Making the Most of Visitor Reviews

Museums are part of the travel and leisure industry. As such, our reviews on a variety of sites like TripAdvisor and Yelp are critically important. The quality of our reviews relates to the experience our museum offers, and that’s a more detailed discussion for a different time. For today’s tidbit, I’m going to talk about the review processing.

For this article, I’m going to lump reviews into three categories:

  1. Positive reviews
  2. Reviews that are positive, but include recommendations on how the museum can perform better.
  3. Negative reviews.

For this article, we are going to focus on #2 and #3. How does your museum handle negatives reviews or reviews that include recommendations? If you do not reply or you reply publicly to the post without engaging the person that wrote the review, you are missing a big opportunity.

People that take the time to write detailed museum reviews are making a statement about themselves. Travel reviews are not like comments under a news article online. A traveler’s reviews are connected to their identity on the review sites. They know that if they give all negative reviews, no one will give them credibility. Several organizations have analyzed the quality and authenticity of travel reviews and determined that people who took the time to come to an establishment and write a review on an established account are writing a genuine, honest review well over 95% of the time.

When my museum received either a negative review or a review with suggestions, this is an opportunity. More than anything else, the person that wrote the review wants to be heard and have their opinion respected and acknowledged. I recommend reaching out directly to the person that wrote the review. At my museum, I send a direct message on the travel site and ask the person that wrote the review if I can call them to discuss their experience in more detail. Over two-thirds allow the call or communicate with me in more detail by email. On the call, I ask them to tell me about their experience, and I allow them to talk as long as they wish. In addition, I always ask how we could do better in the future and frequently ask how they would do it if it were them. After the call, I often send them a thank you note by email or snailmail. I also always give them either my direct phone number of my private email address and tell them they can contact me any time.

Over the years, I have had many wonderful things come out of these phone calls. Many people have become regular museum attendees, a few have become regular donors, several have become advocates for the museum online, and I even worked on a professional project with one person that I first engaged in this manner.

The point is that people appreciate it when they are respected and heard. When you get a review that lends itself to further conversation, treat that as an opportunity, and engage the reviewer.

A few final notes on this topic. Do not ever merely publicly reply to the review on the review platform without first attempting to contact the reviewer. This is a cold way to handle the situation and frequently makes things worse. Lastly, when I discuss this concept in person, I’m often asked about illogical and irrational reviews. While this does happen, it is an exception in the museum space. I’ve been the CEO of a high traffic museum for over eight years, and I have run into less than five situations like this. While it will happen, it will be rare.

Article by Frank Bennett, originally published at

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