Leisure industry giant, former ice cream van magnate and curmudgeonly dragon Duncan Bannatyne is spearheading a campaign against popular travel review site Trip Adviser for being ‘despicable and cowardly’ for refusing to remove a negative review of one of his hotels from their website.
Other hoteliers are involved in the campaign, but this complaint unfortunately shows that whilst he may be a popular and famous Twitterer, he doesn’t really understand social media.
No1. rule of social media – you don’t control your brand anymore.
In ye olde days companies could still exert a huge dominance over the perception of their brand through dominating expensive traditional media like TV and newspapers. Also, most complaints would have to go direct to the company, and would be kept in house. Those days are gone. Now anyone can have a fairly prominent opinion through the right online forum.
This might seem to change the game, but really doesn’t. All it means for businesses like hotels is that they have to work doubly hard in ensuring all members of staff and customer touch points are spot on, which they should have been doing all the time anyway, especially in the hotel trade where word of mouth has always been vital for new business.
No2. rule of social media – the google mantra – don’t be evil
I would wager that Duncan Bannatyne was perfectly happy when reviews of his hotels were largely positive – he’s only come wading in now when, presumably, some irate customers has really tore a strip off. Now, I’ve no doubt that this review may be false and written out of bitterness – this can happen – but the worst thing to do is to come wading in and shouting blue murder about it.
Trip Adviser offers right to reply to any post, so he should have tackled the case there, responding directly to any criticism with their side of the case. alternately, a charm attack of their own – offering this person some freebeies to make up for their bad experience – could have turned this negative into a positive (although you do have to be careful with this, otherwise everyone will be at it.
At hotels where I have stayed and had a lovely time, I’ve often felt more motivated to write a positive review if someone else has written a negative one, because I feel hard done by. Make the majority of customers happy, and make them love your brand, and like a swarm of wasps, they will circle around the brand when it comes under attack.
Trip Adviser users are not unthinking sheep
Regular users of Trip Adviser know that some people are just never happy. The nature of these reviews are polarised, as you are most motivated to review if you have a fantastic, or terrible time. However, most Trip Adviser users know this and take it into account. The number of times I’ve seen negative reviews because the reviewer didn’t like the mattress because it was too hard/soft is ridiculous – a mattress is a highly personal thing, so it’s silly to expect a hotel to keep a range of mattresses in case you don’t like it.
In the main, it’s the nature and number of negative reviews that counts. A few complaints about slow service at 9pm on a saturday night, or a loack of smiles on reception, is unlikely to impact on me, but things like disgusting bathrooms or paper thin walls or overlooking a nightclub and I’ll definately think twice.
Also, Trip Adviser reviewers don’t expect the earth – look at the top reviewed hotels in any given region, and it’s not just all the 5 star hotels – there’s often B&B’s and budget hotels too, because people take price and expectation into account.
Trip Adviser does take action against defamatory reviews
Yesterday on 5Live they were talking to the owner of Rudding Park Hotel in Harrogate, which has won a Trip Adviser award as a European favourite, so clearly does well with their customers, but even they had to deal with online attack. In their instance someone posted a negative review in English, and then reposted it in a different language each week. In this instance this is clearly a systematic attack, rather than a genuine complaint, and Trip Adviser eventually took down these posts. In a different instance, though, someone posted a review compaining about their drinks prices, saying they were more expensive than their local. The owner complained, but Trip Adviser backed the poster, as it was their genuine opinion.
Bannatyne thinks he’s doing the right thing by taking up this issue, but he isn’t. I neveer had an opinion of Bannatyne hotels before, but now I do, not because of the poor review, but because of Duncan Banatyne’s poor response.