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ZOZI Advance is the fastest growing web-based reservation, payment, and customer management platform used by thousands of activity, tour, and event merchants.

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Sabah Karimi

Reviews can make or break your business. Just consider this: 70 percent of global consumers say online reviews are the second most trusted form of advertising, with word-of-mouth and recommendations from friends and family being the most trusted, according to Stikky Media. In other words, anything people post publicly about your business has the power to attract or deter customers. And since many people now turn to social media to rate, complain, or give compliments, they're also sharing with friends and family, indirectly engaging in word of mouth advertising.

So it's time to start being proactive to receive higher ratings and more 5-star reviews. Here are just five ways to start attracting more positive reviews and five-star reviews for your tour and activities business.

1. Deliver exceptional experiences.

Whether you offer kayak experiences, rainforest tours, biking adventures, or boating excursions, make sure your staff is trained to deliver an exceptional experience. Going above and beyond for each and every one of your guests will get notice—enough to prompt a glowing review and high ratings, in most cases.

A survey of American Express travel counselors found that more than a third of their clients are eager to take trips where they'll enjoy a memorable experience, and that customization is a priority. Travelers want to have "bragging rights" and are hungry for new experiences, according to survey results.

Taking time to really think about how you can "wow" your guests can help you generate a loyal following—and prompt positive reviews and testimonials. Reach out to guests before they arrive to ensure you have their size of gear and equipment available, or stock snacks and beverages they prefer as a complimentary gift after their tour. Even something as simple as asking a guest if they're celebrating a special occasion—and then helping them celebrate—can add a personalized touch to their visit.

2. Send customized follow-up emails.

Online booking software not only streamlines the booking process, it also enables you to collect key customer contact information so you can send out customized emails. Use a program with a built-in email database and customer relationship management system, which will allow you to send customized "thank you" emails after a guest books, extend invitations to book a tour or experience if the guest hasn't booked in a few months, or to send out newsletters and promotional materials via email.

Personalizing these emails by using the guest's name in the subject line and/or within the body of the email improves conversion rates, at least according to the experts at Comm100. But, ultimately you don't just want these emails to be opened, you want the recipient to feel like they're being acknowledged. And online booking software makes this type of customization easy by allowing you to pull customer information from a database and send emails from a template you've already created for different types of customer interactions.

3. Regularly monitor all published reviews.

The trail of reviews and ratings on major review sites across the web — and even on your Facebook Page—can have a significant effect on your online reputation. Dimensional Research reports customer service stories spread widely—especially negative stories. Statistics show that 95 percent of consumers are more than willing to share bad experiences, and 87 percent will share good experiences.

The key to managing reviews: regular monitoring. Aside from teaching you what your company is doing right and wrong, it will ultimately help you clean up your online image. When you're consistently monitoring, you're able to take quick action and reach out to dissenting guests and follow up publicly with a solution. This infographic from ReviewTrackers highlights the importance of responding immediately to feedback, both positive and negative, as a way to demonstrate that the company cares and is attentive.

Delegate the task of monitoring social media accounts and online review sites to a staff member, or make use of online social media monitoring software that sends you alerts any time your company is mentioned on the web. Trackur can be an attractive and affordable option for small business owners since it monitors all social media accounts and provides access to a dashboard with a complete archive of online conversations available for review.

4. Promote positive reviews across social media.

Regularly promoting positive reviews and testimonials across social media sites may encourage others leave positive feedback. Set up a dedicated page on your website specifically for snippets of reviews and testimonials from previous customers.

Showcasing and promoting these reviews gives prospective customers a fair idea of what people think about your business and what to expect when booking with you. Use social media sites such as Facebook and Twitter to spotlight some of your best reviews regularly—maybe posting about them once a week and thanking the customer directly for their feedback.

5. Offer a reward or incentive to customers who post reviews.

Entice your customers: many will be eager to post a review if they're going to get something in return—even something as simple as a discount on a future booking. Xtreme Motorsports in Tempe, Arizona encourages customers to write a product review and brief dissertation on their service or installation experience in exchange for a 5-percent discount on their next visit. Extending a reward in exchange for a review could be all it takes to encourage more customers to be proactive about responding to comment cards, surveys, and writing up testimonials.

We discussed this in more detail in a previous post about asking customers for reviews, emphasizing the fact that, for ethical reasons, you do need to deliver a reward or incentive regardless of whether the review was a positive one. Of course, customers who are posting a negative review could receive a phone call from you to address their concerns and give you a chance to use their feedback to improve operations.

Encouraging happy guests to share positive reviews will always work in your favor. Not only does this help to generate more interest in your business across sites where travelers are searching for the best of the best in the area, but it also helps you build a loyal following.