Negative reviews don’t have to ruin your day. In fact, if handled correctly, they can be a powerful tool. According to recent industry research, most travelers are critical thinkers who can have their opinions swayed if a negative review is addressed in the right way. Study data revealed that the way a hotel reacts to criticism can change a traveler’s opinion and even their booking decision.
How does your hotel react to criticism on social media or review sites like TripAdvisor? Do you ignore it? For many hoteliers and restaurant owners, that can be their first instinct. Keep in mind that while you may be tempted to ignore it and hope the positives outweigh the negatives, your potential guests will not ignore it. In fact, many guests focus on the negative reviews specifically to see if there are recurring problems or issues they should know about before they book.
Your second instinct might be to react defensively or by telling the guest they misunderstood or ignored something. However true that might be in some cases, it’s almost never going to go over well! No paying customer – especially one who’s had a bad experience – wants to be told they’re the ones in the wrong.
So, is there a third way? Definitely! Respond to negative reviews in a constructive way. This means accepting blame where it’s appropriate, never blaming the guest, being polite, and even making amends (with a private offering of a discount or free room) if it’s a situation that calls for it. This doesn’t mean you need to take the blame for every unreasonable complaint – in some cases, it may just mean thanking them for their feedback and promising you’re constantly improving.
To help you evaluate the kind of negative review you’ve gotten and find constructive ways to respond to it, we’ve put together 10 tips to help you handle negative reviews:
Here are a few ways to handle your next negative review:
Embrace the Negative
A negative review is inevitable at some point. Don’t panic! Be prepared to deal with it promptly and politely, with the goals of a) telling them you understand, b) apologizing if it’s appropriate, and c) moving the conversation offline (try asking them to call you or send a private message so you can make it right).
Listen to your guests — listening means accepting the bad with the good, and turning those negatives into positives.
The longer a negative review remains unanswered, the more people can be influenced by it. Don’t trick yourself into thinking that the positive reviews will make up for the negative ones. Fair or not, people often consider positive reviews to be a default, and they’re more likely to read the negative ones!
Have someone scan and deal with reviews daily — ideally within 24 hours. Only be on as many review channels as you can handle. If people can review your hotel on 30 different channels but you only have the staff and time to monitor 15, you risk missing important reviews and alienating past and future guests.
Understand Your Guest’s Concerns
What is the guest concerned about? What are the key issues? Was it an issue with housekeeping, the restaurants, the decor or something insubstantial?
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.
Assess the Feedback for Things to Work On
Evaluate the feedback objectively! Is there any truth behind it? It can be tempting to dismiss any complaints out of hand, or think that people are exaggerating or being unfair. Sometimes, that’s true, and all you can do is offer an apology or an explanation and move on.
Other times, though, it’s appropriate to ask yourself: Is there an alternate perspective you might have missed? Is it 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. Whether you do that or not, though, make sure to offer a genuine apology and a promise to improve.
Be Polite and Don’t Place Blame
Always thank guests for their feedback, be polite and don’t place blame – no matter what you might be thinking in private, the internet isn’t the place for unvarnished commentary from your hotel!
Validate a guest’s concerns and accept responsibility where it’s due.
Review Your Response Before You Press Send
Always take a moment before responding, especially if you’re responding to a particularly inflammatory review: as the saying goes, “the internet is forever.”
Blue Sky Hostel in Glasgow learned a deeply unfortunate lesson in 2014 about the amplification power of social media and the risks of responding in hasty anger to a guest online. After a guest left a Facebook status tagging the hostel in an admittedly harsh review, the owner and manager replied – with sarcasm, insults, and slurs regarding the intellect of the guest. The comments continued with responses from both sides, more personal insults directed at the guest and outsiders chiming in with their own two cents.
The review went viral, even rating its own Buzzfeed article, and while many were entertained, it’s probably safe to say the the phrase “all publicity is good publicity” doesn’t apply here.
Keeping Blue Sky’s experience in mind, read over what you have written before you send or publish – or you might get the kind of notoriety you’re trying to avoid!
Tips to keep in mind for the future:
Learn from Your Mistakes
It’s not all bad – a guest’s perspective may alert you to a better or different way of doing things.
- What have I learned about the 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 you have similar issues popping up in each of your negative reviews. Are guests often unhappy with the water pressure or turn down service? If the same issue is cropping up over and over again, there may be an problem that you need to fix.
Create a Specific Structure for Your Resonses
Ensure that your frontline staff are well trained, so all your responses are professional, friendly and timely without sounding robotic.
Here’s a response structure you can try out:
- Thank the customer for their time writing a review
- Acknowledge any positive comments
- Apologize 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
Respond to Positive Reviews with Personalized Messages
Responding to the positive reviews can be invaluable as well – it shows that you take the time to appreciate your happy guests!
Potential customers have shown they’re more likely to stay at a hotel with personal responses, partially because it adds that ‘human element’ that can get lost online.
Remember – You Can Turn Negatives into Positives!
See negative reviews as positive opportunities, because they give you the chance to show off your humility and empathy, and because they help identify growth opportunities.
It may not be pleasant to receive, but negative feedback gives you a different perspective to consider. By learning from various perspectives, you can grow much faster.
Take advantage of your negative reviews, and use them to grow your hotel!