The Social Contact Centre

to a social networking way of working through the eyes of a Contact Centre manager

Peer Power…why TripAdvisor works

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Image courtesy of http://www.telegraph.co.uk

In recent times TripAdvisor has come under close scrutiny over the authenticity of its reviews.  TripAdvisor has been hosting reviews from travellers since 2000 and there are now around 50m reviews of hotels. restaurants, attractions and locations. For many people, myself included, TA is the first point of call whenever they look for a holiday. So why does it work and what are its shortcomings?

TripAdvisor works on a few levels.

 

  • Firstly it plays on the inherent benevolence of people. We work too hard to have a poor travel experience and so it makes sense to avoid problems wherever possible. Conversations about holidays are widespread in any pub or workplace and all that TA does is provide a platform for those conversations to be structured. People like to share their experiences to help other people.
  • Where holidays are concerned, as with many other topics, people also like to boast and show expertise to others. We all like to show that we went off the beaten path, found a hidden gem or got a real bargain. TripAdvisor is the perfect vehicle for it. For the competitive amongst us it also allows some gaming with different levels being awarded for numbers of reviews given.
  • TA also tells a more rounded truth. Hoteliers have criticised it recently for having scathing reviews from customers blackmailing the owners. There was noticeably no criticism from them when holiday-makers had to make do with equally Photoshopped and gilded brochures in travel agents. When I buy anything I want to know both sides of coin. Nowhere is perfect but I want to know what the risks are and assess them from my perspective. Criticism that reviews are biassed is ridiculous since every review of everything has been written from the author’s perspective. TA also tells a more detailed truth. General guidebooks can’t tell you which rooms to ask for and which to avoid, whether the wifi is good value or the best place to eat locally and watch the football.
  • It works also because it has a simple but elegant design. It’s easy to search and navigate and is supported on a range of platforms – critically you can use it on the move
  • Finally it works because it has critical mass. 50m reviews (there are 500k in London alone) make it a sensible option – better than any other source.

Much of the tabloid criticism has focused in on the banality of some of the reviews and the lack of detail in some areas. This I think is part of its charm – it has a truth about it. Most B&Bs are samey and most customers are just looking for value for money, a clean bed for the night and a good breakfast. There isn’t an essay there. Hoteliers and restaurateurs should embrace TripAdvisor as a free market research provider – giving the feedback they only get if they incentivise. They should take criticism objectively and try to be better at what they do. TripAdvisor’s own research suggests readers think the reviews have an accuracy level of over 98%. I have spoken to B&B owners who feel that TripAdvisor raises people’s expectation – they expect Hotel service at a B&B price and therefore they are going to be disappointed. I have also seen hotels who feel their livelihood has been ruined by a malicious review. When something is bad though, I think it is really important that this is aired. My most-read review is of a hotel in Barcelona which was fine for most of our needs but had particularly awkward front desk staff – they should be told. My second most-read review is of a hotel in Spain which was cheap and cheerful but very enjoyable – it had over 1000 readers within 7 days.

Unfortunately, as a customer I have visited hotels without looking on TripAdvisor and then seen the problems retrospectively. One hotel in particular, which has had millions spent on it still has some enormous fundamental problems and the staff are holding the place together. Review after review point this out but seemingly nothing gets done. What I now do, and I believe that most people are becoming social-savvy now. Is to search for hotels in an area which meet the price you are able to pay and then read the reviews. Discard the ridiculously high ratings while noting the points they raise. Discard the terribly low scores while doing the same. If you read the reviews in the middle you’ll soon pick up the recurring themes and pick the best option for your particular needs.

Of course TripAdvisor provides this service for the traveller but there are other similar sources of peer review – Amazon product reviews, Mumsnet product reviews, specialist forums in niche areas e.g. DIY, automotive, gardening and decorating. As a producer it is vitally important to track what your peers are saying about you and to react positively. If your product stinks; fix it. Don’t blame the consumer for being unhappy.

Don’t forget the golden rule though – if you take advice from TripAdvisor or any other forum you should write your own reviews too!

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Written by greencontact

June 25, 2012 at 3:23 pm

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