According to a report by PowerReviews, around 99.9 percent of customers turn to online reviews when making buying decisions, and over 96 percent look specifically for negative reviews. A business’s success is significantly tied to its online reputation, and businesses in the hotel industry are no exception. In cases where negative reviews come up, what can save a hotel from permanent damage to its reputation is a gracious and strategic approach to responses.
Let’s take the case of the average traveler. When looking for Pasay hotels like Kabayan Hotel near the Manila airport, it’s common practice for customers to browse the review section of hotel aggregators like Agoda or Booking.com. Customers may be faced with two hotels with similar bad reviews. More often than not, the hotel with more active customer service and a ready response to the bad reviews is likely to get more bookings than the one without these.
Replying to negative reviews shows potential customers that you aren’t hiding behind your lapses and are ready to make amends with unsatisfied customers. Gracious responses will also show your professionalism and trustworthiness, which is what you want your customers to remember about your brand.
And while it’s better to do everything in your power to avoid negative reviews, receiving them is inevitable for most businesses, even those performing exceptionally. When they come, negative reviews can be excellent opportunities for hotels to showcase their customer service skills and to resolve issues positively. Here are some of the best ways hotel businesses can handle negative reviews:
Nip the Bad Review in the Bud
To ensure that a bad review doesn’t come to completion, quell the problem at its early stages. When guests check out, your front desk staff should always have a brief conversation with them regarding their experience. Having the opportunity to discuss issues in person allows dissatisfied customers to air their concerns while putting you in a more advantageous position. You’ll be able to remedy the situation while the customer is in your hotel, before they leave a bad review of your establishment online.
Whatever solution you arrive at to appease your customers, one thing’s for sure: if they leave a review online, they’ll be more inclined to include your positive response to their problem.
Keep Your Emotions in Check
Before responding to a bad review, remember to keep your emotions in check, and remind your staff to do the same. Responding emotionally can make you appear unprofessional and defensive, which could reflect on your brand and further damage your reputation.
Always keep in mind that online reviews are public and potential guests may be reading them. By responding professionally, you can impress potential guests with your levelheadedness and rationality, making you look more credible and trustworthy in their eyes.
Respond Promptly and Acknowledge Issues
Whatever you do, never ignore a negative review, as ignoring bad reviews will eventually make your situation worse. Few things tick off customers more than grievances that fall on deaf ears. The more you ignore their concerns, the more vindictive they may get. That said, a prompt and empathetic response is essential when handling customer concerns, as this shows your customer that their feedback is valued.
In addition, showing empathy toward the customer’s situation and apologizing for their negative experience is important. Empathy communicates to customers that hotel staff acknowledge and care about their concerns and are willing to make things right.
Address the Specifics
After acknowledging your customer’s bad review and making them feel heard, it’s time to address the specifics of their issue. Carefully read the review and take note of the specific problems mentioned, then draft a plan or a strategy to ensure the issues never arise again. For example, if a customer complains about a dirty room, apologize and tell the customer that you’ll arrange for a more effective cleaning service to remedy the issue.
Appease with Compensation
Sometimes, a simple apology may not be enough to fix the situation. In these cases, hotels should provide compensation to show their commitment to their customers’ well-being. Compensation can take various forms, such as discounts, free stays, complimentary airport transfers, or other thoughtful gestures demonstrating the hotel’s appreciation for its guests. By investing in compensation, hotels can retain their customers’ loyalty and ensure that they leave a positive impression.
Follow Up Offline
Responding publicly to negative reviews is essential, but make sure to continue the conversation offline as well so that you can show your customers that the feedback loop remains open. After addressing a customer’s concerns and ensuring that they’re appeased through compensation, you should provide a way for them to contact you privately to discuss the issue further if need be.
Taking the conversation offline shows the customer that their problems are truly being taken seriously and that your response to their review is not just for show. Private conversations may also allow you to get to the root of the problem in a more in-depth manner and craft the most appropriate solution.
Use Feedback to Improve
Negative reviews can offer valuable feedback when it comes to improving your hotel’s operations. Hoteliers should learn to take all feedback seriously and to use such feedback to make meaningful changes that will enhance the guest experience, whether this involves improving procedures or policies or providing additional staff training.
Negative reviews can be hard to take and challenging to handle, but they offer insight into areas where the hotel may fall short while providing staff and management with opportunities to improve. Instead of taking bad reviews personally, use them as a launching pad for better service.
If you’re facing a slew of bad reviews, follow the step-by-step approach listed above to show customers that you take their feedback seriously and are committed to providing a better experience. If you take on a twofold approach of responding graciously and actually putting in the legwork to improve things, you can expect for future negative reviews to be few and far between.