Online Reputation is #1 sales engine: An interview with Andreas Schmidt

According to a recent Nielsen report which surveyed more than 28,000 global Internet users, 92 percent say they trust recommendations from friends and family above all other forms of advertising. Online consumer reviews (i.e. TripAdvisor, Yelp, Foursquare, and Facebook, etc.) rank as the second most trusted source.

We’ve stayed at LeBlanc Spa Resort twice in 4 months and I chose this resort is because of what I found online.  As someone who has been in the travel industry since 1996, first as a retail travel agent, now as a group incentive travel and meeting planner that also books FIT trips for friends, family and reward recipients; who has been on wonderful (and not so wonderful) fam trips with tour operators, CVBs and DMCs and who has a huge network with other agents and planners the way I researched and the steps I took to make my purchase decision is telling.  Instead of going through my regular channels, I chose this resort because it was #1 in Cancun on Trip Advisor and because both positive and negative reviews were responded to by the general manager, Andreas Schmidt.

In this interview, Andreas explains his strategy for optimizing the social proof that results from Trip Advisor.

Modified Transcript

Our service is a personalized service.  We really try to care about our customers and the service should not end when the guests are leaving the resort.  We should still maintain a relationship with them.  We should be thankful for any feedback they are they giving us.  If it is good then it’s motivational for the staff.  If it’s not so good it’s an opportunity for us to improve.

So, in the past, really, if you went to Trip Advisor or something, you will never find any comments or response to the guests.  But, when a guest sits down for an hour or two hours writing a review, it really deserves some response because it’s still a service.  If you ask for something at the resort, our responsibility is to make it happen for you and if we cannot make it happen at least you expect an answer.  It’s the same thing with all social media.  You expect and you deserve an answer and we (at the resort) should be thankful for any response we are getting and you should be noted.

So basically, we started 2.5 years ago and it became really huge.  Trip Advisor for us, and unfortunately I cannot put it down in numbers, is probably the most important sales engine for us now.  Everybody is doing it, I do it, you do it too.  You make a reservation, you look at the hotel, you look for rates, you compare hotels and before you make your final decision you will go to Trip Advisor… at least 80% of the guests do.

And then it comes back to the little details which make a difference.  You get welcomed here with a cold towel, and a flower and coconut water.  When you check Trip Advisor you see that there are comments and the general manager is answering the comments.  And you say ‘Wow, the general manager is answering the comments’.  If you check, maybe, the competition and with the competition, maybe, the public relations manager is handling the comments, which is a nice touch.  But then you think, ‘They really don’t care that much.  The general manager over there does it personally.’  It’s the little details.

It is really important to answer all of them because as you said, ‘he didn’t answer mine’.  So we did not fulfill all of your expectations which is a little cross that they are doing a great job but they are not perfect, so we still have an opportunity to improve.

I talk on a daily basis to our guests and it will not happen … ever.. that I don’t meet 2 or 3 or 4 guests a day who tell me that they chose the resort because of the reviews, so it is important to handle it in the right way.

My advice is if you are doing a great service,   if you care about your customers you will do it.  People in the hospitality business always talk about ‘what is quality?’  and then they talk about ‘exceeding the expectations of the customers’… which is all nice and I agree but quality, in my opinion, is to get the ‘wow’ out of our customers and I want to get the wow out even after the guests are gone.  I want to call you and have the butler call you when you get home to make sure that you got home all right.  You are going to say ‘wow’.

With Trip Advisor if you get an answer right away you want to say “they even care even though I’m not here anymore.”  My advice is don’t stop caring after they are gone.

Mr. Schmidt said it so well, it’s all about caring and delighting customers and it’s no wonder why the property is so well rated on Trip Advisor.

About the Author

Carol Wain is the founder and leader of many brands which help leaders to create more profitable businesses that transform lives and positively impact our planet. She is an author, speaker, trusted advisor and mentor who won Entrepreneur of the Year in 2003.

Carol is passionate about reinventing business to become a force for good — positive businesses which respect, appreciate, encourage and support the right employees who voluntarily use their discretionary effort to bring the vision, purpose, platform, personality, passion and core values to life; businesses which create useful, meaningful and valuable products, services and experiences which improve the lives of people; and businesses which support communities, take a stand and have a higher purpose.

For more information visit CarolWain.com, EnlightenedCapitalist.org, and WorldIncentiveNetwork.com