You don’t have to invest in tools, widgets or even pay for TripAdvisor reviews. Nor do you have to be the big player in your destination with massive volume. When it comes to collecting reviews and building your TripAdvisor reputation, your greatest asset is the relationship your team develops with your guests.
After a positive experience, guests are open, and happy, to spread the word. All you have to do is ask — consistently and eloquently, of course. In this article, I’ve outlined some useful tips to get you started:
Train your guides to ask for TripAdvisor reviews
The most memorable tours I’ve been on were the ones with the best guides. In my own experience, they’re the aspect of a tour I connect with on an emotional level.
Here’s an example of a tour guide that inspired me to leave a positive review:
After two years of being apart, my friends and I reunited by going kayaking together. During the tour, the guide showed us adorable seals and the kelp biome they inhabit. It was an incredible experience, and the tour guide was part of making that reunion special. So when she asked us to help her out by leaving a review, I remembered and made sure to remind my friends to do the same.
There are plenty of stories similar to this one, and I’m thrilled to share them with others. But sometimes I forget to write an online review because it’s not the first thing on my mind after a tour. That’s why I need a little reminder. And when I’m prompted by a tour guide I’ve built a relationship with, I’m more than happy to oblige.
With my kayaking example, the guide delivered a simple suggestion at the end. It went a little something like this:
“There are two ways I can keep doing what I love, which is kayaking in this harbour and showing people all the wildlife that lives here. One way is through tips. And the other is by writing a TripAdvisor review to help us spread the word. But if you can’t do either, just being out here with you today has been enough and I hope you had as much fun as I did.”
A well-practiced blurb is an effective way to encourage guests to leave reviews. Whether it’s done as they’re getting out of the boat or packing up their belongings, this friendly reminder is better done than not at all. You don’t receive what you don’t ask for.
If you don’t already put this method into practice, now is the time to start. Here are six steps you can follow to help your guides ask for reviews:
- Choose what tour review sites you’d like to encourage guests to use (i.e. TripAdvisor)
- Write your script. Ask your top guides for ideas
- Give your guides the script, but encourage them to make it personal. It will be most effective if they sound natural and unrehearsed
- Have them perform the script with you as the audience. Make sure to offer constructive comments balanced with positive feedback
- Try it out for a week. Ask your guides and customers for feedback. And make any necessary changes
- Continue to observe, track, and optimize
Give your tour guides an incentive
Consistency is key when asking customers for feedback. Good habits don’t appear out of thin air — developing one involves continuous repetition until the behaviour becomes normal. So if you want to get more reviews, then your guides should make a habit of asking.
To help your guides with consistency, it’s a good idea to give them an incentive. A reward — no matter how large or small — can motivate them to go the extra mile. One of the most brilliant ways I’ve seen this done is with a friendly competition.
Back to the kayaking example, the tour business itself runs an equipment giveaway for their guides. Points are granted every time a guide successfully gets a guest to leave a review. During their staff barbecue at the end of the season, the guide with the most points gets first dibs on the prizes.
So it’s a great idea to do the same for your staff. You can even get your guests in on the competition by having your guide mention it to them. That way, it’s also an incentive for guests to leave a review because they’ll likely want their guide to win.
As part of the script, your guide can add something along these lines:
“Look, we have a competition going between us guides here. We have a barbecue every September with an equipment giveaway, and if you leave a review with my name in it, I get the point. Whoever has the most points at the end gets the first pick of the prizes. There’s a guide here who has won the last three years in a row. And really, who needs three kayaks? So if you’d like for me to win, I’d really appreciate your review.”
We responded favourably to this suggestion because we had fun with the guide throughout the tour. And we were happy to help them out because we felt they were genuine.
However, there’s a fine line between sincerity and forwardness. A guest won’t receive the suggestion well if it’s a bold statement followed by an expectation — such as, “whichever one of us gets the most reviews will get a prize. So help me get a kayak.”
The phrasing should be light, friendly and clearly describes the competition. And it should always leave the guest feeling like leaving a review is their choice — one you’re grateful for them to make.
If you’re interested in creating a fun competition for your guides, here are the steps you can take:
- Choose an incentive. It can be a performance bonus or a social event with prizes relevant to your tour and activity business. This all depends on your brand and team culture. But a party is a great way to show your staff appreciation while having fun as a team
- If you need ideas for incentives, ask your guides :)
- Check everyone’s availability and select a date towards the end of the season. Make sure you don’t leave anyone out
- Block the date for tours. It wouldn’t be fair to make some staff members work while others enjoy the event
- Keep a tally of the points and share the competition update in weekly meetings — maybe even have a scoreboard in the office for the team to see whenever
- Try and get conversations going by noticing the reviews and praising staff members accordingly — like “great job on the last tour Sally! Your guests left a review saying how awesome it was to see TWO families of seal pups!”
- Thank everyone at the party for their exceptional efforts all season long
Keep in mind; the incentive method works best when it’s a friendly competition. You shouldn’t pressure your staff to get high scores because they could end up pressuring your guests to leave reviews. And that might hurt your tour business more than help.
Follow up with an automated reminder
Even if your tour experience was outstanding and your guests responded positively when asked to leave a review, it’s possible they’ll forget once they get home. Which is understandable — there are other exciting things they might want to do first — like post photos of your tour on social media.
That’s why it’s a great idea to send them a reminder in a thank-you email. The guest will read this email on their desktop, tablet or smartphone. Since they’re already on a device, it’s only a couple more steps to write an online review.
It’s easy to set up automated email notifications in your online booking system. And you can customize them to keep the message personal.
Just remember, an email doesn’t replace in-person interactions. It should only act as a reminder of their incredible tour experience — which a tour guide influences. If that’s not set in place first, an email reminder isn’t going to convince them otherwise.
For that reason, it’s essential you focus on creating an unforgettable experience for your guests. Good reviews only result from good experiences. So if you want to establish a TripAdvisor presence by increasing the number of reviews, you have to start by polishing up your front line. Any tool, gadget or gizmo can’t compare to the human connection.