Chocolate Pillow | Responding to Reviews
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Responding to Reviews

15 Jun Responding to Reviews

Regular readers will remember many moons ago my original post about responding to TripAdvisor reviews, which featured some golden rules about how to respond to reviews.  In general these guidelines should be used across all hotels, but why should you respond in the ways that I mentioned?  Should this always be the case?

The truth about responding to any form of review is that you are responding to feedback submitted to you in exactly the same way as you would respond to a complaint or compliment that has been emailed to you!  Okay, I grant you may not be making offers in review responses such as free stays or refunds etc, but you still approach them in the same way and still address the guest in the same way as though you were writing to them directly.

Take for example the negative reviews – you would reply with the most important aspect – an apology, be it for something going wrong or even for failing to meet their expectations, but you may also offer an explanation.  The main difference between writing to someone individually is the audience.  Whilst replying to an email could be more in depth about matters and name staff or people, a review response would be less inclined to name specific individuals.

So whilst you are responding in the same manner as you would in an email, you would have to be:

  1. More concise – an email is unlimited in length, whereas a review response online would be shorter and more ‘to the point’.  Your responses may acknowledge issues, but not necessarily address them in depth.
  2. Personal, but professional – you may have a member of staff named in a review in a positive way, but you would not necessarily want to also name the guest or ‘call them out’ on things.  You can name, but not if for the purpose of shaming!

It is also important to bear in mind that a response is published to EVERY guest, be they past, current or potential future guests.  Your response says a lot about how you deal with issues.  Slagging a guest off and saying they are lying etc will never stand you well in the eyes of the general public.  Remember that generally, everyone is pre-programmed psychologically to believe they first opinion they hear on a scenario unless there is blatant evidence to the contrary that they are aware of.  For example:

  • A guest complains in a review that the hotel is a rip off because they say they were not aware of parking fees and the staff refused to allow them to park for free.

Now this to an industry colleague may be a common argument, one that they know internally is incorrect – the information published online is there and clear to see and the hotel cannot be responsible for the guest not reading the information.  Now take this same review and imagine that just above it in the hotel information is a statement saying that the car park is chargeable at £10 a day.  You as a reader, regardless of whether you are a potential guest or hotel staff member, will be inclined to side with the hotel.  You will likely think ‘What are they on about?  The price is there in black and white!’.  The same analogy applies to everything – you walk in to a room and see someone standing over a body holding the murder weapon – who is the killer?  Well the person with the weapon!  Now think that they picked up the weapon in a state of shock; regardless of how much you try to shake the feeling, finding out someone else was the killer is still a bit unexpected and you still get the feeling the person holding the weapon was involved somehow!  This is something known as ‘Confirmation Bias’ – effectively where someone will receive some information and then look for further evidence to support that information – someone tells you a hotel is falling to pieces, you will then be more akin to pay attention to reviews that spout poor maintenance.

So back to our response – if you have a guest saying everything was terrible and the staff were rude, you cannot respond in a defensive manner as readers will think that it is just ‘sour grapes’ or you are being overly defensive.  Accepting you did not meet their expectations and requirements will actually send the message you accept the feedback and moved on.

It is important to always respond to a review as the ‘hotel’ not necessarily as ‘you’ – in your response you are representing a non-personal entity, you represent a building containing many staff and team members; attacking a guest in response implies that EVERY guest will be attacked by staff when complaining; similarly accepting feedback and being gracious actually tells people that when they complain they can expect fair treatment in response.

Responding to reviews is not rocket science, but it is a minefield!  Just do what your mother told you – ‘Treat people how you would like to be treated!’

  • Overall 0/5
Matt Shiells-Jones
matt@chocolatepillow.com

Husband, Author, Hotel Manager and ambitious ‘old cat lady’



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