With the increase in product personalisation what were once products are now services, especially in the travel, tourism and hospitality industry.
This has implications on how review websites operate. If the customer really did ask for salt on their chips they can't complain about the taste.
If the customer really did only give 30 minutes to cross from one side of the airport to another they can't complain about missing their connection.
Of course a travel supplier must make an effort to stop a customer buying a combination that really isn't practical - but ultimately the customer may choose not to take that advice and the supplier is left in a very difficult position of turning away business or accepting a booking that might result in the customer having a poor experience.
Then we have the problem of expectation. Much of what ends up as a negative review is because the customer expected a different level of service than what they purchased.
We constantly see negative coverage about low cost airlines such as Ryanair but really they are very good services at the price. In the UK some train journeys cost more!
Many expectation issues are actually cultural. Book a double bed in Germany and find out that it is more like a twin bed pushed together? Well that is how it is in Germany and not cause for a negative review, for example.
A proposed solution
The real problem with negative reviews is that the customer really did have a negative experience. Therefore the aim of a hotelier or other supplier shouldn't be in stopping negative reviews but stopping negative experiences in the first instance. Cure the cause not the symptom.
For example do customers know how German hotel beds are likely to be? *
The period between booking and pre-travel is normally used to sell more stuff to the customer. Sell them airport parking, sell them insurance, sell them an upgrade to something or other.
Instead, I propose that you use this time to start to set expectation. Start a conversation with the customer.
For example lets assume they are going to Germany. Show them two pictures of hotel beds side by side - one based on their cultural norm, one based on the German reality. Ask them which best matches what they have booked. Let them answer a series of five photo-based questions and if they have them all right then that is fine.
However if the customer scores most of them wrong then you know they are expecting something different to what you have sold them.
At this point you can get a human on the case and contact the customer to recalibrate their expectation (or sell them an upgrade that matches what they actually want).
Now that would be better than just having reviews AFTER travel, right?
At least the supplier can remove a cause of negative experiences while they still have the chance. Much better.
Such a strategy would also position review websites as being useful to suppliers rather than just as scorers of historical customer experiences that the supplier can't actually do anything about.
NB: * Walking in Germany make a good attempt to show what a German bed looks like - see picture.