I recently returned from a vacation to Vietnam and Cambodia. It was amazing as we motorbiked around Ho Chi Minh city and then bicycled across the Mekong Delta to Cambodia and on to Siem Riep. We ended our trip in Hanoi.
Like my spring trip to Alaska, we used a number of travel services and day trips. And like in Alaska, Trip Advisor was the site on most tour guides’ minds.
But that is where the feedback experience similarities ended. In Alaska, the companies tended to ask multiple times, often before having provided a valuable experience and certainly without significant rapport.
In South East Asia, despite a significant reliance on TripAdvisor, the experience was totally different.
Do You Ask For Reviews Or Does Your Outstanding Experience Beg For Them?
We started our trip in Ho Chi Minh City and stayed at the Alagon Hotel & Spa, a 3 star hotel that cost about $60/night but was a total pleasure with great breakfasts, a spa and a pool. While there we visited the Cu Chi tunnels, used in defense of Ho Chi Minh City during the VietNam War, and did a motorbike tour of the city that was a lot of fun albeit intense (as in white knuckles) at times.
The hotel had the world’s best concierge, who organized everything including a last minute trip to Hoi An. And yet he never asked for a TripAdvisor review. When I asked him where to review him, he mentioned that TA would be the spot. The other day tours did ask for a TA review but only at the end of the tour and only after a significant amount of time together and interpersonal interaction. And they just asked once.
The bulk of our trip was spent biking on a custom tour organized for the 6 of us by Grasshopper Adventures. Grasshopper focuses solely on bicycle touring in Southeast Asia. They provided a custom, supported tour that navigated the back roads of the Mekong Delta and rural Cambodia with stops along the way at significant cultural and historical sites.
Prior to the trip, we interacted with them frequently and, as you can imagine with a group of six Baby Boomers, the questions were endless. They answered them all with grace and attention.
They provided all transport, an incredible guide in each country, bike mechanics and rest stop support and picked out hotels (often 4 or 5 star) for us to stay. They would often stop along the route and help us interact with local commodity producers and home based manufacturers. We stopped at an out of the way iron forge that made machetes, basket and mat producers and a catfish farm in the boonies.
While the days were demanding, riding 40-60 KM in 95 degree heat, the time was incredible as we bicycled by rice fields and around the walls of Ankor Watt. In fact it was one of the best trips I have ever been on. Ever.
Not only was I with my closest friends from college (whom I bonded with at a war protest in 1971) and their wives but we were seeing the two countries in a way that would not have been possible otherwise.
Growing Reviews Without Growing Requests
When, at the end of the trip, we asked where would they like us to leave a review, the Cambodian guide said: on our website or the survey we will send.
That was it. No pitch, no solicitation, no entreaty to mention a name.
I received their customer survey (via SurveyMonkey) and filled it out, thinking it would branch to an online review site like Trip Advisor or I would receive a follow up email request. But no, they just wanted to know how they had done on the trip.
This was a company that was uniquely focused on the experience, making it sure that it went well and improving what needed to be improved.
And yet they are killing it on the review front.
At GatherUp, we often speak as to how businesses can no longer compete on product, service or even delivery. If you aren’t Amazon then you need to realize that your competitive advantage is not just service but the experience. In fact, we now live in an experience economy and businesses need to recognize this fact and adapt.
While asking for a review has value, it pales in comparison to listening to your customers and paying scrupulous attention to providing the best experience possible. Both are necessary but the former is the frosting and the later is the cake.
It worked for Grasshopper and it can work for you.