According to research from marketing firm Nielsen, 92% of people will trust a company recommendation from a peer, while 70% will trust a recommendation from someone they don’t even know.
From a travel agent’s perspective, making good use of customer testimonials not only establishes trust, it also improves brand perception and attracts new business – and it is cheaper than many other forms of marketing, too.
We ask the experts for different ways travel agents can use customer testimonials in their marketing.
“Use customer testimonials on your website homepage, as well as scattering them throughout the site,” suggests David Forder, head of marketing at Advantage Travel Partnership.
“Include testimonials in the ‘About Us’ page, on blogs and contact forms on your agency site – anywhere that can assist in driving conversions,” he adds.
“Having a dedicated testimonials page on your website can also work well, adding credibility for clients coming to the site for the first time.”
Forder recommends gathering testimonials by setting up an automated email, using relevant personalisation, to send seven days after a booking has been made to keep things consistent.
As well as sending out automated emails, Forder also suggests approaching top customers directly to provide testimonials after a trip, as loyal clients are more likely to respond positively.
If your agency is already using paid search adverts, Forder suggests including a short customer quote within these to make them stand out and add personality.
Google is also likely to rank the website more highly if adverts include reviews within them.
Sharon May, owner of Worldwide Travel Solutions in Leeds, knows the benefits of using online testimonials.
The agency has a dedicated feedback page on its website, and May says it is effective at enticing new customers.
“Our testimonials mainly come from cards and thank you letters we receive, as well as from posts on our Facebook page,” she explains.
“Testimonials are a great free marketing tool, and it sends out a positive message to potential clients – especially if they’re written by someone they already know.”
As well as displaying customer testimonials on websites, consider including the quotes in company brochures, magazines, or even incorporating them into a window display.
Si Morris-Green, group-marketing director at The Travel Network Group, is encouraging members to capitalise on another trend: the growing importance of video in marketing, and using video testimonials.
“While we were filming a brand awareness video at Premier Travel, a satisfied customer popped into the store and was happy enough to have his thoughts recorded in person,” explains Morris-Green.
“We find this personal approach much more effective, as spoken pieces to camera are more believable than those written down,” he adds.
Global Travel Group member Your Travel is another travel agency taking notice of the power of video marketing.
The London agency will soon be using video testimonials on its site to appeal to corporate clients, and if successful, the videos will also be used for leisure clients.
As well as using video testimonials, Your Travel’s managing director John Stephenson says the agency also currently asks some of its best customers to speak to potential clients over the phone.
“We think of testimonials like a job reference,” says Stephenson. “We’ll mention them when we cold call clients, directing them to the testimonials on our site, and then we’ll suggest getting one of our happy customers on the phone to chat to them.
“It’s a great way of securing new business. It’s massively increased impressions and clicks to our site by having reviews on there.”
Your Travel currently uses online customer feedback platform Trust Pilot to display its reviews, though it will shortly be shifting over to a competitor, as the Global Travel Group has a partnership with Feefo that means reduced monthly payments.
Darren Bond, sales and business development manager at the Global Travel Group, explains some of the benefits for members of using Feefo: “It allows anyone who books their travel experience through a member of the Global Travel Group to be invited to rate both their holiday, and the service received from the agent who booked it.
“Our agents can integrate the service and customer comments into their own website. Testimonials often highlight the benefits of booking with agents and the services that only they can provide.”
Your Travel’s Stephenson believes review platforms such as Feefo and Trust Pilot also add credibility to an agency.
“People tend to trust review sites, as those sites put a lot of money into checking that the reviews posted are genuine,” he says.
Not only can social media be used to promote customer testimonials, it is also a great way of collecting them in the first place.
Independent Travel Expert Wendy Plant takes the testimonials posted on her Facebook page and adds them to her website.
She also adds the positive posts from her Facebook wall to the “Reviews” tab on her Facebook page.
Plant believes that as a homeworker, using testimonials is especially crucial: “People like to be reassured that we are real as there are so many dodgy people online,” she says. “Homeworkers rely on recommendations as we don’t have a shop front and passing trade.”
Plant always asks her customers to post a Facebook review, sending them a message to ask for it when they return from their trip.
She also asks customers for a recommendation on LinkedIn, which has led to several new contacts as well as bookings. “The Facebook posts have helped with bookings too,” she adds.
“I’ve also had messages from people who have seen my posts and like what customers have said about me. They might not be ready to book yet but often they’ll keep my details for when they are.”
It is important not to be scared of negative feedback, as it might help you learn something, says Forder at Advantage.
“Have a process for vetting the responses – a small niggle experienced by a customer can be turned into a positive if you respond efficiently, preventing that negative comment being available in the public domain,” he advises.
Your Travel’s Stephenson does not shy away from negative comments. “Negative feedback is great,” he says.
“As a nation we don’t like to complain, so unless you ask a customer for feedback, they might never tell you about a negative experience they’ve had,” he explains.
“If you don’t know that a client isn’t happy, the bookings from them could just stop.” He suggests reacting fast, getting on the phone to the client immediately to make things right.
Negative feedback on a website can actually make an agency look more genuine, plus potential clients can track how the agency responds to the comments on social media, for example.
“We had one customer complain that they had found a price that was £30 cheaper than ours online. We sent them a £30 voucher and some flowers and they were very impressed,” says Stephenson.
It is proof that responding effectively to feedback, whether positive or negative, can actually improve customer retention and boost your bookings.