Opinion: Agents must not fear honest feedback

Opinion: Agents must not fear honest feedback

Adopting customer reviews helps to make you a trusted brand, writes Victoria Sanders, managing director of Teletext Holidays.

As regular readers will know, I love a bit of online shopping. From the weekly groceries to presents for my nieces and nephews, rarely a week goes by without something going in my virtual basket.

Whether I’m shopping on eBay or The White Company, I always tend to take a look at the customer reviews to see what others who bought the same product thought of it.

Like many other shoppers, I value any website that is prepared to publish honest feedback, warts and all, from customers.

The travel industry is well ahead when it comes to customer reviews and star ratings. Love it or hate it, TripAdvisor is a huge influencer of travel purchases.

But even before the days of TripAdvisor, Thomson launched its own ‘tell it like it is’ policy.

Some 10 years or so ago it started publishing the results of its customer satisfaction questionnaires in its brochures.

At the time it was a huge step forward for an industry often accused of publishing overly glossy hotel images and exaggeratedly dreamy holidays.

It’s never easy reading customer complaints. But I do think that live customer reviews allow you to monitor and resolve any niggles customers may have on the spot.

These days there’s no doubt that many have become sceptical about TripAdvisor. So how do you get a more measured opinion?

A few months ago I met up with Feefo, the independent feedback service. It collects genuine customer reviews, both positive and negative.

Outside the travel industry Feefo has clients such as Fat Face and Notonthehighstreet.com, and its system is brilliantly simple.

We’ve just signed a deal with them ourselves, so all our suppliers will be rated, both in terms of pre-travel customer service and the holiday itself once they’re back.

I’d like to see more travel retailers adopting customer reviews and using them proactively: the positive comments to convert sales, the negative ones to improve service levels and settle disputes quickly.

For online businesses, they are a powerful way to increase natural search.

Travel agents should not fear publishing honest feedback. In my mind it goes hand in hand with being a trusted brand.

Savvy consumers these days want to know what other holidaymakers thought of the holiday. So I’d suggest that agents embrace it and use it, learn from it and use it to help sell.

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