Is it important to pay attention to Online Reviews?

Written by @Lan 

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When was the last time you received an email requesting for your honest thoughts on using a product or service? Did you end up filling in the details of your experience or you simply delete that email, perhaps marking it as spam? Why on earth that online reviews are so important for you to pay attention to? It will not give you a big reward after filling in the details but some will still do it. Why?

The Catalyst

We took a break from blogging and social media tasks for a week or so as our hands were tied with this new module or curriculum (Syllabus if you insist) that we had to through, page by page.

It was a mandatory requirement to enable us to become ‘external auditors’ for one famous brand in the Hospitality Industry.

We had to prepare ourselves with so many ‘possible situation’ and how to handle it without making staff of a hotel realize us as their ‘auditors’.

It was a lengthy module and for sure a tiring process that by the end of the course we both spent 2 nights at a resort, with high hope; getting some rest.

We did but in less than 24 hours after checking out, I received an email from the resort, requesting both of us to pen our thoughts in regard to our 2 nights experience, with text and images in TripAdvisor.

Did we? We won’t be rewarded anyway for that effort but guess what, we did write.

What was the motivation? We wrote not only in TripAdvisor but filled in the questionnaire sent by the resort as well writing a personal letter to the General Manager telling him about one particular outstanding staff, not to mention a different letter to that said staff, thanking her for all the great things.

Then, since we booked the room via a third party booking engine, we took time writing a lengthy review about our experience.

Were we rewarded? No. Not even a discount for the next visit. Then, are we complaining now? Certainly not.

We did all the reviews and feedback, honestly, from the bottom of our heart in order to create an awareness, in the sense that we hope to see more players in the hospitality industry pays attention to the smallest details in reviews by travellers.

We also hope to outline certain things in details for the benefit of future customers/visitors.

TripAdvisor for example ably to help travellers in choosing the best hotels. attractions or restaurants, as reviews from the community outline the pros and cons of establishments.

Recent reviews keep popping out and that, in a very unique way, gives first impression of a certain product or service. It helps travellers to eliminate brands that they think not worth visiting based on the reviews from the community.

Yes, we are bloggers. We are also freelance writers for many platforms, in order to make ends meet. It pays the bills, the food on the table and so on. We play hidden role as external auditors for certain brands and it pays well.

We at times had to write great things about certain brands as they paid us. That is our job. We have to. However, when it comes to spontaneous reviews, we will write it as honest as we can.

Motivation

Enhancing day job skills 

Penning our lengthy thoughts help us as external auditors to ‘present’ objective reports, as seen and experienced, putting aside emotion, prejudice and bad assumption. Giving our honest thoughts in online reviews does train us pay attention to the smallest details.

When we were at the resort, we noticed that the staff at the restaurant was very efficient in their job but lacked of jovial facial expression. They were polite and attentive but were very robotic.

A staff managed to ‘mentioned’ all the main course options (All 7) complete with detailed description! Colour me impressed!

Dude, the menu was there on the table and let us read it. This is a casual restaurant and not of fine-dining. Smile and just say “Guys, I will be back whenever you are ready with the selection.”

I sensed that he was trying to impress us with his ability to memorize details, yes we’re impressed. Thank you but it will help if you do things casually.

In a resort, we need staff that are friendly, jovial and with sense of humor; not being so robotic. We’re in resort to relax and not to be so formal; the last thing we need is to deal with protocol while having Nasi Goreng!

Yes, we expect formal service in fine-dining restaurants but not here at the all-day dining outlet. Not that we’re blaming this staff. He was attentive, informative and tried to be helpful. Perhaps, the training given by the management was not spot on.

And after all that formal ‘presentation’, our Nasi Goreng was brought to our table minus the sunny side, fork and spoon, the waiter simply left. I had to flag staff, raising my hand to attract attention but to no avail. Oh well, ‘stealing’ fork and spoon from vacant neighboring table will not kill me so I did it.

It’s just that we don’t know how to sneak into the kitchen and ‘steal’ or ‘cook’ our own Sunny Side. Good news and bad news. Sunny side was finally served. Bad news, it came after we emptied both plates.

The staff did proudly ‘announced’.. Nasi Goreng Istimewa (Special Fried Rice) is served with Fried Chicken Wings and Sunny Side Up accompanied with Chef’s Homemade Sambal. Oh well, no Sunny Side Up on both plates. It came a little too late.

We ‘stored’ all the information in our ‘brain’ and objectively reported the incident in the reviews and feedback without mentioning names, condemning individuals or trying to be the ‘management’. We reported it complete with exact time and date so that it will help the management to ‘track’ the recordings in CCTV.

We want them to know that at certain times, robotic manner is completely unnecessary. We want them to know that no matter how busy staff are, placing fork, spoon or whatever needed and ordered by diners is crucial especially when people are paying average USD200 for a standard room.

We observe all the time and such observation enhances our skill in paying attention to little details. We try to eliminate prejudice or assumption on individuals that serves us. He or she might just be having a bad day.

We do not yell or speak-up in angry tone but instead we will put hands up and try to get attention if there is something wrong so that someone will come to address the issue.

We learn how to control our emotions and pen dissatisfaction through proper channel(s). It helps us to polish our skills at work and become much better external auditors.

Helping travellers

Writing reviews in TripAdvisor for example enable us to honestly assist future travellers, customers or visitors by outlining the pros and cons. Together with other community members, we present our own thoughts of the great, good, average, bad and unacceptable values of a certain establishment.

We’re not rewarded in any form but it is amazing to being able to help travellers decide whether to visit a certain place.

As of July 2018, we helped 108,995 TripAdvisor readers already. We posted 1736 images to help readers to visualize our 94 reviews. Without thinking of rewards, we hope that our reviews ably to at least make readers ponder for a while and make up their mind by comparing reviews from other community members.

We ourselves refer to Online Reviews all the time before deciding which places are best for dining, visit or few nights stay.

It is about give and take. It is about sharing honest thoughts. It is about helping each other. As in the case of the resort that we recently visited, we gave 4 stars and fair review, presenting the pros and cons; objectively without being bias.

We mentioned that ‘incident’ of that Sunny Side, fork and spoon but we did also include things that we like about the room, the facilities and some exceptional, outstanding staff. We did not curse anyone in regard to the Sunny Side, fork and spoon.

We hope potential customers or visitors are able to notice that nothing is perfect in this world. Mistakes are norm but lesson must be learned and how we as customers need to be proactive in voicing out our opinions so that those in the management side will be able to improve their weaknesses.

We regard harsh criticisms as unnecessary but instead use proper channels to relay thoughts.

Such action, not only help the owners and management teams of establishments to improve but at the same time educating consumers on the importance of using proper channels to outline pros and cons in the most polite way.

When travellers, customers or future visitors read objective reviews, they will be able to put aside prejudice thoughts by weighing in pros and cons.

They will be able to make the right decision, straight away and ably to anticipate possibilities; should they come to a place with plenty cons. They are aware of certain things and might be ready to avoid a particular section or be prepared to experience some inconvenience but still enjoying the great things about other aspects.

For example, we visited another resort 2 years ago. It was an amazing experience particularly for the view. However, there was a problem. The resort is just too far from any outside eateries and the restaurant’s operation hours was only until 10pm. No room service whatsoever after 10pm.

In online reviews, we told readers that the resort has a view to die for. We highly recommend the resort to readers BUT we warned them about the possibility of getting no food after 10pm.

Some people emailed us for clarification and we confirmed that while it is a must-visit resort, be prepared to spend 1 hour just to drive to the nearest eateries (after 10pm) or at least pack some food in the luggage.

This particular visitors ‘listened’ to what we said and some time later they emailed us, thanking us for recommending the resort and warned them about the restaurant’s operation hours.

Having getting some feedback, we sent an email to the management of the resort and told them about such dining inconvenience. Months later, a reader PMed us and told us that we were wrong about the operation hours. The restaurant serves food until 2 in the morning followed by 24 hours room-service. So we were wrong or did we?

To acknowledge ‘the best’

Once in a blue moon, we as travellers or customers or visitors will notice some ‘stars’; outstanding staff that deserves all the credit and praise. We were touched by such sincerity, honesty and attention given by ‘the asset of the property’ we have visited.

We felt that it’s appropriate to let the whole world to know that such staff still exist and we want to ensure that he or she will be rewarded by the management.

The most right way to do it is by writing directly in online reviews, mention his or her name, what they did to please you and of course the name of his or her station.

Emphasize it once again in the feedback meant for the manager or management team. By doing this, you are about to somehow ‘change’ his or her fate as there might be some ‘reward’ in either promotion or at least being named as staff of the month.

In one particular experience, I misplaced my wallet. I simply let it on the vacant seat of our dining table and totally forgot about it when exiting. Paying for the food was done by simply signing the bill to the room and that’s how I forgot about my wallet.

We went out of the hotel for sightseeing and came back in the evening. Joe was paying for all the expenses so I didn’t have the need to get my wallet in the backpack (So I thought).

It was during upon arrival at the hotel that I realized my wallet’s missing. I thought I must have left it in the room and so I hurriedly went to the room to found that my wallet’s on the bed with a note ..‘Dear, please don’t leave me ever again’ followed by a smiley and the name of the waiter who found it plus a brief explanation by the Hotel’s General Manager.

I immediately wrote a lengthy thank you letters; to the waiter, the security team, the management, the General Manager and the owner of the hotel, sent via email with all CCed.

There was a meet-up session in the morning and as the waiter refused to accept monetary reward for his honesty, we gave him a hug. A group hug. I made sure that I mentioned the waiter’s name in my online reviews, his very full name.

In another visit to a different hotel, the General Manager was doing her round and somehow we found ourselves being politely greeted; in a friendly manner, with her far from being formal as if we’re mates.

She joined us for a while during breakfast and ask one simple but meaningful question…”What are the things that you have seen and experienced that can be improved by us?”. 

We are quite vocal when it comes to giving opinion (if invited to do so) and we told her all the little things that we wish to see some improvement. She wrote down all the things we have said to her.

We felt appreciated by her decision to ask the most appropriate question instead of asking “How was your breakfast or how was your room?” Such questions will only be answered hmm like great, I love the room. The breakfast, yummm.

It’s that personal touch that counts. It elevated the whole experience into something memorable, something that you will remember for quite a long time. It does not have to end there as one can return the kindness by mentioning all the positive values in online reviews.

Feedback and personal letters to owners and management team of establishments with praise for particular personnel will open up door to greater opportunities for the person that pleases you.

Again, it’s about give and take. It’s about appreciating others after they appreciated your presence; acknowledge your very important position as their customers. By writing fair reviews, you will help business entities to shine and ably to open up greater services and products for its future customers.

Bottom line 

There are so many reasons why online reviews are important to all related parties. It gives that assurance for readers to identify and anticipate possibilities before coming to any business entity.  It gives that space for such entities to ‘grow’, learn mistakes and improve weaknesses.

Online reviews such as in TripAdvisor, 3rd party booking engine, feedback in questionnaire validate things for the betterment of the hospitality industry, for example.

In the case of products such as physical things that people purchase online, reviews will definitely help to tell the mass about effectiveness, worthiness, and so on. It help all of us to make the final decision, whether to purchase or not.

Online reviews is a tool of validation, an instrument to convey every little details. Online reviews protect consumers, heightened their awareness.

Of course, some people will argue. Why should they write another review that others have already made. It is kind of repetitive and unnecessary, or so?

No matter how many praise or rejection, each review has its own unique value. Readers will be able to know the degree of pros and cons for certain product or services.

If you don’t like certain product or service, voice out your opinion in available online channels and start telling people why they should avoid the same mistake. Instead of whining, educate others.

If there is room for improvement, tell the related people; the management, the staff or the owner so they will have the chance to deliver the best. If you like or fall in love with a particular product or service, tell it to the world so that people know about it.

Online reviews is not about giving you extra work. It is about our responsibility to share opinions, relaying thoughts and help each other.

In today’s world where there are so many offerings, it is important to help each other, educating each other of pros and cons of products and services. Not that we are forcing you to fill in details of your experiences but if you have time, do it for the betterment of the world.

Tell us any of your own experience in writing for online reviews. What did you write and in what channel? Are you actually willing to spend time in writing at least 5-6 lines review? 

 

 

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