Magazine article Marketing

Opinion: The Marketing Society Forum - Are Customer Reviews for Hotels More Important Than a Star Rating?

Magazine article Marketing

Opinion: The Marketing Society Forum - Are Customer Reviews for Hotels More Important Than a Star Rating?

Article excerpt

Government plans to withdraw backing of the star-ratings scheme for hotels place establishments' reputations firmly in the hands of consumer-led reviews, a change that may hit smaller brands hard.

NO - ANDREW MCGUINNESS, PARTNER, BEATTIE MCGUINNESS BUNGAY

'TripAdvisor is a despicable and cowardly organisation which is bullying small hotel owners all over the UK', said Duncan Bannatyne in the press last week ...

A 'rogue review' comparing his absolutely exquisite Charlton House Spa Hotel to Fawlty Towers has forced the Dragon to breathe fire.

From a consumer perspective, though, the debate at the heart of the decision to review ratings is, how important is objectivity versus subjectivity?

Is the objective 'truth' of an inspector ticking things off on a list more useful than the rant of a disappointed customer from Cleethorpes? Witnessing the rise of TripAdvisor from our work with Thomson and First Choice, all evidence points to consumers valuing access to many sources of information.

A Thomson '5T' rating is a useful data point, as is a well-written review by someone who sounds a bit like you. People aren't daft: they can assess different information on its merits before reaching their own conclusion. They're also not daft enough to miss a cost-cutting measure when they see one.

YES - CHRISTIAN CULL, COMMUNICATIONS DIRECTOR, TUI UK

Customer reviews win every time, but they need context. We use ratings for two reasons: they help customers make an initial distinction between hotels; and they offer a reassurance of consistency within each rating itself.

Beyond that, though, it's what customers think that takes over. That's why we have TripAdvisor on our websites: it's out there, and people use it anyway, so let's make it easier for them.

We keep a sense of proportion because our customers do, too. A bad review is not the end of the world, no matter what Duncan Bannatyne might think.

Marketers aren't the only ones who know you're more likely to get a negative posting than a positive one. Real people know it, too - and they can spot extremist and unbalanced views a mile off.

So, customers balance the good comments with the bad, and make a choice If the bad outweighs the good, look to your product, not the rating Listen to the message, accept it, respond and move on.

NO - CHRIS MACDONALD, CHIEF EXECUTIVE, MCCANN LONDON

While sites like TripAdvisor are undoubtedly a great tool for the modern tourist, personally, I'd be extremely wary of booking a hotel based on a ratings system that is generated by consumers alone. …

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