Customer reviews underpin the success of any business. In one study, Zendesk found that 88% of shoppers saw an online review that ultimately shaped their buying behavior. Similarly, American Express discovered that 42% of customers believe a personal recommendation is more persuasive than a discount. The common denominator between these statistics is fellow consumers’ opinions driving another individual consumer’s decision.
While word of mouth remains an important way to entice new campers, an online collection of happy campground reviews and customer experiences can validate your brand and attract newcomers like nothing else. This is partly because the reach of digital platforms (Google, social media sites, Trust Pilot, Yelp) can extend much further than the influence of just someone’s inner circle of family and friends.
The outdoor hospitality industry is especially susceptible to the power of external reviews. Camping is an activity that can be enjoyed year-round, it’s easy to search and compare many different campgrounds online, and it’s experience-based. Therefore, the deciding factor for many prospective campers often amounts to past customer sentiment to guide them in the direction of the road well-traveled. Not many people are willing to gamble their valuable vacation on a whim and few have time to vet all their options, so the easy default is to rely on collective feedback.
Thankfully, just like review-seeking campers, you don’t have to leave the growth and success of your business to chance. That’s why Campspot is here. For advice on how to approach customer review management and solicitation, read on!
Prioritize 5-Star Customer Service
The easiest way to earn five-star campground reviews is to start with five-star customer service. Reciprocity is an innate force that guides us all. If a campground operator goes out of their way to provide the best camping experience possible, their campers will feel both satisfied and obliged to return the favor. Of course, they have already provided their patronage, but if their vacation experience was compelling enough, the guest will also want to publicly share their satisfaction.
There are endless ways to wow your customers, but it’s most important not to forget the basics. First, offer the type of accommodations that you appreciate when traveling as a guest. Your campers will happily notice if you provide a tidy cabin, clean grounds, and satisfactory shower. Second, listen intently and be quick to address any issues. If a customer has a problem or a complaint, try to prioritize them as much as possible. Even if there’s no easy fix at the moment, communicating frequently with the customer about the evolving situation will go a long way toward easing their mind and assuring them that you truly care. Third, customer service starts with happy employees—see why below.
Keep Your Staff Happy
Customer happiness cannot exist without employee happiness, which is the bedrock of long-term business success. This is because a campground is a living environment where you’re selling a repeatable experience, and the staff who serve your campers are key facilitators of that experience.
When you consistently treat your employees like family and truly value their services, they will exude that positivity and high-quality work ethic back when interacting with customers. In a recent interview, Chris Jump, general manager of Anvil Campground, summarized this philosophy best:
“We equip our staff with the tools they need for success on day one, which is also why respect and unity come pretty naturally among our team. Everyone has the same kind of mindset when they’re working, and everyone can have as close to the same voice as possible when interacting with guests.”
Treat your staff well and train them to provide the best customer service—your customers will take notice. Ultimately, this will translate into more positive reviews, repeat business, and cascading benefits.
Simply Ask for Campground Reviews
You may wonder why your park has only received a handful of campground reviews each month or quarter. If so, ask yourself: “Am I actually asking my customers for reviews, or am I just assuming they will write them?” The old adage that it doesn’t hurt to ask certainly applies in this instance.
Sometimes all a camper needs is a slight nudge or reminder to do something, such as leave a review of their recent camping trip. Don’t be afraid to directly ask your customers to do so. Display a sign in your front office or a framed notice inside each cabin directing them to your preferred review platforms. Include hyperlinks to platforms on your website and in a post-stay email or survey.
Campers who book through Campspot Marketplace have an opportunity to leave a review in their post-stay survey, which is delivered automatically via email. Remind your customers to keep an eye out for any post-stay emails you send and let them know how their responses help your business.
Make It Easy to Leave Campground Reviews
Once you make the ask, you have to ensure the process of leaving a campground review is straightforward. In the case of common platforms such as Google or Facebook, most customers should be well-versed in leaving reviews, though you could have a short guide with simple steps and screenshots handy to share.
Similarly, don’t make your customers hunt down where you want them to leave a review. Instead, share a direct hyperlink to the platform. Consider providing a template sentence or two for the camper to customize with what they loved most about their stay. Encourage them to copy and paste the same review across sites for mutual benefit.
Provide a Small Incentive for Each Review
Asking your campers nicely for their reviews is a great starting point. With limited time and attention, though, some may need a little incentive in return. A review is essentially a public survey. Just as many businesses solicit survey responses for an extra benefit, you can do the same with reviews.
While reviews on Campspot Marketplace are restricted to campers who booked through it and can only be left by going through Campspot’s automatic post-stay email, campgrounds can incentivize reviews on open platforms like Google and TripAdvisor.
Below are a few forms of customer encouragement in exchange for an honest review:
- “Receive 5% off your next stay with us”
- “Be entered into a complimentary night’s stay raffle”
- “Enjoy a complimentary treat from our snack stand”
- “Pick out a free gift ($10 or less) from our campstore”
Consider offering any of the above incentives for a limited time or year-round depending on how many reviews you typically receive and your goals. Constraining the offer to within one week from a camper’s stay—while the experience is still fresh in their memory—is a good practice.
Amplify Your Positive Campground Reviews
To amplify the reach and benefits of positive campground reviews, highlight them on your website homepage and regularly through social media posts. You can do this strategically to align with your brand of camping.
For example, if a family of four shares how much they loved playing together at your splash pad, choose to highlight this review as a signal to other families that you are family-oriented. If a young couple shares how awesome the glamping tents and hiking trails on the property were for a weekend getaway, spotlight this review to advertise your new glamping tents and cater to active couples.
Additionally, try soliciting reviews during your off-season. You can then promote the fresh reviews to subtly reorient your campground to be top of mind at a time when your regulars aren’t normally thinking of it. Similarly, this could drive advance bookings by creating the appearance of competition and overall social validation of your park.
Respond Politely to All Campground Reviews
The experience-based nature of camping unfortunately means each trip is also highly subjective to the individual camper. Despite your best efforts, you won’t be able to please everyone or control all optics. For instance, it’s not uncommon for less-seasoned campers to blame a campground for uncontrollable elements that simply come with the outdoors—bugs, dirt, allergies.
No matter the circumstance, we recommend replying briefly to all reviews. For positive reviews, responding with a simple “Thank you!” is a nice affirmation of the customer’s viewpoint and your commitment to detail. If encountering a negative review, avoid arguing in your reply. You could try to clarify their side of the story depending on what happened, but diffusion and the high road are better routes to take. Even if you’re not in the wrong, a simple apology and invitation to return for an improved impression can go a long way in convincing other readers of the review to visit.
When seeking and managing campground reviews, don’t forget that it’s the aggregate and average that matter. While it’s natural to take harsh customer reviews personally—whether warranted or not—focus on your dozens of other positive reviews and the importance of maintaining a high-star average. If you are continually promoting opportunities to leave reviews, this practice will pay off over time as you shore up enough beneficial reviews to outweigh the few outliers. Above all, remember to be authentic and remember the root of every positive review: positive customer service.
Haley Dalian is a lifelong Michigander who takes advantage of recreation throughout the state’s changing seasons—from snow skiing to scuba diving in the Great Lakes. A former Campspot marketing manager, Haley holds a B.A. degree in public policy from Michigan State University and an M.S. degree in sustainability from the University of Michigan. She is passionate about environmental stewardship, exploring the outdoors, and has never met a potato she didn’t like.