Chocolate Pillow | Handling Negative TripAdvisor reviews
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Handling Negative TripAdvisor reviews

23 Nov Handling Negative TripAdvisor reviews

So you put your heart and soul in to giving someone a nice stay, and then three days later their review comes in on TripAdvisor as one out of five, and a long list of complaints – what do you do?

It is expected for every hotel to get negative feedback from time to time, and to be fair, even the best hotels in the world will have complaints (usually when I stay there and get pedantic over standards – well, in writing my next book, I managed to write 2 pages about keeping bins clean!). It is how you deal with these situations that can separate you from the competition.

It is all too easy with the age of modern media and social interaction (whatever happened to spending hours sat on the stairs talking to your friends on the landline?) to slip into an unprofessional frame of mind and forget exactly what you are about to put in response to a guest.  So, along with my other post on writing tripadvisor management responses I wanted to share some examples and simple guidelines on making sure your response does not stop people from coming to your hotel (after all, as I said in the previous post – your response is also a review of your hotel!).

  • Take a breath! It is not a personal insult about you (in most cases), but you need to take a step back away from the review for a while before replying.  An immediate response will just be full of anger and defensive tone. Ask yourself whether the points raised are genuinely areas for concern; they may not be as there may be a mis-interpretation of something.  Every review is subjective and each reviewer writes their own opinion – sometimes personalities clash, or issues happen that are beyond your direct control – reviewers will usually (unfortunately) lay all of the blame on you.  I have seen reviews that state the obvious about an attraction and complain about weather conditions – such as this prime example here titled Horrible weather, overpriced.  You may also like this one titled ‘Bad Service’ where a guest reviews a hotel as terrible, despite not staying there and wanting to cancel/change a non-refundable/amendable booking.  It is all too tempting to respond immediately and point out the guests flaws but …..
  • Avoid a rebuttal. Okay, I agree – there are times that I want to reach across the desk and forcefully shake a guest in to reality, or slap them and kick their behind out of the front door; it is only natural!Telling a guest just how difficult your job is, or telling them exactly how you feel about their complaint is not productive.  Such a rebuttal is here, titled ‘overpriced and overrated’ – in fact the responses to all the ‘poor’ reviews are worth a read as whilst they use professional language, they are in no way appropriate as responses.
  • Don’t reveal the guests information. Right, I am giving no direct examples of this because to do so would be unfair to those named, but they do exist – I have seen people names revealed, final bill amounts, room numbers (whilst they are still in-house and wrote the review during their stay) and more posted online in response to people’s reviews.  This in itself is probably a breach of some data protection laws and can actually make a guest feel extremely unsafe – if I saw in a management response that you were revealing someone’s information, how safe are my personal details and credit card details if the hotel management just throw them around without consideration?
  • Let sleeping dogs lie. No this is not an insult but actually refers to just letting a bad response go – sometimes it may actually be better to respond very simply, with little but a thank you for their review, rather than getting into a full-blown argument with someone.  Similarly, the whole world does not need to know about the dispute you had with the guest – see this example titled  ‘Poor Judgement’.  Whilst you may want to get your opinion across and get your side of the events over, perhaps what could be seen as a simple response by you, could be interpreted as argumentative by someone else! Usually, just giving a non-argumentative response is all it needs –  “I am sorry you feel aggrieved with your visit and I would like to work with you to ensure you are satisfied with the outcome.  I have contacted you via TripAdvisor’s message system with my email address and I would appreciate you emailing me to discuss this further.  Once again, please accept my sincerest apologies that you felt so negatively about your stay as this is not the feedback we like to receive.”
  • Take note of what they say. I cannot count the times I have seen hotels receiving review after review mentioning the same things as negative – this just tells potential guests that you do nothing as a result of feedback!  If you have negative reviews, there is generally a reason and whilst it may only be the opinion of one person, to disregard it is dangerous to your business
  • Use TripAdvisors policies and features.  You, as a hotelier, also have the right to report a review you feel is inappropriate.  Remember that the TA guidelines are there for all, and you can use this to help you.  Basically these disallow profanity, abuse of other users, attempting to smear a brand or using insulting language that is irrelevant to customer service – read the review guidelines here and use the ‘Problem with this review?’ link on the actual review to report it to TA for review.  You can also do this from the management centre of TA.  Remember that TA has the obligation to review both sides of a story and then decide whether or not to retain the review online.  This, unfortunately, is not always in your favour but it is always worth a try!

So there you go, some little snippets of advice from me about dealing with TripAdvisor complaints/negative reviews.  As usual, if you come across any glorious examples that make you giggle, add a comment here (do not use an autocomplete form filler as this can result in comments not being posted – software design issue!?)

Matt Shiells-Jones

Husband, Author, Hotel Manager and ambitious 'old cat lady'

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