We were shocked last week (Wednesday 19th November 2014) to read@BenQuinn75 piece in The Guardian that a Blackpool #hotel was claimed to have “fined” a couple £100 for a bad review on #TripAdvisor, more specifically that this was alleged to be a hotel policy to prevent “bad” reviews.
The underlying psychology of such a policy may give consumers some indication of what they may be likely to experience. If any business has to threaten customers with fines for expressing their common law and statutory rights to free speech, then there is a strong basis for authorities to investigate and for anyone else to give it a wide berth.
But this example begs the question, why do some hotels fear customer reviews? Why does any business, for that matter?
If feedback is legitimate, constructive, and a customer has taken the time to provide it, should that not be viewed as a great opportunity to engage with the customer, listen and use the opportunity to improve? We’ve seen many case studies in the hotel industry where a bad customer experience was used to create trust and customer loyalty, significantly increasing customer lifetime value (CLTV) through excellent customer relationship management and continuous improvement. Arguably, a business learns many more valuable lessons through negative customer responses than simply positive feedback.
Forcing consumers to only provide feedback if it is positive undermines the whole concept of reviewing and will significantly decrease engagement. Putting aside the ethical issues, it is entirely self-defeating. Would you trust a site where all suppliers had only positive ratings? It wouldn’t be very informative and it would not help you with your purchasing decisions. Whilst our membership is entirely in the B2B space, the theory and psychology of reviews is the same, and great importance is attributed to sharing feedback and experiences to aid purchasing decisions. Our hotel and venue partners clearly see the benefits of customer reviews and employ digital marketing experts who engage with customers around the clock through multiple channels. Reviews have never been a more powerful opportunity for hotels to learn, engage, improve, and build customer loyalty.
We would be very interested in Trip Advisors’ view of such practices as it completely undermines the integrity of what they have strived so hard to achieve. In their early days, there was much skepticism about how hotels went about gaining reviews, but Trip Advisor have worked very hard on the validity and integrity of reviews and I know many hoteliers – as well as consumers – now highly respect and regard the system.