GuestReviews Expands Consumer Rating Distribution
Nearly 1,000 parks across America are using a ratings system for the sake of creating and maintaining happy campers. Since the National Association of RV Parks and Campgrounds (ARVC) started its GuestReviews program three years ago, about 60,000 individual reviews have been evaluated, and the program is now focused on getting more state, county and federal parks involved in the survey process.
GuestReviews is a state-of-the-art, on-line survey service developed and provided by Murrieta, Calif.-based MacKinnon Campground Consulting. It measures 34 different guest satisfaction elements such as site conditions, service, restroom cleanliness, facility appearance as well as their overall camping experience. Survey participants assign letter grades for each survey category, and they have the ability to type in detailed explanations of problems or concerns.
“We’ve been providing this as a member benefit through ARVC,” explained Bob MacKinnon. “Every ARVC park, which is about 3,700 parks, has a page on gocampingamerica.com which has a review link on that page by default.”
The program is a free member benefit, but ARVC members must register at www.guestreviews.com to receive a confidential password to view their park’s survey results.
There are now nine other participating websites (see below) and the parks listed on those sites, which total around 7,000, also have the ability to receive ratings, according to MacKinnon.
“It is gaining interest among consumers,” he said. “Our goal is to help parks gain exposure as well as boost the GuestReviews program. What I am thrilled about is that the people using the program are getting a powerful impact.”
Millions of people check out reviews before staying at a hotel or eating at a restaurant, and the camping world is no different. In the camping industry the GuestReviews program is the most popular program ARVC has ever offered.
“This is powerfully expanded exposure for all campgrounds,” MacKinnon noted “Sometimes people can get sensitive about ratings, but this program is a good thing. It is a positive opportunity for them and can be transformational for their business. Customers are looking for this kind of information and parks can get exposure to 3 1/2 million campers a year, for free.”
Reviews are confidential and protected information and there are free tools to help parks promote the program to their customers.
“We have printed invitations to review parks,” MacKinnon said. “We also provide them a link that they can put on their individual park website so guests can review them.”
This spring GuestReviews added a dynamic report card score graphic that parks can put on their website to showcase their score.
The survey takes under 10 minutes to complete and Guest Reviews data shows that more than 80% of people who start the survey go all the way to the last page.
Patricia Linn of Baileyton RV Park, in Baileyton, Tenn., started using the program in May 2008.
“We have been really happy with it,” she said. “When we first started, we were not really sure what it was all about so we printed off the GuestReviews sheet and handed it out to campers as they checked in. We would ask campers to go online and fill it out and we got a good response. We can view the individual surveys and see what people are saying. We’ve always had great comments and whenever someone has had a complaint or concern we try to take care of it immediately. If you cannot see what people are saying you cannot address the problem.”
Baileyton RV Park was honored to be in the top 31 parks in the nation to receive an “A” rating through GuestReviews.
“It has been very refreshing to see the reviews and have such positive feedback,” Linn said.
Mike Papp of West Canada Creek Campsites, Poland, N.Y., says every business owner wants to know and needs to know how their services are being received.
“When we first bought West Canada Creek Campsites, we started doing our own surveys to determine our plans for the future and how we were doing,” he explained. “These were on paper and while we got a good return rate, it was often difficult to find time to read them and analyze them. While difficult, we worked through them and put our five-year plan together.”
After owning his park for four years and hearing about the GuestReviews program from ARVC, Papp connected with Bob MacKinnon at a Campground Owners of New York (CONY) convention and after hearing the program details, he signed up immediately.
“The benefits to the program are many, including quick feedback from guests, analysis and a good grading system,” he said. “It is easy to use and if used appropriately will provide the user (business owner/manager) with invaluable information to manage their business, staff, and short and long term planning, and allow them to intervene with an unhappy guest in order to win or try to win back their trust/loyalty.”
Several reviews on West Canada Creek Campsites mentioned the fire pits at the park.
“While people liked the size of the pits, the higher back was a problem when a larger group wanted to sit around the fire and talk,” Papp said. “After working with my maintenance staff, we were able to build a different mold for the fire pits that have a lower back. This simple change did two things – first it made the campers happy as they can now sit around the fire pit. The second benefit was cost savings – we now use three less bags of mix to make the pits.”
Lori Hostetter, Hocking Hills KOA, Hocking Hills, Ohio, uses GuestReviews in order to learn, grow and become a better park.
“We appreciate the insight it gives us to make our campground a place people enjoy,” she said. “We use the first upgrade that GuestReviews offers. This allows us to see the comments that our guests that respond make. These comments are helpful especially when something needs our attention and a guest has not mentioned it while they were here. Sometimes guests will give praise to a particular employee that was helpful or an event they participated in while they were with us. We make sure to let our employees know if they have received positive comments on a review and at the same time if a negative comment were to be made, we would also bring that to the employee’s attention. Not all comments are positive and we have to realize that is one of the reasons we subscribe to this survey.”
Hostetter said the best feature about GuestReviews is that it is timely.
“We get feedback from our guests right after they have stayed with us,” she said. “We use the e-mail invitations to ask our guests to review us and have found this to be the easiest for us.”
For more information about GuestReviews services for campground owners and managers, please contact Bob MacKinnon at (951) 696-8112 or email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The current participating websites are: