potential customers will generally appreciate seeing other people’s experiences.
- Incorporate surveys. There are lots of companies that ask their customer for some sort of post-purchase feedback. However, many of them are missing an opportunity to build this funnel of feedback into their online results (hosted on their own site, and seen on other sites). Conducting post-stay surveys tend to lead to higher grades and rankings than data that’s left online, meaning that businesses can improve the likelihood that potential guests see something positive.
Price continues to be a big driver of purchasing decisions. Today, however, online reputation expressed through review scores, review text and review summaries is the second biggest component and together with price it creates the notion of value for your customer. This means that companies need to understand, and when possible, positively influence, what their potential customers see and experience from the moment of purchase until they check out. By addressing feedback, highlighting reviews and incorporating surveys, companies can dramatically increase their chances of making a sale.