Online Reviews: Should they matter for Tourism PR in Scotland?

by Kenny Murray

Tuesday, April 12th, 2016

Online reviews can be helpful, but at times they’re best avoided.

Image of Edinburgh Castle with the text, the effect of online reviews over it.THINK about the process of purchasing a product, signing up for a service, or embarking on a holiday.

What’s the first thing you would do? Look it up online, right?

The next step would be to check out the reviews, maybe on Google, Yelp or popular travel rating site TripAdvisor. This could change your entire itinerary, shopping list or business plans. A good write-up may confirm the wisdom of your intended purchase but a slam is likely to make you think twice.

 But Just how seriously can you take negative reviews?
Take booking a holiday as and example – an area which has been transformed by online reviews.
sunbathing In days gone by you would ask a friend or family member who had visited the location or attraction what they thought. Then you’d balance their feedback against what you know about them: Are they overly enthusiastic or miserable sods? And can you trust their judgement to be wholly neutral?
You can’t do that with the internet. All you have to go by is the one-off review, often with no evidence of the user’s actual experience.
In fact, it’s doubly difficult because those who have a positive experience on a visit or shopping trip don’t leave a review. Those who didn’t enjoy themselves, on the other hand, are more motivated to bang out a few paragraphs of criticism.
After all, who wouldn’t want to take revenge over poor service? With leading data analysts saying 67% of people trust online reviews as much as personal recommendations, it’s important to know how to tackle a negative review – and not all negative reviews need be harmful to your business – as we were advising in this blog post six years ago.
 You don’t have to look very far for examples of businesses were negative reviews could actually help a business to be better. Recently, an Edinburgh-based fish and chip restaurant refused a father and his young daughter access to its toilet because, despite their obvious need and distress,  they were not customers.

Shocked by this treatment, the father then exercised his online muscle, urging his friends and family to leave negative reviews. The results were fast and powerful. Within a day the eatery was forced to shut down its social channels in an attempt to manage the widespread and negative criticism it was facing, while its review rating had plunged through the floor.

Shutting down its social media sites was entirely the wrong move on several fronts. Not least because such a move generally suggests there are wider and deeper business problems to contend with.

How about this as an alternative: what if the chip shop had not only let the little girl use the toilet, but had also given her an ice cream to make her feel better afterwards? For the cost of a cone, the venue would have turned the father into an advocate who just might have shared a positive message with his friends. At the very least, a social media firestorm would have been averted.


FIRE-ALARM-(1-of-1)Check out our post on the chip shop toilet fiasco and our tips on managing a crisis in a time of smartphones. A crisis can come from anywhere and online reviews can often be where it begins. Learn to manage them and customer expectations.

 


It’s not just restaurants and other small businesses that are at risk of harsh feedback. Leading Scottish attractions can also fall victim to the amateur critic’s pen. Consider Edinburgh Castle. It is Scotland’s top tourist attractions, yet not everyone sees it that way.

Of more than 20,000 reviews, 111 are marked as terrible. Let’s look at some of them. One user blasts the views as “not the greatest”,  while another blasts it as being too full of tourists. You couldn’t make up this kind of stuff!

Edinburgh Castle

 

Kenny Murray review
Kenny Murray interview

Yet another Castle complainant goes on to moan about finding a hair in his cake in the cafe. However, even this age of smartphone cameras,  the unahappy diner failed to provide any photographic evidence, leaving would-be visitors wondering just how truthful the review might be.

It’s not only Edinburgh Castle that is on the receiving end of this kind of sharp review. Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum rece, another hugely popular tourist destination, has also suffered.

Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum

 

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The commenter discounts the top attraction as both “boring” and “good”. Which is most helpful.

What about Scotland’s highest peak?

Ben Nevis

 

Kenny Murray review

“Not actually that tall”. So don’t worry about travelling to Fort William. There are some real corkers around this particular attraction but it’s worrying that people are served by these reviews.

Our final attraction is the UK’s number one visitor site: The Royal Yacht Britannia. As the former vessel of a monarch it attracts quite a lot of attention and even gets some reviews objecting to its very existence.

Royal Yacht Britannia

 

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Someone says they thought about asking for their money back. However, in a brave move the attraction’s marketing manager responded directly to the criticism:

Kenny Murray review

If you’re a business owner you obviously can’t respond to every single negative notice but you should bear in mind these key tips:

  • Establish if the reviewer actually visited your business. Can you pinpoint who they are? Ask your staff.
  • Verify the authenticity of their review. If they say they complained, do you have a record?
  • Respond. If they’re in the right, say sorry and point them to a more positive experience as a way of showing others it isn’t a usual result. If you have reason to believe it’s a vengeful review or is from someone who didn’t visit, challenge them for more information.
  • Never ignore reviews. Take the time to respond to them. It may damage your business if you chose not to.

Wedding-Cake-FiguresWhen a wedding planner lost the plot, find out how her online rant left a 700 year old castle under siege from angry brides all over the world. Plus our useful tips on how to manage a crisis on social media. 

 


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A version of this was published on STV News, read on their site here.

Kenny Murray of Holyrood PR in Edinburgh, Scotland

Private: Kenny Murray

Kenny Murray is part of the expert PR team at Holyrood Partnership, an award-winnning Scottish public relations agency, which offers media relations, social media, photography, video, crisis management and PR in Edinburgh.

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