How to Avoid Bad Reviews and Keep Your Reputation Spotless
Sep 8, 2021 | 9 minute read Comments
Reading Time: 9 minutes
Megan from FishingBooker Customer Support

No charter captain likes getting a bad review. Nowadays especially, when everything’s connected online, a bad review means more than a single low rating. From different websites and social media to word of mouth, your customers have a stronger voice than ever before.

To help you keep your reputation spotless, we’ve looked at thousands of customer reviews, both on FishingBooker and elsewhere. And for first-hand insight, Megan from Customer Support will break down the most burning complaints you should know about.

Click the bar below to hear us talk about it, or keep scrolling to read our full conversation.


Not Catching Fish

Nearly 1 in every 3 negative reviews mentions not catching fish. How can captains make sure that their customers are satisfied even when the bite is slow?

Megan: Every customer likes a big catch. Still, a poor day of catching doesn’t need to translate to an overall bad day on the water. Captains who prioritize a fun experience over buckets of fish are more likely to get a good rating.

So people who don’t catch fish can actually leave a positive review?

I see 5-star reviews with no fish in the bucket every day. But time and again, it’s the guides who’ve shown customers a good time that get them. As a captain once told me: “The bite comes and goes, but quality of service stays.”

a positive customer review that mentions how the guests had an enjoyable time despite not catching anything
Bob’s Guide Service Encore 5-star review proves that experience always comes first

But what about customers who are expecting a big catch?

That comes down to how realistic their expectations are. Customers looking to catch their limit of Red Snapper on a 3 hour inshore trip aren’t likely to have their expectations met, no matter how skilled their captain is.

So what can captains do?

Being proactive and addressing customers’ needs early can save both parties a lot of inconvenience. Whether it’s a different trip or going after another species, timely communication makes a huge difference.

Are there any exceptions?

Absolutely. There are people who specifically book trips to fill the cooler. In Alaska, for example, customers sometimes head out looking to bring home a year’s worth of wild Salmon. But even then, it comes down to setting realistic expectations. 

Captains can let those customers know when the best time to go is, and how likely they are to catch their fish.

Rescheduling Informally

Rescheduling bookings without updating them on FishingBooker is another common cause of bad reviews. Why is that?

Megan: Changing trip details without logging them makes captains and customers receive outdated information about their bookings. 

Imagine a customer boarding a flight getting a notification that their trip is about to start. Or a captain getting a booking reminder for a trip that already happened. This can leave people seriously confused.

It seems like you can easily miss your trip because of this…?

Something like this actually happened just a few days ago. The booking scheduled for Sunday couldn’t go ahead because of bad weather. The captain and customer talked about rescheduling for the following day. The customer thought that they agreed. Meanwhile, the captain was under the impression that they still needed a definitive confirmation.

Long story short, the customer drove five hours just to find out that the captain went out with somebody else!

We’re always here to help captains and customers reconnect and confirm things. But when changes aren’t logged in the system, we can only react once somebody lets us know that there’s an issue. 

Alright, so what’s the ideal scenario?

Both captains and customers can use the “Booking Change Request” feature to update the trip details in the system. It’s a simple process: one party suggests the change to the trip, and the other party is prompted to accept it. 

Ok, that sounds simple enough. But why is that better?

Well because, as soon as they accept, the details will automatically be updated on the booking and in the calendar and all the booking notifications will be in sync.

The other big thing is that both sides have a paper trail to confirm everything they agreed on, so everybody’s able to focus on actually preparing for their day out.

Customer reviews show that people appreciate having a seamless solution when something unexpected comes up. Check out how a rescheduled booking turned into an unforgettable memory for Anthony and his family.

two images of a smiling family on their fishing trip, caught while posing with their catch

💡 Soon, you’ll also be able to change bookings that involve a price change. There’ll be no need to cancel and rebook customers. Just a few taps, and you’re set!

Wrong Captain

Being taken out by a captain that’s not mentioned on the listing isn’t the most common reason customers leave bad reviews, but it’s definitely one of the most serious ones. This is the sort of thing that can end up on multiple review websites, including your social media.

Why do you think these types of issues escalate as often as they do?

Megan: Imagine you’ve never been fishing before and someone told you that you and your family are going out with a person you know nothing about. And that you only find out about this when you get to the dock. Now imagine that the slightest thing goes wrong, even if it’s catching no fish. You’re going to blame it all on the “new” captain. It’s just how we’re wired.

Surely that’s bound to happen every once in a while, right?

Sure, but it depends on when and how the customer finds out.

If something unexpected happens, and the original captain lets the customer know that they needed to find a replacement at the last moment, that’s something customers can understand. As long as they’re informed before they get to the dock, at least.

But when it’s business as usual, and the captain on the dock is not the person that the customer read about, that’s a different story.

a negative customer review that mentions that the person advertised as the fishing guide online is not the actual person that took the party out

What can captains do about this?

The first thing to address is the listing type. Are you a charter operator with multiple boats or a single fishing guide? This is easy to do and it sets the tone for what customers can expect. The other thing to make sure is that the listing description and Captain Bio sections tell the right story. 

Sounds like a simple fix. Where can captains edit these?

They can edit their account type and bio section in their profile settings. As for the listing description, they can send us information regarding whatever they want to edit, and we’ll do that for them right away. 

Wait, why can’t captains edit the listing descriptions on their own?

Because they’re linked to how we advertise captains online. We optimize listing descriptions so that captains rank better on Google and other search engines. But like I said, every captain can let us know about what they want to change and we’ll get right on it.

💡 Did you know that the vast majority of reviews on FishingBooker are very positive? In fact, the average customer review score is 4.8! That gives you a lot of opportunities to boost your business.

Not Getting What They Paid For

Customers can be unforgiving when leaving reviews. Even when captains work their tails off to put them on fish, customers can leave bad reviews if they didn’t receive the amenities they expected. Why do you think this is?

Megan: It’s really tough to see a good captain receive a bad review for something that could have easily been avoided.

But the fact of the matter is that customers heavily rely on listing information when choosing their guide. You could say that that’s almost all they have to go on. So it makes sense that they’re disappointed when something isn’t as advertised.

What are some common situations where customers feel like they haven’t gotten their money’s worth?

Boat Not as Advertised

Megan: If you’re taking customers out on a ramshackle version of the boat you’re showing online, good luck getting them to leave a positive review.  

I remember seeing this and thinking “They got five stars for the crew, and this was still a negative review!” It’s completely normal for captains to have older boats. But when they do, they should definitely upload up-to-date photos of their vessel. It’s a shame that a good crew got a bad review for something so easily avoidable.

💡 Check out our Boat Maintenance article for expert tips on how to keep your vessel in top condition.

Amenities and Actual Fishing Time

Customers care about what’s included in the trip price, particularly if they’re fishing with their family. What do captains need to pay attention to when it comes to the amenities they’re advertising?

Megan: Captains who aren’t clear about what’s included on their trips are more likely to get negative reviews. There are no two ways about it. While it may seem trivial to hardcore fishermen, whether or not you have a toilet or A/C onboard makes a huge difference to how a family will feel on your boat.

What about some things that more experienced anglers care about?

The obvious one is live bait. If you provide it from the start, great. But if you’re going to spend time catching it, your customers should know about it. This is something that comes up in reviews pretty often, actually.

a customer review that describes that the actual fishing time is a lot shorter than the total duration of the trip

But what if live bait isn’t always available? Or if captains are only using it on longer trips?

In that case, captains should add notes for such amenities, so that customers can see the conditions. They can access this under Basic Info under their listing settings

Captains should also make sure that the trip descriptions match the information under each package. This is under the “Trips” section.

a visual representation of where captains can request changes to their trip descriptions

Now obviously, your amenities section doesn’t cover the bait store running out of supplies. In those situations, things will always come down to good old communication and working hard to provide a memorable experience. 

If you keep your customer informed and they see that you’re doing your best to make them happy, good things will happen. Fail to communicate, and it’s a matter of time until your reputation takes a hit.

Captain’s Behavior

Unsurprisingly, the way the captain and crew treat their guests has a huge impact on customer satisfaction. In fact, unpleasant behavior is the second biggest reason why people leave negative reviews

Megan: It’s also the most common reason why customers go beyond FishingBooker with their opinions. Being rude affects people on a personal level, which is why it can really damage a captain’s reputation. 

Being polite seems like a no brainer, doesn’t it?

Sure, but there’s more to it than just that. Customers appreciate when you’re active and involved. In fact, they count on captains to be part of the experience. Of course, some guides are more hands off, and that’s fine, but you never want your customer to feel neglected.

a negative customer review about a fishing guides behavior and inattentiveness

For example, look at how many times this customer mentioned the captain ignoring them. They left this comment on a big business review website, as well as on FishingBooker. Imagine what a person reading this would think of the captain!

It’s interesting that the customer mentioned a safety brief. Do you see that often?

I do, especially with first timers and families. If you’re a captain, doing a safety brief doesn’t just make your guests feel safe. It’s also the perfect opportunity to make a great first impression. 

I always say to captains, if you have something important to address, start by sending your customers one of your Saved Responses. Once they’re on your boat, you can always readdress what you need. It’s a touch of professionalism that guests really appreciate. 

Any other piece of advice you’d give?

Reply. Always reply to reviews, no matter if they’re good or bad. Not only are you acknowledging your customers, you’re also giving other prospective guests a sneak-peak into the type of person you are. If they see that you’re a thoughtful person who’s attentive to detail, they’re far more likely to choose you as their guide.

Megan from Customer Support talking to Sean from Product Marketing about customer reviews on FishingBooker

Reviews: An Opportunity to Grow

Whether it’s on FishingBooker or elsewhere, getting a review gives you a unique opportunity to see how your customers see you. And while positive reviews are what you always want, negative reviews can give you all the information you need to polish things out and take your business to the next level.

So there you have it. Did you find our insights useful? How do you address your customers’ biggest concerns? Let us know in the comments below!

Comments (2)
  • Capt. Tony Denslow

    Aug 26, 2021

    It’s difficult to police reviews. Some customers will flat out lie about their trip, yet they get a voice. Some captains will take relatives or friends out for free and of course the captain gets a glowing report. I once got a bad review on Google by a guy I never heard of nor had a record of his communication or had received a deposit from him. He alleged that I double booked and left he and group without a boat. Total BS, yet that review is still out there. Yes, I can comment on negative reviews left by customers but when a new prospect reads it what is likely their first thought? It’s likely to be “ah, he’s trying to save his butt.” That gets a captain no where.

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      Sep 1, 2021

      Hi Captain Tony,

      Thanks for sharing, those are some really good points you’ve brought up.

      It’s true, some customers can be unreasonable when leaving reviews. And it sucks when you get a bad review on Google, especially if this is a person you never took out. But to be honest, I would reply even to those customers. Just like you, prospective customers can recognize when someone’s being unreasonable. In that way, a polite, articulate reply, or a friendly offer to help can really change what someone thinks when they read your reviews.

      In this particular case, you might even discover that this person left a review for the wrong captain! We’ve seen it happen, especially with charters that have similar names.

      On FishingBooker, we try to combat this by having “verified” reviews, which only your customers can leave. Of course, if you had a customer that booked directly, you can send them a review invitation. But you never have to worry about someone you know nothing about leaving a review.

      At the end of the day, one bad review shouldn’t hurt your reputation, especially if you have loads of positive reviews to prove that you’re good at what you do. I’m happy to see that you’ve got a perfect 5-star review rating on FishingBooker.

      Thanks again for sharing, Captain.

      Tight lines!

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