In today’s digital age, reviews and feedback are of absolute importance. Why? One-word, social proof. Think about it, if you were a girl in a bar, would you rather be approached by a guy who came in with a group of friends or that creepy dude in the corner staring at you while sipping gin. Sorry if you’re that creepy dude, it couldn’t be helped. 5-star reviews are the friends around you that demonstrate you’re a cool, trustworthy and fun person! A steady stream of 5-star reviews makes your tour business look more trustworthy! And the best place to have those reviews is TripAdvisor.
Why? Because they’re paying us to say that! No but actually, TripAdvisor is one of the first, if not the first place people look when searching for things to do. With a STAR-studded page, they’ll be more inclined to book with you.
So how do you go about getting that steady stream of 5-star reviews flowing?
The most overlooked tactic is listening. It’s more powerful than you might think. If you don’t listen to your customers, they won’t come back. It’s just like if your employees don’t listen to you, you fire them. I didn’t listen and my wife left me, but that’s besides the point. The point is, listening lets you gather feedback, which is a chance to learn something new and grow!
Growth and insights come from three areas: yourself, co-workers/ employees and most of all your guests. ‘You need to regularly ask what’s wrong.’ – my ex-wife. Ask for feedback whenever possible, after each individual tour if need be.
An example of a good feedback flow from guests is to email them. Ask them ‘would you be comfortable leaving us a 5-star review?’ Option one is ‘Yes, I would love to let people know about my great experience,’ with a link to your TripAdvisor page. Make it as easy as possible for them. Option two is ‘No, but I have feedback to help you make your tour better,’ with a link to a feedback form. You should avoid soliciting feedback in public forums such as TripAdvisor or Facebook because logically you want to avoid people posting negative comments where the whole world can see them. I mean, imagine asking your wife what’s wrong at a bar and she starts screaming, “why don’t you ask Jennifer, you guys seem really close!” This method lets you still capture the feedback to improve your activity while lessening the chance of negative feedback hurting you.
Imagine you are driving along through the countryside and there are farms on both sides of the road with cows in the field. They’re just normal cows, nothing really noteworthy about them. Chances are, you won’t pay them much attention. What would then happen if you saw a real, genuine, purple cow? You would probably pull over, take some pictures, talk about it later and show people the pictures.
You want your business to be the purple cow. When we see something that is out of the ordinary or remarkable, we want to share and talk about it. Yes, that concept was written by marketing genius Seth Godin. Why should we listen to him? Because his wife didn’t leave him, he knows what he’s talking about. So ask yourself the tough question – is my business actually worth talking about?
Two things that travelers crave are special moments and special people. These are the things they can talk about. To make your activity remarkable, you want to give people access to something they would not normally be able to have, such as unique experiences or the chance to meet unique people – give them the chance to experience genuinely memorable moments that they can talk about. These experiences are the sort of experiences people will leave 5-star reviews about because they get enthusiastic about them.
The root cause of a mediocre review is usually that the customer’s expectations were not fulfilled. Either you did not understand their expectations, or their expectations were based on the wrong idea. Expectations are set by many things such as your website, what they’ve been told by other people or the first date (don’t set the bar too high guys).
So here are the questions to ask:
A good place to start is to review ALL communication that you have with your customers. Everything from email correspondence, the information that’s on your website like tour descriptions, travel planners, images and other media, up to phone calls, and existing online reviews. Make sure that you are not over-hyping or over-promising in any of those areas. Unmet expectations will be the biggest barrier to receiving 5-star reviews.
It is also advisable to make a discrete list of things that customers can expect from your tour based on your ideas of what your business is like. This list is useful to share with your guides as a list of things that you know you can deliver on. If there are elements of that list that you are not consistently delivering, either make some changes to the activity to ensure you deliver on them or change your descriptions and communications.
Make sure as well that your pictures are not giving the wrong impression. If you run a brewery tour, for example, and you have photos of a group of people enjoying a beer, people will get the impression that your tour includes the chance for them to taste some beer, and they will likely expect that they won’t have to pay extra for that experience. If it turns out that they do have to pay extra for the tasting, they will feel as if their expectation has not been met (Yes, you have to pay for everything).
Once you have a clear understanding of what your customer’s expectations are, consider how you could exceed those expectations (even if romantic Korean dramas have set the bar way too high). People talk about positive experiences, so if you exceed their expectations, you might not even need to ask for the review.
Break down the customer experience into stages of before, during and after the activity. Then anticipate the best-case scenario for them at each stage.
Think about delivering value. What can you deliver to your customers that educate, entertains or inspires them? If you run a walking tour of Berlin, for example, don’t just show them a map of where the Wall used to run, but show them where it was, tell them about how the wall came into existence and the effect it had on people’s lives, heck break a piece of the wall off and give it to them as a souvenir (I’m only kidding, don’t break national heritage). Go above and beyond in terms of delivering the information. Share things on your social media feed that enriches your customers’ experience in your city or teaches them something about it they didn’t know. It’s all about delivering that little bit extra so she has that experience she couldn’t have from anyone else! I mean, them not she….
How many times have you gotten a date because a girl came up and told you she thinks you’re gorgeous? How many times have you gotten a date because you asked a girl out? Now reflect and compare.
That’s right, if you want it, ask for it! Ask for those 5-star reviews. Like we said earlier, asking them in an email is a good way to go about it. Be clear – you are asking them to leave you a review, so make it obvious what you are asking for and make it easy for them to do it. Nothing is more awkward than a date where someone thinks they’re going out as ‘just friends’.
Booking software such as Rezdy gives you the ability to schedule and automate follow-up emails to customers. Since the emails are automated and everyone who attends your activity received one, you get a steady stream of 5-star reviews. That’s my brother’s Tinder strategy, play the numbers game!
Try to have a review campaign going for each of your main online forums individually. Which review forum is most important to you? TripAdvisor? Viator? Facebook? If you’re asking for a review, ask your customers to leave it on the one most important to you. Every now and then take some time to focus on your other forums, but if you have one particular forum that receives clearly more traffic than all the others, you should focus mostly on that one. Remember, you can see as many people as you’d like to but you can only commit to one!
The biggest mistake to avoid when responding to your online reviews is not responding. Remember, the worst mistake you could make in life is not texting her back, as they say, Hell has no fury like a woman scorned. But actually, you need to start responding to all of your reviews. Here’s why:
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Read our blog on ‘5 ways to attract tourists to your tour or experience business’ here.