Browsing through endless online hotel reviews has become a bog-standard part of travel planning for most of us - but a new study has found they actually mean nothing to future customers.
Holidaymakers tend to place most weight on positive reviews, while virtually discounting mixed and negative reviews, researchers from Macquarie University found.
The study, published in the Journal of Hospitality Marketing and Management, looked into the influence of positive, negative and mixed reviews on prospective hotel customers and found they generally struggled to interpret and evaluate reviews on the negative side of the spectrum.
However, author and lecturer at Macquarie's Department of Marketing, Dr Shahin Sharifi, found that when a hotel offered a "100 per cent satisfaction guarantee", travellers were more likely to trust mixed reviews.
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"In today's interconnected world, where more bookings are made online than ever before, customer reviews can make or break a business," said Dr Sharifi.
"Understanding the impact of positive, negative, and mixed reviews on their business is crucial for a hotel manager, particularly as managers are spending more time than ever responding to online reviews. Our findings suggest much of this time may be in vain."
The findings showed that such "satisfaction guarantees" had no effect on whether a customer made a booking - and suggested that hotels focus primarily on improving the customer experiences and prioritise responding to mixed reviews over others.
"For hoteliers, the most important thing is to focus on providing a good service to customers rather than guaranteeing it," added Dr Sharifi.
"Positive reviews influence prospective customers more than any other so, as you would expect, to drive future bookings it is best to have as many good reviews as possible. Following that, it is important to respond to mixed reviews as quickly as possible."