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Tour operators: it’s time to manage guest feedback online

Posted on 3 August, 2017

As a tour operator, you sell “once in a lifetime” experiences to travellers, most of whom are often new guests. This makes your marketing strategies essential, and managing your online reviews even more so.

 

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People are far more likely to give feedback after experiencing something truly memorable – like seeing a lion kill from the back of a safari vehicle, taking in the majesty of the Scottish Highlands, or scuba diving over a pristine reef. If your money is where your mouth is, this is exactly what you’re giving them, and why it’s essential that you have a guest feedback system in place.

Guests paying for an experience (rather than a service) are far more likely to review it, good or bad. But if you’re selling an experience, how do you measure it? And how can you use your reviews to attract new business?

What ‘managing guest feedback’ is to tour operators

When choosing their next adventure, travellers go online to read reviews, blogs and magazine sites before narrowing down the search to individual company websites and offerings.

Not managing this space means that you are essentially letting your shop window go unchecked. It also means that you could be the last to hear about potential issues or drawbacks on parts of a tour.

The days of capturing testimonials after the tour via the ‘pen and paper’ approach are fading, and while it may work for some businesses, it’s not a very practical solution.

One of the biggest challenges facing tour operators is collecting guest feedback in real-time. The days of capturing testimonials after the tour via the ‘pen and paper’ approach are fading, and while it may work for some businesses, it’s not a very practical solution. Encouraging guests to post on review sites such as TripAdvisor can also prove difficult, and they need to be reminded to take that extra step.

Guests may see it as an inconvenience, and even after you’ve collected feedback, sifting through every submission to analyse the data is laborious. As a tour operator that facilitates new groups on a daily or weekly basis, you need to use this data immediately to capitalise on the positives and take action before small problems become big issues.

Having a feedback and reputation management solution in place allows you to get instant notifications when guests submit feedback, and helps you better communicate with them via tailor-made surveys and questionnaires. You can ask relevant, detailed questions and gather valuable insight into your guests’ needs, compared to the restricted data collection methods on other platforms. It’s imperative that you maximise your guest feedback and never let an opportunity go to waste.

Having a way to boost your reviews on TripAdvisor is also essential, and the right solution will make it easy for guests to post quickly and seamlessly to the platform without ever having to log in. This means fresh and relevant reviews that can help boost your ranking.

Craft surveys relevant to each tour

If the guest feedback software you’re using is worth its salt, you’ll be able to customise every survey and questionnaire that you send to guests. This is important, as it allows you to gather data specific to each tour you operate.

 

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A day after the tour, send an email to your guests thanking them for their support, and remind them that a business like yours thrives on word-of-mouth.

Mention that you’re always looking to improve, and their feedback helps you provide a better service. Include a link to your online survey and let them know it will only take a few minutes to fill out. As mentioned earlier, travellers paying for an experience are much more likely to review it.

Making your data work for you

So you have your feedback – now what? Make your data work for you. Now that you have all your guest feedback data collated for you in one dashboard online, you can use insights and trends to drastically improve your business.

According to our friends at TrekkSoft – who specialise in the tour and activity sector with an all-in-one booking engine solution – one of the things that can distinguish the best tour and activity companies from the competition is not just to provide a great tour, but to encourage guest feedback and use those insights to keep improving their offering.

TIP: Pride your company on personal relationships and service? Having this data doesn’t distance you from your guest. Instead, it will help you get to know them even better, giving you the perfect database to market to in order to keep growing that connection.

Operations

From more transparent staff management, to understanding where extra budget will make the most impact, being proactive about managing guest feedback can greatly enhance your operations. You’ll also be able to effectively measure the ROI of operational and expense decisions based on this data.

Additionally, a good feedback platform will allow you to:

  • See a high-level view of guest experience or service levels based on your guest feedback in one simple online dashboard
  • Keep track of the performance of guides and the separate components that make up your experience
  • Identify the strengths and weaknesses of your operation, allowing you to proactively ensure that you always offer your best services
  • Be aware of issues as soon as they arise with instant review notifications
  • Save you time by not having to check different review sites and OTAs for reviews

Attracting new business

It’s no secret that great reviews lead to more bookings. According to Tnooz, 95% of the respondents they interviewed said they read reviews for tour operators before making a booking.

 

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TripAdvisor calls the process of new travellers being inspired by the comments of previous guests online the ‘virtuous circle’ of guest feedback and proactively managing your reviews online is essential for getting that new business in. Here are just a handful of benefits:

  • Perform better on TripAdvisor by actively encouraging guests to leave you a review and making the process simple
  • Have access to social proof from your guests that you can use online to promote your business
  • Send more targeted marketing campaigns to past guests based on their feedback to ensure relevancy and increase ROI
  • Personalise your marketing and guest communication based on a guest’s own feedback
  • Know your guests better in order to personalise their experience and gain loyalty
  • Handle negative reviews quickly and effectively online
  • Keep track of your performance against your competitors

TripAdvisor also found that 65% of their users are more likely to book with a hotel that responds to reviews (versus a similar hotel that doesn't), and 85% of their users say a good management response to a poor review improves their impression of a hotel.

It wouldn’t take a great leap in logic to assume the same applies to tour operators. It’s vital that you monitor and respond to reviews on the major platforms like TripAdvisor, Google and Facebook, as they can have a drastic effect on your business.

Responding to good reviews might seem like a pointless task, but it encourages brand loyalty and turns guests into ambassadors for your brand. TripAdvisor found that 80% of its users think a business that responds to reviews cares more about its guests.

Responding to bad reviews is vital if you want to redeem yourself not only in the eyes of the disgruntled reviewer, but also potential guests reading them. It’s important to not become defensive when responding to bad reviews, but rather address a traveller’s concerns in a timely, respectful and heartfelt manner.

Take your tour company to the next level

Having a feedback and reputation management system in place is vital if you aim to take your tour operation to the next level. Having this data at your fingertips will allow you to capitalise on those positive moments, and implement sufficient damage control before negative feedback gets out of hand.

By making this data work for you, you’ll be able to drastically improve your operations and attract new business, allowing you to better focus on delivering those once in a lifetime moments.

Tags: Reputation, Feedback

Written by Stuart Dickinson

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