Customer Complaints 2.0: How
negative are online travel reviews?
Dr. Ulrike Gretzel
Laboratory for Intelligent Systems in Tourism
University of Wollongong
Social Media Use
• 78% of Australian Internet users sent or shared a
photo in 2009.
• 75% of Australian Internet users have visited
Facebook, while 59% have a Facebook profile.
• 41% of Australian Internet users have streamed or
• 86% of Australians online are looking to fellow
Internet users for opinions and information about
products, services and brands.
Online Travel Review Landscape
• Over 40 million travel reviews, 9 million photos
posted and 41.6 million users a month on
CGM Use for Planning Most
Recent Overnight Pleasure Trip
• 50% looked at/read comments and materials posted online by
other travelers (compared to 50% in 2008) (% of US online
• Most popular types of CGM: travel reviews (70%), photos
(54%), comments on blogs (25%), videos (23%), blogs (21%)
and discussion forums (21%) (% of CGM Users)
• Most popular websites to find CGM for travel (% of CGM Users)
– Yahoo!Travel (43%)
– Online Travel agencies (30%)
– Facebook (20%)
– TripAdvisor (20%)
How Much Influence Did
CGM Have on Trip Decisions?
Not sure No influence A little/moderate influence A lot/sole of influence
Where you went 28.4
How you traveled to the
When you traveled 34.9
What you did
Where you stayed 32.5
Where you ate 20.4
Where you shopped 28.2
0 10 20 30 40 50
% of CGM Users
Travel CGM Creation
• Generational differences
• Cultural/ethnic differences
• Personality-based differences
Anatomy of Travel Reviews
Review topics Percentage Review topics Percentage
Room 83.2 Length of stay 35.1
Service 68.6 Facility 31.1
Amenity 62.9 Destination 25.7
Food 60.8 Transportation 24.4
Location 60.7 23.3
40.0 Health 18.7
Price/Value 36.1 Business 18.3
Sample: 983 online hotel reviews concerning hotel experiences in mainland
Spreading the Love
The travel reviews posted are largely positive (40.6% have 5 as
score) TripAdvisor, 2008.
Reviews are normally positive
Bazaarvoice has previously found
that the average rating in online
reviews is 4.3 out of 5, and 87% of
reviews left were generally positive.
407 reviews that included a
negative experience in a hotel in
China -> average satisfaction rating
still 3.48 (Jiang, Gretzel & Law,
Motivations to Post Online Travel
Percent of US Online Travellers Who Create Online Contents (2010)
MIT Sloan Management Review 2011:
• Most online public complaining takes place after a “double
deviation”: an initial service failure followed by a series of failed
efforts at recovery.
• A sense of betrayal, not mere dissatisfaction, fuels online public
• Online complainers tend to keep holding a grudge and seek to
avoid the company permanently.
• Post complaint-recovery may stop vengeful actions (if done
within 4 weeks) but does not increase likelihood to return as
• Anonymous reviews
• False reviews (competitors, ad agencies)
• Review sites do NOT have sufficient
mechanisms in place to detect false reviews
(Stiftung Warentest, 2010)
The Good News
• Most travellers are aware of the issues.
• Travellers have developed rather
sophisticated strategies to judge the
credibility of reviews:
• Information about reviewer and trip context
• Able to detect false reviews better if longer.
• Improvement and motivation potential
• Revenue potential if consumers comment on
• Marketing potential – learn to speak the
language of your customers
• Conversion potential if integrated on own
How to Respond
• Time matters!
• Different types of customers seek different
forms of resolution
– Best customer: apology and recognition
– Casual customer: monetary value
• Be sincere and specific
• Be professional!!!!
• Use it as a marketing opportunity