Nowadays most people have heard of Trip Advisor and many use it as a tool to make choices and help them decide what hotel to book, what excursion to go on and in our case, what dive centre to go diving with.
When there is a wide choice, tools like Trip Advisor can help provide people with more information with reviews from other customers with first hand experience. We all know that these tools should be non-biased and be solely about a genuine experience with objective feedback. Most reviews do fall into this category and therefore genuine reviewers also understand that sometimes Trip Advisor is used as a platform for people to vent and moan because 'it rained' or 'they didn't like Thai food' or 'the visibility wasn't as good as they were expecting'. These factors may not be the fault of the business, rather incidental things that then affect the business by receiving a less than favourable review. We do understand that sometimes things are not 100% perfect and small mistakes can be made and we genuinely do our best to provide the best possible experience and if we really have made a boo boo, we will do what we can to make up for it.
After all, we would all like to go diving anywhere in the world and experience flat seas, beautiful sunny days, 30m visibility with dolphins, whale sharks, manta rays, sea lions, sharks, sea horses etc on every dive!! But sadly life isn't like that and when nature is involved, no matter how hard you try to provide the best experience possible, sometimes people will still be disappointed or you will not live up to their expectations.
So, The Dive Academy has achieved a great reputation in 13 years and maintains a 100% safety record and after 7.5 years of establishing a good presence on Trip Advisor, we have amassed over 760 reviews, with 750 being excellent or very good and have retained the Certificate of Excellence award for the last 5 years. As a small business we have worked work very hard to achieve these ratings and of course will continue to strive to do so for all our new and returning customers.
However, since the end of February 2018, we have seen our ranking position of #3 in Scuba & Snorkeling activities on Samui slide to #9 or #14 depending on what search criteria you use on Trip Advisor. This is not as a result of any negative reviews or indeed other competitors soaring ahead of us, this is solely to do with Trip Advisor changing their internal algorithms that drive the ranking scores. Upon looking at the owners forum, this has affected thousands of businesses around the world where they have seen their hard work destroyed overnight and rankings are now seemingly completely arbitrary. Despite thousands of complaints about this problem, Trip Advisor (who do not have any telephone or email support service) are doing nothing to address the issue. Whilst Trip Advisor (like Google and other leading internet service companies) do not publicise the workings of their algorithms, they are maintaining that rankings are driven by the Quality, Quantity and Recency of reviews.
As a small example, this year we have so far received 30 x 5* reviews, 2 x 4* reviews and 1 x 2* review. Yet companies with only 2 x 5* reviews in the same period or only 150 reviews in total are now ranked higher than us. So clearly the Quality/Quantity/Recency factors no longer apply!
Whilst this impacts our business, this also means that consumers are seeing a false representation as well. People use Trip Advisor expecting there to be a complete non-bias and accurate reflection when seeing a ranking and now this just cannot be trusted which is a real shame for all businesses and consumers around the world. One other thing we have also learned is that no matter how good a diving business may appear on Trip Advisor, it doesn't tell you whether they are actually operating legally and whether their staff have work permits and therefore insurance. A very important factor in diving.
We would be interested to hear how you make your choices and how much Trip Advisor influences your decisions? And if you haven't previously left a review for The Dive Academy, we would really appreciate it, if you would like to write one!