I know, I know, I can hear your groans from my desk! But this is not that kind of how-to. I promise.
I’ve been there, and I’m sure most of you have also found yourself in the same situation – figuring out what the customer wants, and assessing how successful your programming is through the various types of customer surveys. I’m by far not an expert in this realm, but my assistant pointed out something this week that I had never thought of – using what’s already out there via the internet!
I don’t know why I have never considered this in the past. I have even used this hidden treasure trove of information in the past for my own personal use. Travel websites!
After a quick search I found some of the best reviews for my site to be: Trip Advisors, yelp, Fodors.com, away.com, and virtualtourist.com. How many of you have actually checked out your own site here? If you are not listed in these sites, consider establishing a listing.
Now this is definitely not a scientific process of data collection. You cannot get a precise question answered. You have no way of controlling the sample of customers that respond to this type of “survey”. But you also haven’t invested time and money in the development of a survey, administered the survey, nor tabulated the answers!
What you can get from these travel sites are very candid, non-pressured reviews. But as with all surveys, there are some things to consider when looking at these sites. You will have 3 typical types of reviewers – those that were in amazement of your site, those that were really upset, and those that are avid reviews (like on trip advisor) that review everything and every location they visit.
There are nuggets of information that you can gather from the travel reviews if you are fortunate enough to have several (or several hundred!) reviews. Demographical information can be massaged out of the reviews if you look at the reviewers bios. Also, on most of these websites you can see where the reviewers come from. A reoccurring theme I saw in the reviews of my site was that more than 60% of the reviewers were coming from a specific metropolitan area.
But you can also see their opinions of your programs, facilities, and sometimes even specific staff members. Are you meeting their expectations? Exceeding them? Or missing an interpretive opportunity that multiple reviewers wish they had “seen” at your site?
Scientific? No. Informative? Yes! And I also learned that I need to go and give one of my front line interpreters some praise from having been identified in a very positive light in many recent reviews.
Some commentary on the pros and cons of these travel sites and the reviews that are posted on the websites can be read here: