Hotels, restaurants and consumers: what to look for on review websites

Have you ever gotten mad after a hotel stay and, in the heat of the moment, dashed off a nasty review on TripAdvisor or Yelp? I was talking to some friends about this recently, and it seems the natural human reaction is to give feedback after a negative experience and to stay relatively silent when all has gone well.

Almost all of us have been there.

After all, there’s nothing quite like the feeling that your hard-earned cash has been sunk into an unsatisfying experience to get the blood boiling. When you get bad service or have a room that just doesn’t measure up – especially if you’ve spent hundreds (or even thousands) of bucks on your hotel stay, meal or flight – you need an outlet for your disappointment or anger. You may feel like you’re doing a service to the next traveler who’s thinking about following in your footsteps.
Well, it’s this situation that’s hit the news recently, with hotels and restaurants planning to sue TripAdvisor over the reviews left by its users. In Detroit, according to Slate, 24grille, a Detroit restaurant, tried to go after TripAdvisor over one anonymous comment, before giving up:

The suit went nowhere, as 24grille’s lawyers realized that the Communications Decency Act of 1996 gives sites like TripAdvisor immunity from being held liable for user comments, and they dropped the claim. (TripAdvisor, which screens reviews and reserves the right to remove any it deems dubious, did eventually delete the comment in question.)

At stake for all sectors of the hospitality industry is reputation, which comprises a large part of their brands. And, let’s be realistic: brand is what makes the sale in this industry. So, it pays to protect it at all costs … but in the right way.

The Slate article ponders the effectiveness of litigation, with the author “convinced these lawsuits are a terrible idea,” because it won’t provide sufficient brand or financial performance protection. Rather, the smarter move is to look for patterns to see if there are any ongoing or systemic problems that need to be addressed.

This makes perfect sense.

When I read a review – on Yelp, TripAdvisor or even from a professional critic – I take the extremes with a grain of salt. Further, I take the time to look at all the available feedback. One bad experience can be caused by anything from a bad day for the service provider (yes, entire companies can have bad days) to unrealistic expectations on the part of the reviewer. I’ve talked to a number of hospitality consumers who approach reviews with the same care and skepticism.

This thinking would work for hotels and restaurants, as well. Slate continues:

When we scan reviews online, we aren’t looking for gothchas-outlandish, one-off tales of awful experiences. Instead, we look for patterns. We make judgments based on the themes that emerge from many reviews, not from the crazy charges that appear in one or two. As such, there’s an obvious way for businesses to improve their online standings. Rather than trying to suppress a few negative reviews, they ought to work like mad to offer the kind of service that inspires a whole bunch of positive reviews.

When there is something worth noting, hotels and restaurants would be wise to pay attention. TripAdvisor, Yelp and other user-contributed review sites represent another channel by which guests can provide feedback, and ignoring them is tantamount to turning your back while a customer – disgruntled or not – is speaking.

The goal, therefore, is to sift through the anger and find the information that really matters – for management and guests. Look for trends, and use that to make a decision.

[photo by espensorvik via Flickr]

Hotel kicks out British couple after they allegedly write negative review on TripAdvisor

A lesson to all the amateur hotel reviewers out there: wait until you get home to slam the place where you’ve just stayed.

A vacationing British couple learned this the hard way when the manager of their hotel called the police to ask the couple to leave after the couple allegedly wrote a negative review of the hotel on TripAdvisor. Adrian Healey and his girlfriend had been staying at the Golden Beach Hotel in the English town of Blackpool for two days when the hotel’s manager allegedly barged into their room, accused them of slamming the hotel on TripAdvisor, and told them to leave. The police showed up shortly after.

“We asked for a refund but the hotel refused,” said Healey. “I think it is shocking and people need to know about this.”

“No offence had been committed by the couple, but the manager had requested them to leave the property,” according to the police. “We advised the couple how to go about getting a refund. This is a civil matter.”

Unsurprisingly, the hotel’s reviews on TripAdvisor are, shall we say, “mixed.” Don’t expect them to get any better after this episode.

More here.

[Image Credit:]

TripAdvisor mobile app lands in the Nokia Ovi app store

TripAdvisor just announced the availability of a new app for Nokia touchscreen phones. The new app provides a familiar interface for mobile access to TripAdvisor reviews.

In the app, you’ll find reviews for hotels, restaurants, attractions and more, and just like in the iPhone version, you also get easy access to cheap airfares.

The app can be found in the Nokia Ovi app store, accessible on your device or though the Ovi web storefront. The app is free of charge, but obviously requires a data connection.

In addition to a dedicated Ovi app, TripAdvisor also announced integration with Ovi maps, making it easier to get walking and driving directions to any of the content provided by TripAdvisor. This new feature is being rolled out globally, and should be available within a month.

This new Nokia app marks the fourth platform supported by TripAdvisor – previous versions were available for the iPhone, Palm Pre and Android.

To learn more about the new Nokia TripAdvisor app, check out the brilliant TripAdvisor blog.

New TripAdvisor iPhone app makes finding reviews on the go a lot easier

There is no denying that TripAdvisor has become one of the go-to sources of hotel, restaurant and attraction reviews. So, if you have an iPhone (or iPod), check out the newest TripAdvisor app and get your reviews on the go.

The app is very easy to use, and makes finding reviews a beeze – based upon your location, or a manually entered location.

Best of all – you can write your own reviews right on your device, which means you no longer have to wait till you get home so post some praise (or a complaint).

Another handy feature inside the new app is a flight finder – obviously not the first on the iPhone, but I am always happy to see an app go beyond its main purpose. Flight information comes from a variety of sources – including Travelocity, Expedia and Vayama, best of all, the booking process stays right inside the TripAdvisor app.

You’ll find the new (free) app in the App store. A similar version is also available for the Palm Pre, and an Android version is “coming soon”.


SeatGuru adds search by flight number and route

The ever-awesome just made life for travelers a whole lot easier. In the past, you’d need to look up your plane type before heading to SeatGuru – but now you can simply enter your flight number or route, and the Guru will instantly present the seat map for your flight.

If you have never used SeatGuru, you’ve probably been stuck in a less-than-desirable seat in the past (or on an airline without pre-assigned seating). The site displays 706 graphical seat maps for 98 different airlines – and each map also provides feedback on the quality of the seat, whether there are downsides (or upsides) to a specific seat and what kind of amenities are available, including the location of power outlets, bassinets and more.

So, next time you are able to pick a seat on your flight, head on over to SeatGuru for their expert advise on the best seat for your trip.