A glowing review is like a sprinkle of gold dust. It shows your property in its best light, for the world to see. Since it's been possible to do so, people have been taking the opportunity to have their say on the likes of Tripadvisor, Google, Booking.com, Facebook etc. Post-pandemic, hotel reviews are now the third most important booking driver after location and price.
The online review model and platform allows people to give an unfiltered account of their entire stay, including the great bits and the not so great bits. Honesty is encouraged and so are details that might allude to what the hotel did well or could've done better. If the guest is happy, this kind of platform is perfect.
If they're not, and they leave a negative review, you can't ignore it unfortunately. It needs to be handled the right way. In this article, we'll go through the best ways you can handle negative reviews, and how you can try to avoid them in future.
1. Embrace it
While they can be frustrating, receiving a negative review is also inevitable at some point. As a company providing a service, you are opening yourself up to all kinds of people with all kinds of varying expectations. Whether you feel the review is warranted or not, you should be fully prepared to deal with it promptly and politely. You want to:
a) Tell your guest you understand
b) Apologise if it’s appropriate
c) Move the conversation offline (try asking them to call you or send a private message).
Opening your mind and listening to what your guests have to say is so important. Proper listening means accepting the bad with the good, and trying to turn negatives into positives.
2. Respond promptly
The longer a negative review remains unanswered, the more people could potentially be influenced by it. Reviews are a form of social proof, and unfortunately, people are more likely to have their interest spiked by the negative ones.
Have someone scan and deal with your reviews daily - on all relevant platforms (including Google, Tripadvisor, Facebook etc) - ideally within 24 hours. Make sure you're only on as many review channels as you can handle. If people are able to review your hotel on 30 different channels, but you only have the staff and time to monitor 15, you'll risk missing important reviews and alienating potential guests.
3. Understand your guest’s concerns
What is your guest concerned about? What was their key issue? Was with housekeeping, the restaurants, the decor or something else?
Ask yourself: why is the guest reacting in this way? Are they looking to vent? Did they just have a bad day? Or are there serious issues you need to address?
What did they experience at your hotel that prompted the review, and what can you do to address it? When you know what they’re talking about, you’ll know how to respond. The main thing is to approach the situation very mindfully and calmly.
4. Assess feedback and note what needs to be worked on
Evaluate the feedback objectively! Is there any truth behind it? It can be tempting to dismiss complaints or automatically think that people are being unfair. Sometimes that’s true. In this case, all you can do is offer an apology or explanation and move on.
Other times, though, it’s appropriate to ask yourself - is there something you're missing? Is there something you should take a closer look at? If a guest has been genuinely wronged, consider taking the conversation offline to offer them a voucher or a free room.
5. Be polite - don’t place blame
Always thank guests for their feedback. Be kind and polite, and don’t start placing blame – no matter what you might be thinking in private, the internet is the last place you want to get into any kind of disagreement with a guest. It won't serve you to come across as childish. Validate your guest’s concerns and accept responsibility with a level head where it’s due!
6. Review your response
Be smart and always double check your responses before sending - what is printed on the internet lives forever! Especially in this delicate context, you want to try and say the right thing.
7. Learn from your mistakes
Negative reviews, dare we say it, are not all entirely bad. If they can shed light on an issue or give a different perspective on something you may need to change, they can be incredibly positive and helpful in the long run. This is why approaching them with an open mind is so important.
When you come across a negative review of your hotel, ask yourself the following:
- What have I learned about our hotel?
- What have I learned about our guests?
- How can we improve?
- What can we do differently from now on?
These questions are especially important to ask if the same issues are popping up frequently in your negative reviews.
8. Create a guide for staff
Equipping all relevant staff members with a solid process of what to do in light of a negative review coming in is a crucial part of all this. Your frontline staff need to be trained well in this area so that all your responses are professional, friendly and timely - without sounding robotic or impersonal.
Here’s a response structure you can try:
- Thank the customer for writing a review
- Acknowledge any positive comments
- Apologise for the specific complaint or issue
- Explain a specific, forward-looking plan of how you will fix the problem
- Invite the customer to come back
9. Respond to positive reviews with a personalised message
People are looking for a personalised, special approach from brands they engage with more than ever. It adds a 'human' element that can get lost in the whirl of online content.
10. Turn negatives into positives
Once you have dealt with the immediate concerns in relation to a negative review, try and see it as a positive opportunity. It can give you the chance to grow your business by identifying potential gaps or issues.
They're never pleasant to receive - but negative feedback can fuel proactivity and it can motivate you to make a change once you've considered this different perspective. By choosing to learn from it, you're choosing to grow.