Automate Your Customer Reviews with the Right Customer Reviews Platform
Customer reviews are essential for any adventure tourism brand. Quality reviews raise trust in your brand, support SEO, and are great content for all your marketing channels. This form of social proof is used by the vast majority of customers (up to 95%, according to this consumer study on the role of reviews in the travel planning process) as a key step in their purchasing decision process. Getting reviews (and keeping up with responding to them) can be an overwhelming process.
Adventure brands that implement a customer review system that automates collecting, filtering, displaying reviews (per trip and throughout website), as well as reaches ALL customers, not just your group organizer/buyer – has a distinct competitive advantage. Once set up, you can go paddle or bike or create new tourism products, while your review platform does the heavy lifting to highlight the best of your biz!
How the Review Collection and Display Process Works
- Your customer purchases a product, and/or fills out a waiver form and takes an adventure trip.
- Your customer’s data (typically first and last name, email address, mobile phone number, and specific item/trip purchased) gets imported into a review tool. (This can be automatic or manual, depending on your platform and configuration and how you collect your customer data. Using your waiver data will ensure you capture all customers, not just the person who made the reservation.)
- This tool pushes out a company-branded email and/or text with a review request after a predetermined number of days from purchase (or from when you manually upload the customer list, depending on which review tool you choose and how much automation you set up).
- The tool sends the first review request, and then follow-up reminder requests, until the customer completes a review or times out. We recommend setting up three request/reminder messages. Fewer might mean the customer could unintentionally forget about the request, and more might mean they get annoyed with your company.
- Once a review is submitted, anything 3, 4, or 5 stars and above will be displayed on your website. (Note – You will set the number of stars for your display filter. We have seen some brands allow 3 star reviews to show. We aren’t so keen on that. We recommend 4 star and above for the actual reviews that come through to your site. Remember, visitors can always go to your third party review channel (Google, Trip Advisor, etc.) and see all your reviews there. Better for you to tightly control what reviews show on your own website.
- Anything below 3 or 4 stars gets an automated email response from your company with the next steps toward resolving the issue, and the review does not continue to step 7.
- The review will be displayed in the location(s) you predetermine. Typically, there is a most recent reviews widget on the home page, an internal page of all trip reviews, and the specific product page where that specific review is featured.
What is an Internal Customer Review Compared to a Third Party Customer Review?
Internal Reviews – You Control on Your Website
An internal review is a review that your brand asks your customer to write and send directly back to your company. Internal reviews are the only kind of review that can be used with review schema markup to create the stars in your organic search results for that product listing (not to be confused with ads). This is an ever-changing landscape for Google.
Third Party Reviews – Others Control on Their Websites
A third-party review is a review that is written on a separate channel (aka third-party) not owned by your brand – as in Google My Business, Trip Advisor, Facebook, Yelp, etc. For example, your brand asks the customer for a google review and provides the link to your company’s Google My Business (formerly Google Places) listing.
Collection-Only Tools vs End-to End-Review Platforms – What’s the Difference?
- Collection-only tools will only gather existing third-party reviews into their platform and help you display them on your website. They do not send out requests to your customers to write new reviews.
- End-to-end review platforms support the entire review process. They help you request, collect, and display reviews on your site. Depending on what you pay for, you can use email and SMS to send customer review requests. Given the mobile world we live in, adding SMS capabilities will give you a higher review response rate. Pricing is usually by location, not by the company, if you have multiple business locations (like on Google My Business and TripAdvisor).
Note: You probably already have a way to request reviews through your reservation system. You can integrate your reservation system into a review platform to automate the entire process. We indicate what each review tool does, in our list below. Ideally, you want to choose the process that works best for your business, your current operations, and your budget.
Free Review Collection Tools – Pros and Cons
Before we dig into the specifics, a quick note: there are free versions of review automation services, but, we don’t typically recommend them. With free programs, you aren’t able to control which reviews show up on your website. The ability to filter out negative or weak reviews is very important to a successful review process for your company. We didn’t assess free customer review resources, for that reason.
We also do not recommend using a tool that pulls in only one review channel, for example – Google reviews – unless you have a really strong reason. Most adventure brands have reviews on many third-party sources, in addition to internal reviews: Facebook, Google, TripAdvisor, Yelp, etc. You want to find a tool that pulls in third-party review sites like these, as this is important to visitors for credibility. There could be a situation in a highly competitive, local market where your Google reviews truly impact an outsized share of your business. In that case, you might want to focus on Google reviews primarily. You will know – you are the rockstar of your business.