On our travels and particularly when we have the opportunity to speak with the Tourism and Hospitality Industry, there is always great interest around TripAdvisor (TA). While there is a growing acceptance that TA has become a fact of life in the industry, it is often a grudging acceptance.
A new study entitled ‘The Reliability of User Generated Hotel Reviews’ sheds some additional insight into this debate.
Key points made in the study are as follows:
– With the growing popularity of online review sites, attacks on their authenticity and trustworthiness have increased. TripAdvisor, in particular, has been criticized for allowing reviews to be posted by anyone about any hotel, without needing supporting evidence
– However, if online review sites were both unreliable and mistrusted, they would quickly become irrelevant. Even if online review sites were trusted by consumers but were significantly unreliable, they would not provide any value to customers and would quickly lose their audience
– A comparison of TA reviews with the Market Metrix Hospitality Index (MMHI), a well-known hotel customer satisfaction panel in operation since 2001, showed very consistent results based on a sample of 67 hotels examined over a 12 month period
– The main conclusion of the study is that online reviews for a particular hotel are indeed a reliable measure of average customer satisfaction with that hotel, given adequate sample size. This provides empirical support for the consumer trust shown in established review sites such as TA
– Based on the results of the study, it is concluded that TA is a reliable source for obtaining customer satisfaction information for a given hotel. As a consequence, User Generated Content will increasingly reduce the impact of traditional marketing and sales efforts. Hotels should focus on strategies to enhance the customer experience and ultimately their scores on hotel review sites.
As a semi-academic exercise, this type of research has value and as converts of all things crowdsourced and user-generated, confirms what we already know. Whether it allays the fears of many in the tourism and hospitality industry remains to be seen.
The key issue here is trust which is the antidote to fear. But trust is in short supply. It is not established through reading a document or being told a “fact”. It is an emotion and comes from hands on use and seeing success over time. Trust is earned and for organisations wishing to improve their TA rankings, it involves setting relevant and realistic targets for the channel and doing the right things most of the time.
As usual, comments and feedback are very welcome – from those using TA as a customer and from the industry itself. What has your experience been?
While the focus of this article has been TA and the hospitality industry, the issues raised are relevant to any review or recommendation site regardless of industry.
Alan, Jim, Vincent