Online Customer Reviews are great but should we really trust them? Nowadays, whether you travel frequently or enjoy trying new places near your town, chances are you spend some time online looking for authentic customer reviews. Now the challenge is to figure out whether the good and bad reviews about the hotel, restaurant or attraction you are about to book are written by real people or by great Marketing Manager or Public Relations (PR) Specialists. Thanks to the internet, online customer reviews are easily accessible, but it has also created a sea of true and not so true information. So, after spending many hours figuring out an efficient strategy to find out what’s the truth and what’s pure advertising, here are 4 of my easy tips for you to get the most out of online customer reviews in order to avoid getting bad surprises when booking your next outing.
1) Check the bad reviews, then the good
After having had one absolute awful experience at a hotel in Mallorca (Spain) back in 2014, I started to look at online customer reviews on TripAdvisor and Booking.com in a complete different way. Indeed, I used to mainly focus on traveler comments that stated how awesome a place was, naively thinking the more good reviews one venue had, the better it was, ignoring the very few bad reviews. However, I learned the hard way and ever since this upsetting experience, my attention has gone to reading why I perhaps should not pick a particular hotel. Then once I read the bad, I quickly have a look at the number of good reviews and always check the reviewers’ account to see other reviews they wrote elsewhere. This helps you to see whether the person is real and if their expectations are as high as yours or if it is just a profile created to leave a good comment (by venue staff or PR) or bad review (by haters or competitors).
2) Filter why some are negative
While I believe bad reviews are important, they often make me laugh when certain reviewers are complaining that a USD 25 per night room in a fancy city only offers one not so fresh croissant at breakfast. This clearly does not mean this room is not a good deal… I mean what can you expect for this price anyway? If these reviewers are not happy with that, maybe they should have booked a slightly more expensive hotel and would have gotten what they wanted. Also, I once read a bad review on an Indian restaurant in Singapore from a customer who was looking for “Real Indian Food” and was disappointed. Although India is a few hours away from Singapore, perhaps that person should have jumped in a plane if “Authentic Indian Food” was what he was looking for.
3) Check the review date
Whenever I am reading the good and bad reviews, I always verify the date it has been posted and so should you. Perhaps the place you are looking at was under construction or had poor service at the time of the review, but maybe the venue is now all pretty and finished and the General Manager hired some really outstanding employees since then. However, when a really negative old review makes me feel like looking at another hotel right away, I often check a few more recent online customer reviews to see if people are still complaining about it. Another little trick is to try to figure out when the reviewer actually visited the venue and not when they wrote the review as things might have changed since then. Although there are many websites where you can find reviews on, my favorites will always remain Booking.com and TripAdvisor where I shared a great amount of hotels, restaurants and attractions experiences as well.
4) Trust your 6th sense
As much online customer reviews are great to help you plan your next trip, personally, if I have heard excellent comments from my friends or a person I trust, but happened to read a few negative reviews online, I obviously trust my friends more than any another reviewers. Then, if for example you have a strange feeling that you might regret not trying a certain venue, just go for it, because as Cold Play sings so magically, if you never try, you will never know… When in this situation, I tend to not expect too much and 9 times out of 10 I end up being surprised in a really positive way and so will you. Last but not least, keep in mind that everyone has different expectations and preferences when outing, so the way to go is to look for reviewers ‘profiles which closely match yours and then you can be pretty sure you will have a good time!