17 Nov Tripadvisor Management Responses – The Do’s & Don’ts!
Those of you familiar with TripAdvisor will be fully aware of the ability for hotels to write management responses to reviews, and just how those responses can be misinterpreted, or just downright rude and sarcastic.
Take for example this review and response from the hotelier (titled Unclean – Style over substance) – whilst there have a look at all the ‘terrible’ reviews and enjoy a chuckle or some shock at some of the responses. I found this the other day and whilst found it to be slightly amusing a response, and the sort of thing that many a hotelier wishes they could write, the truth is that in doing so, that hotelier has just guaranteed that I will never stay there; which is a shame because we always spend a fair amount in hotels we stay in and this hotel was one we had been looking at for a special occasion.
On the opposite of this are fake reviews about hotels; TripAdvisor clearly states in their help centre (unfortunately I cannot link directly to it because of the design of their site), that the review will take a few days to publish and you will be notified of any reason why it cannot be published. This, at worst, infers that someone at least scans the review before it is published…. or so you would think! Take a look at this example I found a few days ago titled ‘hello great service’ – a review that you thought would have been caught out by TripAdvisor had the reviews been read. The weird thing is that this hotel is ranked number 59 out of 123 – not too shabby, but considering there are only 2 reviews for the place, and one is very questionable, then how confident can you be that TA rankings are accurate? But even though this review is ‘fake’ (or someone discovered copy and paste and had a field day, or only knew three words which they just repeat over, and over, and over…); the fact here is that TripAdvisor has the ability for hoteliers to respond to reviews and it is shocking how often I see reviews that have not been responded to or hotels that offer a poor response, or even downright rude ones. So, seeing as this is something I am doing myself and TA is a subject I have written about before here, I would like to share with you some of the top tips for writing responses to TripAdvisor reviews.
- Don’t take it personally! I know that the hotel may be your livelihood and you may have extreme pride in it, but sometimes you have to swallow some humble pie (best served with lashings of self-pity sauce) and accept that not everything is perfect. There is not a single hotel on TripAdvisor that does not have hundreds of reviews, within which are one or two bad ones. These are not necessarily representative of the hotel in every aspect, but they are subjective. They are the opinion of one person who had a poor experience. Whilst it may not represent the majority of guests, the truth is that you need to take a step back from the matter and see it from that guests perspective. This is hard, and sometimes you feel personally attacked and aggrieved and naturally want to fight – your primal instinct of defence takes over and you want to protect your domain (hotel), so you lash out and snap back or even worse, attack the guest for their behaviour. But you are not reviewing the guest! The best thing to do – draft the review response, leave it a day, and re-read it.
- Your response is also a review! The response you write is generally aimed at a guest; but what you write also helps potential clientelle assess what your hotel is like and the standards of service they get there. Many people forget this! The review I pointed out earlier with a sarcastic management response – this is a hotel I would never stay in. This is because the response given just told me that if I had an issue, I would be treated with contempt or disregarded. I have never been to the hotel, let alone experienced an issue there, but the truth is that I need to know that if I have a problem, it will be fixed and I will be valued as a customer. I disregard the fact that there are many more excellent reviews that far outweigh the negative ones. Some of the responses I have seen from managers on TripAdvisor have basically just told me that as a customer you are saying to me ‘we have had your money, now f**k off!’. One of the main things I use to truly judge a hotel is the management responses! Remember that your response is just as much of an impression of the hotel as the review it is about!
- Do not copy-paste responses! Bleeuuurrrgh! Copy-paste responses disgust me so much that I physically had to write my disgust at the beginning of this paragraph! Let me put this in to context for you – a guest has taken the time to write a review about your hotel (which could have taken them anywhere between 1 minute and 1 hour depending on their keyboard skills), and then been responded to with a copy-pasted response. I actually find this quite insulting because it says that you do not have any post-stay care. Whilst the copy-paste option is quicker for you, by going down this route you are failing to actually respond to the individuality of the review. Each response should be written afresh and in line with the review you are responding to.
- Get the most relevant people to manage the responses. TripAdvisor allows multiple people to manage responses and listings. Therefore you should ensure that you get the most relevant people to respond to reviews. I have known of hotel groups that have TripAdvisor responses managed from a ‘social media team’ who are based many miles away from the actual hotel they are responding about; this is very bad practice. You need to ensure that all responses come from the hotel directly, and from a member of management who are actually ‘on the floor’ dealing with guests – who better to respond than the manager that was on duty the day of the problems or the manager who checked the guests out and got their luggage in to the taxi for them at 3am? It is not a hard and fast rule, but it makes perfect sense! As a general rule, you should be getting the Front Office Manager to deal with rooms complaints and reviews that focus on bedrooms; Food and Beverage Manager for restaurant related reviews and complaints … and so on! After all, if something goes wrong, they will be in the best position to explain and help make it right!
- Be who you say you are! I have seen management responses that are blatantly not written by the people who are titled in the response – I am not going to post examples; but let’s just say that if I have communicated with you directly and your english is fluent, correctly punctuated and spelt, but then your review responses use incorrect grammar and punctuation and have several incorrect spellings – it becomes obvious it is not you responding. Similarly I have known of managers I have spoken to whilst networking, who have written responses on behalf of General Managers or hotel owners, and then the guest has rung up asking for the person they wrote on behalf of, who then actually knew nothing about it because they had not actually written the response! It is imperative that the person writing the review is actually who they say they are because if that guest decides to ring the hotel and follow up on your response, being a ‘ghost writer’ for someone else can lead to more problems.
- Reign in the personal opinion and sarcasm! Okay, so that guest may not be the most civil of people, or they may have trashed a bedroom, but is there any need for an audience of millions to know this? They may have written a poor review about your hotel, but that does not give you an automatic ‘right’ to respond aggressively or to point out all their failings as a member of society. I have no issue with hoteliers putting across their side of events, as long as it is in a humble manner. The truth here is that again, the response you give portrays just how you interact with guests. Telling the guest that they are wrong (never do this), or telling them that they were obviously not the type of clientelle that should stay at the hotel is just wrong, blatantly! I remember reading a while ago (I can’t find the article now, but here is a snippet that I found) a prime example of a response where sarcasm over-rides common sense; this is a typical example of things that I have seen written in responses and a great example of how not to respond to a review – okay so the responder has a point, but this is not the correct way to put it across.
These points may seem self-explanatory to many, but from the reviews and responses found online with just a couple of minutes searching, you can see how widespread these poor responses are. Many people think TripAdvisor damages their reputation from reviews etc, but the truth is that more often than not, the major damage is done by your response to a review and your handling of a complaint. No doubt some more trawling of TA will reveal more clangers and bad responses – if you come across any, send me the URL and I will probably compile a post of examples of what NOT to do!