The Challenge of Responding to Negative Reviews

With online reviews holding so much influence in a traveler’s decision-making process, hotels cannot afford to just leave them be. A study from TripAdvisor and Isos MORI shows that 77% of travelers are more likely to book when they see the owner respond to online reviews.

Engaging with a negative review had an even greater impact on customer purchasing decisions, as 89% reported that a thoughtful response to a poor review improved their perception of the business.

Responses are not just appreciated, but also expected, as 52% of customers anticipate a response to their comments within seven days of it being posted and 88% are less likely to purchase from a company that does not respond to public complaints.

However, managers and business owners need to tread carefully when responding to a negative review. Even though this kind of feedback provides a crucial opportunity to make a good impression on other potential guests, a subpar response from a hotel representative can do even more damage than the review itself. 

1. Acknowledge the Mistake

Taking a confrontational tone with a dissatisfied customer is never the right approach, but it is even worse when this is done in a public forum that is frequented by potential customers. While there will likely be times when the customer is not accurately retelling the events, acting like they are the ones at fault is not the right course of action.

If there is a sense that the review is not accurate, then it is best to address this in a more private setting that does not impact how others will perceive the hotel.

2. Include an Apology

As strange as it sounds, owners can respond to a negative review without actually apologizing for the guest’s poor experience. It can be easy to get caught up in providing reasons for why the negative experience occurred, which if not done carefully can seem like they are invalidating the reviewer’s experience.

Related: Why Hotels Have to Master the Guest Apology

A genuine apology can be as valuable as compensation, making it the most essential part of a review response. To effectively deliver an apology without getting sidetracked with reasons why the service failure happened, it is best to keep the response direct and to-the-point, as our next tip explains.

3. Keep it Brief

While a good reply needs to include multiple key points, a long-winded explanation and drawn out apology is not an effective way to respond. Writing overly long apologies to every guest complaint is not the best way to use limited time, and not saying too much will limit the chances of saying something that might be poorly received by the reviewer. 

As written in Vendasta’s blog, getting too long or detailed in a review reply can spell trouble for the company’s online positioning. Mentioning the hotel name or certain keywords in a response increases the chance of the review showing up as a Google result when potential travelers are searching for information on the property.

But A Response Only Goes So Far…

The importance of responding to reviews is clear, but even a timely, genuine apology will not undo all the harm of a negative review. The gap between the time a review is left and the time the hotel responds can be enough to turn away potential guests. 

For many travelers, any response to a poor review will not be enough to erase the concern that this insufficient experience described in the review could happen to them. After all, a hotel’s options for recourse become very limited once the guest has left the property.

Offering discounts on their next stay is not always viable because every guest who has a bad experience will then expect some kind of compensation. It is also difficult to convince a guest to come back after an unsatisfactory stay, especially for those traveling from far away.

No matter how the response is received by the guest who wrote it and other potential visitors, the very act of posting a bad review negatively impacts the hotel’s ranking on the site. Multiple negative reviews can pile up to push the property down so much that it becomes invisible to travelers who only look at the first few results on sites like TripAdvisor and search engines like Google.

This poses a key question to hoteliers: how can I prevent these negative reviews from being posted in the first place?

The answer is to keep track of guest issues and act on them while they are still on-property. By tracking service delivery efforts throughout the guest’s stay, hotel associates will be able to engage with and recover guests before they get a chance to leave a poor review.

With a system in place that makes it easier to provide great guest experiences, not only will hotels not need to be concerned about guests leaving negative reviews, but they will be in a position to direct satisfied guests to TripAdvisor and Google Reviews after their stay has concluded.

Helix by MicroMetrics empowers hotel associates to stay on top of guest issues, letting service recovery happen in real-time before guests have checked out. Learn more about how Helix can prevent negative reviews and spark more positive ones by clicking on the link here.