Online Reviews = Nightmare? – Part II
1. Honesty Is Always The Best Policy
Be completely honest when engaging with guests who have manifested negative reviews, and don’t try to make it look like you’re actually the victim. Stand by your mistakes and deal with the specific issues presented.
2. Be Original . Think Out-of-the-Box
When responding to any kind of review, particularly the negative ones, avoid using pre-formatted and predictive answers. Such replies only contribute to annoy even further an already unsatisfied guest, because they scream that you could not even bother yourself to spend some time and write a proper answer. Instead, be original, personal, and sincere in the message you want to convey.
3. Listen, Anticipate And Monitor Reputation
Besides the necessary “time” and “effort” you’ll need to put in in terms of homework related to major hotel review websites as well as social media, the multitude of mediums and digital channels makes the current process so complicated and time consuming, that using a solid online hotel reputation software/service is clearly the answer.
The ability to monitor your property online reputation at all times.
The guarantee that not a single review goes by unnoticed.
Full control over social influences.
In-depth competition data analysis.
Customer satisfaction enhancement.
Increased Return on investment.
4. Have A System In Place
In order to maximize effectiveness of your social customer service, make sure you have a system in place, and that there’s a clear set of rules that should be written in stone and followed by you and your staff at all times.
Consider appointing a member of your team as “Social Media Manager” to guarantee your social customer care does not get neglected, and ensure your front-line staff is well trained in every facet: skills, service and crisis management. A professional team, well supported, will not only guarantee that negative experiences are dealt with promptly, but will go a long way to prevent them from happening at all.
5. Be Proactive About Feedback
Pro-activeness is the name of the game in today’s hyper-connected age, and besides the fact of saving you a lot of headaches in the near future, the level of how observant and responsive you are in this new era of digital transparency may dictate how competitive you actually are.
Amassing reviews is great for boosting online visibility, but also a key factor in terms of Index Ranking on travel review websites such as TripAdvisor, in part, because the more reviews the hotel has the better, and the better overall score the better as well.
Whether your front desk staff invites guests to review your property upon check-out, or post-stay surveys are emailed to guests, every single one of them should be asked to share feedback about their stay. Be genuine, not pushy, with a simple request like, “We hope you enjoyed your stay with us and welcome you to share your experience by completing this short survey and/or reviewing us on TripAdvisor. Your feedback is much appreciated.”
6. Positive Or Negative, Feedback Is Always Feedback
At the end of the day, the best defense against negative reviews are positive reviews, don’t you agree?
The ultimate mantra is and should be: be appreciative of all feedback, positive as well as negative, at all times!
Great online reviews are excellent opportunities to conquer true brand advocates, so make sure that it does not go unnoticed and be appreciative of it via email, e-card, or simply by picking up the phone to thank them, or extending special offers on their repeated and/or future visits.
Thank all reviewers for their feedback, especially the ones with negative takes. No matter how much you may disagree with their opinion, they are offering insight about how you may improve your business, and will feel actively involved in the process, which is great for future loyalty.
Also, do not assume that all negative reviewers are set on a mission to go out to get you. This is an obvious example of Basil’s Fawlty Syndrome, and usually the typical reaction from low quality hotels. If there are a lot of people complaining, the likelihood is that there’s probably a point to it.They are not, necessarily, all “snobs”.
8. Not Responding Is Not An Option!
Either it be a compliment, question or complaint, not responding is not an option in the hospitality business.
Whenever a guest is taking the time to reach out, make sure you recognize it, showing that you’re listening and that you really care.
9. Answer Promptly To All Interactions
The thing that should always be on your mind, is that, the longer you take to act, the bigger the probability that your guests are already speaking their minds in social media, travel review websites, blogs, etc, so make no mistake about it, word-of-mouth continues to be the most effective communication strategy to date, but it can go both ways.
Research shows that most guests expect an actual response to their complaints within’ 60 minutes of posting it; since hotels are a 24/7 operation, make sure the necessary assets are on top of it at all times, and give them authority to respond on behalf of the hotel.
10. Stay Cool And Collected . It’s Nothing Personal
Many business owners just can’t help feeling upset, angry and emotional when facing negative reviews. Not gonna work.
Let’s face it, it’s virtually impossible to win an argument with a frustrated guest, so make sure you keep your responses useful, readable, and courteous. An abrupt or defensive tone can damage a relationship with the reviewer and negatively impact on anyone who reads it on social media. “Always take a moment before responding. Write your response and edit it, read it out loud, read it to someone else and take on their feedback before you hit send,” Pascoe says.
11. Be Polite And Constructive At All Times
Keep in mind that a rude, aggressive or flippant response from your side, will probably damage your reputation even more.
Be contrite when necessary; politely point out mistakes and misapprehensions when required; change things at the hotel when reviewers have a valid point. It is no coincidence that this is what the best-rated hotels tend to do. After all, we are all sophisticated browsers now. Some businesses forget that. We know to take with a pinch of salt what we read on sites like Yelp and TripAdvisor.
Make sure to flip the script and turn it into a positive. After cooling down, analyzing your situation and understanding your guest, you are ready to respond online to the review. Take the time to craft a response that not only addresses the concerns of the reviewer, but actually spins the situation to make you come out on top while still looking like the good guy.
12. Put Yourself in Their Shoes
Even if you don’t agree with, try to understand why the customer posted a negative review and how he/she is feeling.
When someone is upset, most of the time they just want to be heard, respected and understood. Sympathize with their frustration and let them know that you’ve taken their review into consideration. Remember, the “customer’s always right”, especially online.
For instance, if somebody has tried to call your hairdressing salon all week but your phones have been malfunctioning, and then there’s a small mix-up with their booking time, they’re likely to be far more negative about the mix-up. You need to understand the customer’s feelings, not just the facts, if you want a successful outcome.
Social media pretty much says it all… it’s about social, so make sure to be personable, helpful and caring at all times.
Your reviewers are already customers, so there’s no need to offer them extra incentives or promotions to keep it that way. In this case, share new insights about your business that they might have missed on their previous stay.
14. Take The Online Review To Offline Interaction
A smart approach to negative online reviews is making the transition from online to offline, thus providing a way more personalized and professional level of service. Either it be via direct messaging, email, telephone or face-to-face if the guest’s still staying at your property [you cannot read a person’s body language or hear their tone through a computer].
BOTTOM LINE, any mean is valid to make the most of it as a strategic opportunity, instead of just as a reputation damaging event.
15. Make Sure You Do Your Homework Before Moving Forward
When you come across a negative online review, make sure that you have all information needed before moving forward; talk with your staff and get their side of the story as well; in some cases, negative reviews are just the result of misunderstandings [like someone complaining about the hair dryer not working when they really didn’t understand the mechanism].
You may even want to contact the guest, privately, to fill in any holes of the story and to express your concern. Then you are prepared to take action to rectify the situation and respond to the review. If you resolve the complaint offline, be sure to provide an update on the online negative review on how the matter was resolved.
Make sure to take the opportunity to discover what else would have made the experience even better; you never know where your next great business idea may come from! ;)
16. Keep The Guest In The Loop At All Times
If you provide an update when responding to negative reviews regarding how you’ve solved the issue at hands, you stand a way much better chance of winning back their business, because you’re showing you’ve listened and have taken action.
17. Keep Your Staff In The Loop At All Times
Your staff is vital in the process of securing top notch guest satisfaction and experience, but if they’re not in the loop of what’s being said, they can’t help improving the situation, so make sure everyone in your hotel is on the same page and working towards the same goals.
18. Make Sure Only A Few People Manage The Process
This is the ideal way to make sure that the tone and language remain constant, meaning the follow-ups sound more genuine, which will allow you to start creating rapport with both your past and future guests. For instance, a formal tone and language such as ‘Dear customer’ opposed to a casual tone and language such as ‘Hi %first name%’ project a completely different message and are perceived in a completely different way.
You should never be sorry to say you’re sorry to a guest, because it goes a long way in assuaging their displeasure. Do not perceive it as a signal of weakness or guilt assumption, but yet as your way of being sympathetic, which will resonate in a positive way with other potential guests.
20. Don’t Be Afraid To Ask For A Second Chance
This one seems so obvious, and still, there are so many hotels that continue to completely disregard it.
Assure your guest there are no hard feelings and invite them back to give your hotel a second chance. Offering a discount, an in-room bottle of wine, a free night, or a complimentary service in one of your amenities can turn a disgruntled ex-guest into a satisfied repeat customer who is all too happy to share it’s positive experience.
21. Be Accessible . Provide Direct Contacts
Common sense, yet again, but do not excuse yourself from providing direct contacts to the reviewer, thus undermining the possibility of a direct contact moving forward. This will remove the dialog from the public eye and allow you to reinforce the connection with guests and solve their problems.
22. Revealing Personal Information Is Not An Option
Even if a guest is completely inappropriate in the way how he expressed, never, ever, reveal any personal information out of spite or even by accident. This is just not the way of doing things, and will completely alienate other potential guests.
23. Don’t Just Say You’ll Take Action . Do It!
If you’re continuously getting negative reviews mentioning the same thing, it’s probably time to do something about it, right?
Make the necessary improvements even if that means significant investment, and subsequently show proof to your potential guests that you have taken the necessary measure to resolve the issues. Even if it’s too late to fix the aspects that generated the review itself, you’ll still need to respond and highlight the improvements you’ve made, so other potential guests can see that you don’t just say it, but actually do it as well.
24. Respond Publicly
Once you’ve communicated privately with the guest, it’s generally a good idea to post a public message acknowledging the concern and outlining what you’ve done to resolve it. This will actually boost your reputation with many readers, who can see that you are responsive to feedback. If by any chance, it’s taking way too much time to get some feedback from their side, you might still like to post a public comment so that other readers know you’ve tried to take positive action.
Times have changed, and guests are more demanding and technologically savvy than they’ve ever been.
If you want to learn how to conquer and maintain 21st century guests, you need to know how they perceive and engage with your venue. If you’re not in the business of listening, you may actually be out of a business! Guests are entitled to an opinion, even if it’s a negative one. Still, embrace the negative as much as an opportunity as positive reviews.
26. Remember It’s A Learning Process
Successful business managers always learn from their mistakes and see them as ways of improving.
Sometimes a guest’s perspective may alert you to a better way of solving things. “The devil is in the details and as owners/managers focus on the business while working in the business, at times there’s a tendency to miss the little things that can make a big impact on the guest,” Pascoe says. Use negative reviews as an opportunity to learn and tweak your business where it needs tweaking.
27. Never Offer Compensation Online Or Give Into “Blackmail”
Compensation may be offered to a guest, if warranted, but not made public, so encourage them to contact you offline and, if justified, offer a promotional code, which you can set-up in your all-in-one booking solution system.
If a customer happens to demand a discount or some sort of benefit otherwise they’ll write a negative review, you’re being blackmailed. TripAdvisor recommends not meeting the demands of the person threatening you. “Report the threat immediately to them with any additional information you may have about the reviewer.”
28. Never Fine Or Sue Your Guests For Negative Reviews
This one just sounds absolutely ludicrous, right? Still, there has been some actual cases in the not so distant past.
Union Street Guest House in Hudson New York, included a clause in their contract in which every bad review posted by one of their guests would incur in a $500 fine… as you can imagine, it blew up in their faces, with over 700 eviscerating reviews on Yelp.com and turned into a PR nightmare.
29. Ask For False Or Inappropriate Reviews To Be Removed
If you believe that a review is false or malicious [e.g. has been posted by a competitor], or breaks the site rules [e.g. contains profanity, personal attacks or private information], contact the site and ask for it to be removed. However, be aware that the site may not agree with your assessment, or may be slow to remove a review even if they do agree. Therefore, you may still like to implement some of the other steps below.
30. Last But Not Least . Zeal. Always!
It’s a truly admirable trait, but only when you apply it in the guest’s best interest, showing you’re enthusiastic about solving their problems.
In the next chapter we’ll be covering how to respond to some of the most challenging reviews, so make sure you’re tuned.
Account Manager | HDS – Hotel Digital Strategy