TripAdvisor is an example to us all

Try and think of a online consumer-facing company you have dealt with recently that has recently impressed you.   I can name a few - Amazon, Deliverance and Ocado just for starters.  I also regularly have pleasant experiences online with companies like British Airways, EasyJet, Boden, and M&S...  However almost without exception the impressive ones are trying to sell you something, and it's in their interest to make things simple and easy for you - and indeed pleasant.  No surprises there then - and anyway we all know they are taking advice from the experts...

However, one company that has really surprised me in the last few weeks has been TripAdvisor.  I've looked at TripAdvisor reviews for many years, as most of us do.  We read the reviews - believing some and taking others with a pinch of salt - but finding it a useful tool to somewhat gauge what a place we might visit may be like.  I've come away from enjoyable holidays before and meant to write a positive review, and of course never gotten round to it  - which only served to compound the general feeling (and what travel agents always say) that most people who bother to write on TripAdvisor tend to have had a bad experience and so shouldn't be taken too seriously.

Well my family had a bad experience recently - our two week summer holiday was extremely disappointing.  I vowed to write it all up on TripAdvisor when I got home, and I even made notes while I was out there so that I wouldn't forget the important details.  And I guess that's the point - TripAdvisor may be skewed towards people who feel strongly because they've had a bad time - but if they hadn't had a bad time there wouldn't be bad reviews which probably means the place / restaurant / hotel is pretty darned good since no one needs to complain!

Anyway, I duly wrote up my reviews on TripAdvisor a couple of days after returning to the UK.  And then a few interesting things started to happen.  My first review was uploaded within a few hours.  I shared it everywhere I could - Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, email...  My second review, however, had included some swear words with "****" in their place (they were, in fact, song lyrics, not just me sounding off!!) - and TripAdvisor held back.  They are clear in their advice that they read all reviews before posting and reserve the right not to publish.  About a week later the review was published, with a [..] instead of the "***" which was obviously more acceptable.  I feel so comforted that they really are reading the reviews - it's silly really but I didn't believe it...

Next thing I know, TripAdvisor started "rewarding" me for my reviews.  Votes, badges and the like.  It makes you feel good, that people are listening to you and that your views count for something.   

And then, TripAdvisor started wanting to post me gifts!  I think I've got a luggage tag and a magnet in the post to me at the moment.  Cheap, nothing gifts but it's amazing the difference it makes. 

So I wrote another review.  A positive one this time - much shorter and less time consuming - about the hotel we went to last year.  And then I get an email telling me that 2,682 people have read my reviews in the last week.  I was bowled over!  Not just that so many people had clicked on my reviews, but that TripAdvisor bothered to tell me...

So TripAdvisor has got me!  Now I'm not just writing negative reviews, I'm thinking about what positive reviews I can write.   I am a loyal fan and will tell everyone I can. I just think it's so clever.  It may be obvious, but they do it so well.  They grab hold of people who start to write reviews, they keep in touch, they reward them with cyber gifts, and then they reward them with real life gifts.

A woman I met on holiday told me that she always emails the manager of hotels she is going to stay in beforehand and tells them that she is associated with TripAdvisor - and she regularly gets upgrades and the like.  Well I genuinely feel like I am associated with TripAdvisor now and am certainly going to do the same!

Well done TripAdvisor, my goodness you know what you are doing.  I'll be writing again, and again, and again....