There has been a lot said about online reviews in recent months. Some studies suggest that more than half would be fake either left by consumers that haven’t used the product or paid by business themselves trying to better their ratings.
I always take online reviews with a grain of salt, trying to figure out the ones that are for real. It doesn’t help either that businesses can “manage” their reviews on TripAdvisor and try to suppress (read delete) the negative ones.
Here’s what I have learned about the tactics that hotels use:
1. Verify Your Review Contribution
Someone at the hotel has flagged your review to include inappropriate language. You must click the link within 48 hours for someone at the TripAdvisor to have a look. If you don’t, the review is deleted.
2. Is This Your Review?
When there is absolutely nothing even strictly wrong with the language used, the hotel can ask the TripAdvisor to review that you yourself have left it. Again, you need to click the link within a short period, or the review is deleted.
I would assume that hotels can suppress more than half of the critical reviews by utilizing these two methods. How many will click these links in time?
3. Action Requested
Once you have clicked the link and someone at the TripAdvisor (their outsourced employees sifting through reviews in some windowless room) have had a look at it and decided that it needs to be changed, you will receive another email with a request to improve the content.
Isn’t it surprising that you never receive these action requests for positive reviews with a four or five-star ratings? It is usually hotels that are failing (could be some prominent ones too, such as the Savoy in London) that try to keep their scores up artificially.
I believe in leaving both critical and positive reviews so that other travellers can have realistic expectations when they make their decision where to stay. Hotels can likely have a short term gain by faking the reviews, but this is not a recipe for long term success.
When I check hotel reviews, I usually choose the ones giving 1 – 3 stars to see if there is a continuous issue that many reviewers have experienced. You often see terrible five-star reviews left by someone with no history naming hotel employees. It is clear that they likely have an internal “competition” who gets the most mentions, and staff members are leaving these for each other or incentivize guests to do them.
I have always believed that businesses learn the most from critical reviews. How otherwise could they learn where their pitfalls are? I believe too that pointing out issues helps the businesses to change or better communicate guests/customers what they can expect.