Whether scathing or glowing, every guest review is a golden opportunity for your hotel to shine or stumble. Guests trust other guests, and the reviews of past experiences at your hotel are one of the most influential factors that can impact future bookings.
You can’t afford to ignore bad reviews and hope they disappear. Nor, is it okay to simply write canned responses that lack a genuine concern for your guests. We understand it can be dismaying to read negative reviews about your hotel or your colleagues. Candid comments about a bad experience, bad service, bad food, or a bad room are hard to swallow. However, it’s more dismaying to know that one horrible (unanswered) review can stop a potential booking dead in its tracks.
Remember, travellers have the luxury of choice. They will form an opinion about your property within seconds, and a negative review can send them running to your competition instead.
Travellers turn to guest reviews to predict their own experience at your hotel. Your thoughtful responses have the potential to turn negative reviews into shining moments that make you more likable and worthy of a visit. So, make sure you always respond with wit, grace and true hospitality.
Here’s how to win with even the ugliest of reviews.
- Cut the (corporate) crap
Not only are canned and corporate responses worthless, they can be downright infuriating. Nowadays, people expect transparency and authenticity from brands. So, if your response feels too uptight and reeks of corporate jargon, it will convey that you are only trying to save face, not that you genuinely care about your guests or their experience.
Instead, be original, sincere and tailor each response. Give whoever is responding on behalf of your hotel the freedom and flexibility to convey candour and personality when responding, while still remaining professional.
- Give them direct access
It’s important that guests know that someone (an actual named human) is behind every response from your hotel. Especially for considerably bad reviews, consider signing off your responses with the full name and contact details (at least an email address) to a department manager who would oversee the solution to the complaint. This shows you are serious about making things right and that are you are genuinely open to their feedback.
- Offer options to problems you can’t control
Guests complaining about the crazy nightclub next door? Or, the lack of parking around your hotel? Understandably, you don’t have full control of all your hotel’s surroundings and every environmental factor that can impact your guests’ stay. However, just because you don’t have jurisdiction over these things doesn’t give you reason to simply throw up your hands and respond, “There’s nothing we can do.”
Instead, let the reviewer know that while you can’t manage the crowd at the nearby nightclub or the amount of parking spaces in the neighbourhood, you can share typical Uber/Lyft/taxi fares to popular attractions. You can let them know if car share options like Car2Go or ReachNow are usually available in your neighbourhood. Or, encourage them to call and specifically request a room on the side of the hotel that is opposite of the nightclub. While it may seem fruitless to offer these options after the guest has already checked out, remember that you are also writing for potential guests. Your responses to past guests can help future guests achieve the experience they want.
- Genuinely own up to your mistakes
Everyone makes mistakes. Your hotel is no exception. The good news is that people are generally extremely forgiving of properties that admit to their own blunders. Do it with sincerity and grace, and you will come off as being endearing. This makes these type of responses the easiest to write. Simply write a sweet and brief response owning up to the mistake, thanking them for pointing it out, and reassuring that it won’t happen again.
- Graciously correct your guests’ mistakes
Sometimes, it’s the guest who makes the mistake! Simple misunderstandings result in reviews with false information. Perhaps a guest was upset that the restaurant opened late, when in fact, they misread the opening hours. Or, that they waited over an hour for the airport shuttle, when they were supposed to call and request it. If the misunderstanding is a major part of their complaint, first double-check your part in the misunderstanding. Are the restaurant hours in plain sight? Was the guest informed – via a pre-stay email or from your hotel website – that the airport shuttle is by request only? If it is entirely the guests’ oversight, then briefly apologise for their specific inconvenience (sorry that you were late to your meeting as you waited for breakfast), followed by the facts (but, our restaurant opens for breakfast at 8am, not 7am, on weekday mornings.)
- Fix the problem already
If guests are constantly berating your hotel with the same complaint over again and again, you probably need to actually take the steps to fix the problem. People will quickly notice a pattern if they read the same complaint and the same lame response promising that things will get better. Don’t be that hotel.
If improving the problem means an investment by your hotel owners, then get this on their agenda, pronto. Whether it’s ratty carpets, dimly lit and creepy hallways, or unsavoury breakfast entrees, print out all the instances that the issue is mentioned in negative reviews and let the owners know this issue is actually impeding direct bookings and can impact your bottom line.
The bottom line: It’s vital… no, necessary, to address unfavourable reviews upfront, right away, with an honest and sensible response.