Tripped up by Trip Advisor

How changing the name of a business = closing it down.

Tripped up by Trip AdvisorAs a consumer, I love Trip Advisor. My wife and I use it all the time when we visit unfamiliar places, especially for recommendations on restaurants, and it’s never let us down. As a business representative, it’s a different story. Frankly, with respect to a specific rebrand project, it’s been pants. Here’s the explanation…

I have the good fortune to work for a unique, exciting, growing and very customer focused business that delivers the dream of flight: indoor skydiving. When I started, I was blown away (no pun intended) by the consistently brilliant customer feedback. Last autumn, Airkix, as the company was known, rebranded as iFLY. Same product, same people working there, same owners. Just a new name.  As anyone who has been through a rebrand knows, there is a lot to do. Changing names in the various online directories should be one of the simpler tasks. In accordance, I initiated a request via the not so simple contact process deployed by Trip Advisor, for a straightforward change of name for each of our three locations. I had no idea of the nightmare that was about to unfold.

Instead of renaming the locations as requested, Trip Advisor marked all three as CLOSED. I was required to set up brand new Trip Advisor entities for three wind tunnels that had opened and traded since 2005, 2009 and 2013 respectively. All the history associated with the former entities was lost in an instant. That’s right. A whole history of Trip Advisor reviews, over 80% of them five stars, wiped out. I should pause here and let the incredulity of this action sink in. The very company that purports to help a) the consumer make informed choices b) a business to market its services transparently, was now doing the exact opposite. You can imagine the panic at our end – “WE ARE NOT CLOSED – WE JUST CHANGED OUR NAME!!”

Our protestations landed on deaf ears. As far as Trip Advisor was concerned, from the moment we put our new signage up, we were a new company. Why would they do this?

It’s too painful to recount the endless stream of emails – you can’t talk to anyone – that followed. We did manage to track down someone who works for the company, who tried to intervene on our behalf. Even he was defeated by the faceless machinery of his own employer. No rational explanation of the action taken was ever forthcoming. The renaming request set a process in motion that could not be altered. Common sense went out the window. In fact, it never existed in the first place.

We had no choice but to start again. So, we did. With vim and vigor and, in due course, excellent results. The current Trip Advisor scores for the three wind tunnels range from 4.5 to 5 with over 350 reviews, in total, since last autumn. Phew, customers still love us and, thankfully, we don’t look like a brand-new company anymore.

But Trip Advisor still had one final kick in the nuts for us. For the past 4 years, all three locations have proudly held the Trip Advisor Certificate of Excellence: the ultimate badge of exceptional service delivery. The continuation of our strong scores under the iFLY name was sure to maintain this valuable accreditation…wasn’t it? No. Due to not being in existence (!!) for 12 months, we don’t qualify. Deep breath… and forgive me, while I go and bang my head against the wall. Again.

Here’s a flavour of the correspondence:

Me first:

Hi – sorry to come back on this, but iFLY Milton Keynes qualifies on both counts

– the business was known as Airkix Indoor Skydiving Milton Keynes until October last year. The business has continually held the Certificate of Excellence for the last 5 years. We then changed the name to iFLY Indoor Skydiving. Since then we have had a further 96 reviews – 86% of them 5*. The ownership of the business is the same as it was last year.

We must have had over 200 reviews for this facility in the last 12 months – split equally between Airkix and iFLY – and the scores have been slightly higher than the previous 5 years when we have always been awarded the Certificate of Excellence.

I hope you can see where I’m coming from – same business, same number of reviews, but even better scores. Just because we changed the name should not disqualify us from earning the 2017 Certificate of Excellence?

The same applies to our other two tunnels iFLY Manchester and iFLY Basingstoke.

I’d be really grateful, if you could forward this communication upwards for further consideration.

Look forward to hearing from you.

Kind regards,

Hi, Nick.

Trip Advisor response

Thank you for your prompt response. Our apologies for the inconvenience this has caused.

We certainly understand where you coming from. As we can see, you have a lot of excellent reviews but you should have an overall rating of four or higher consistently within 12 months to be qualified for Certificate of Excellence. This is actually given out approximately 10 percent of attractions listed on TripAdvisor receive this prestigious award. Winners are notified via email.

We hope you understand.

Kind regards,

Customer Support

Yes I understand what you are saying, but it makes no sense.

At that point, I gave up. The machine had won. How ironic that the business that exists to drive up standards for the customer is so difficult to deal with. Even the subsequent ‘how did we handline your enquiry?’ form, suitably returned as ‘dissatisfied’, elicited no further response.

Ah well. Fortunately, Trip Advisor is no longer the only show in town. We now get considerably more reviews on Facebook and Google. And what’s more we can reply to them in an instant. No more ‘pending’ responses, but immediate customer dialogue.

Could it be that in the battle for ‘top dog’ and first choice for consumer reviews, Trip Advisor may be the one falling behind?

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