By Charles Duncombe, marketing director of Holidays Please
Giving customers the power to review the service they have received is nothing new. TripAdvisor has been doing it for nearly 13 years and has woven itself into the holiday buying process for millions of consumers.
Up until recently hotels rather than the holiday companies have been the main focus for the customer’s opinion when travelling.
Hotel fortunes have been won and lost on whether a review was a pat on the back or a slap in the face.
However, this is now changing as Google has started to publish independent reviews of the holiday company that sold the hotel rather than just the hotel itself.
These reviews appear both on its pay per click adverts and now in some of its natural search results.
These two areas can be a significant part of a holiday company’s marketing exposure and it is a sobering thought that the people who were thinking of visiting you will first see your customer service rating.
As a company you don’t get a choice about whether your reviews are shown. If enough people have left feedback on trusted review websites then your star rating will be collated by Google and published.
What will it mean for holiday companies?
Obviously those that have delivered poor service or which have been unlucky with a few bad reviews could easily find their Google click-through rates drop dramatically.
As customer service often cannot be turned around overnight it probably pays to address any issues sooner rather than later. You may just be one review away from getting a few stars on Google’s walk of fame... or shame.
However, the issue is likely to go deeper than this and adversely affect a number of holiday companies through no fault of their own.
I don’t mean companies that get the odd unlucky bad review, but those who by the very nature of the holidays they sell are likely to get lower ratings than others.
For example it’s not hard to imagine that if you sell 2-3 star hotels versus 4-5 star you may find that customers have more to grumble about.
Even if you provide great customer service and excellent value, then surely you are going to get better reviews if you are sending them to a 5 star hotel rather than 3 star?
And if you do get a bad review, does the luxury holiday company have a little bit more margin to work with in order to correct the problem before it turns into a bad review?
Or, conversely, might the luxury customer have much higher standards and therefore be more inclined to complain if the slightest thing goes wrong?
Time will tell who the winners and losers are, but what is certain is that the companies who address their customer service issues now are likely to be the ones who, at least in the short term, will benefit the most.
Google’s eagle eye is on us all, and when this is the case in my experience it always pays to look your best.