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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

The first thing potential customers will find with a basic online search: reviews and ratings of your business. How many of those customers are going to find information that shows you're the best in the business or that customers are extremely satisfied with their experience?

Customer reviews posted on business listing sites, Facebook, and even on your booking site can influence a customer's decision to book—or just move on to one of your competitors. Harvard Business Review reports that peer-to-peer information sharing has made it easier than ever for customers to consider other people's opinions when making a decision, and 81 percent of travelers find user reviews important. Taking steps to encourage customers to post positive reviews and rate your business can support your marketing efforts and help you stand apart from the competition.

Your challenge is to solicit these reviews without pressure.

Here are seven simple ways to ask customers for reviews without annoying them.

1. Create a strong, professional presence on online reviews sites.

Make sure you are active on major listing sites where customers are posting reviews. Add photos, respond to comments, and fill out the "About Us" or description boxes so that it looks like the listing is professionally maintained—and the business cares. Grab the URLs to all these sites so you can easily share the link on Facebook and Twitter, email it directly to a customer as part of your thank you letter (see #2), or include the link on any physical marketing collateral such as comment cards or brochures.

See Also: Best Practices for Handling Negative Online Reviews

2: Send a personalized 'thank you' email to every customer.

Email is one of the easiest ways to follow up with a customer. If you're using an online booking system like ZOZI Advance, you can automate custom emails to ensure every customer receives an email shortly after their tour or activity. You want to show your customers that you care about their experience, and this is also a great opportunity to drop links or hints to share a review on your top review sites. Simply embed a link directly to one or two review sites within the email or suggest that the customer shares a testimonial by emailing you back. Make sure to indicate that the customer's testimonial may be used for marketing purposes so that you can share those comments on your website, blog, or even on social media. Below is an example of a 'thank you' email you can personalize and send to your customer base:

To: [customer name]

Subject: Thanks for joining us [customer first name]!

[customer name],

Thanks for joining us on our [tour name]! We loved having you and hope you enjoyed the experience.

We want to keep providing amazing tours and experiences like the [tour name] and always welcome feedback. What did you like most about your visit? What can we do better? We want to hear from you!

Send us a testimonial by replying to this email or give us a review on [review site link] or [review site link].

Come back and see us for even more exciting tours and experiences on your next trip to the area — we're always adding more adventures and are here to ensure you have an unforgettable experience.

Cheers,

[Your name]

Disclosure: All written testimonials and reviews become the property of [company name] and may be used for marketing purposes.

See Also: How to Craft the Perfect Thank You Email

3. Offer a discount for reviews.

Consider extending a 5-percent, 10-percent, or even 20-percent discount if your budget allows on the next booking in exchange for a review. Snagshout does this by encouraging Amazon users to post a review of goods discounted up to 90-percent off the list price for sharing their genuine opinion. It's a win-win situation for both parties and will encourage more customers to write up a review quickly.

As a tour and activity operator, make sure you share this special offer in a way that encourages a positive review and highlights all the benefits of another tour or activity with your company—you want these customers to feel like they are earning a reward or getting a great deal, not being bribed. And, you want to include a disclosure statement that indicates the customer needs to share an honest review—not just a good review.

4. Host a giveaway for reviewers.

Encourage customer participation to post reviews by hosting a giveaway. You could offer a free tour, complimentary activity, or a package of activities and experiences as a grand prize. Reviewers would simply send you an email with a screen capture of the review they posted or provide you with information on where they posted the review to enter the giveaway. Macy's did this with its Bazaarvoice Sweepstakes earlier this year, encouraging customers to submit product reviews in order to win a $1,000 Macy's Gift Card.

5. Run a YouTube reviews contest.

Video reviews are among the most powerful types of reviews available online because they can feel more personal. Host a contest where customers post a review of their experience shortly after their activity or when they get home to be entered in the contest. Keep the guidelines simple: describe the tour or activity they booked, share what they enjoyed, and provide a few tips for other customers who want to make the most of the experience.

Reward the best reviewers with a complimentary tour or activity, and be sure to showcase these reviews on Facebook and on your website to help future customers get an "insider's look" at your offerings. And, if you can ask the customer for full rights of the video—or capture the video testimonial when the customer is still with you so that you are taking the video—you can upload it to your own YouTube account and link back to your website to take full advantage of your YouTube marketing efforts.

6. Make a big deal out of reviews you receive.

Make the customer the star by spotlighting testimonials or reviews somewhere on your website, blog, or even on your Facebook Page. Share snippets of positive customer reviews on all your social media accounts and make sure the customer is recognized for their efforts. Many people may be inclined to post similar reviews when they know they will be publicly acknowledge—especially if you're posting on highly visible and interactive places like Facebook.

7. Publicly thank and reward your reviewers.

Make the customer the winner in these situations by posting a "thank you" comment on sites that allow for it or communicating to the customer that you are sending them a small gift for their efforts. If you decide to send a gift, consider something like a coupon or special discount for a future booking, a gift card, or a company pen or hat. You can advertise the fact that you reward your happy customers with gifts on your website and social media sites so that other customers are aware they may also receive something in exchange for writing a review.

Customer reviews are extremely valuable to your tours and activities business so you need to take steps to solicit as many positive reviews as possible—without turning your customers off. Use these tips to generate more reviews each season.