Monday, 28 July 2014

Responding to negative reviews - a template for hoteliers

Even the Ritz!


The one- or two-star review - one of the many banes of a hotelier's life. If you are a client, these will have reduced by about three-quarters, but they still pose a key question: how to deal with them? 

With our experience of reading and responding to many thousands of reviews a month on behalf of our Feedback Manager clients, here is our advice:

First:

All negative reviews will fall into two categories: those who have already complained in-hotel and those who did not and instead waited to post [on TripAdvisor/on Google etc.].

So:

Do your utmost to discover which category the reviewer falls into. There are always clues: in the username, in the date, in the photographs and in the content of the review.

Then:

Use the relevant template (altering at least one line to personalise your response):

Complained whilst in-hotel: 

Dear 'Username'*

Thank you for taking the trouble to post your review on [TripAdvisor/Google] and for allowing us the opportunity to apologise here for the issues which made your stay with us** less than perfect.

As [name and position of staff member] discussed with you during your stay [here address ALL*** the specific issues raised, explaining politely why each event happened, and, most important of all, what action has been taken].

I hope this clarifies matters; we do try very hard to make sure all our guests' stays exceed their expectations. If there is anything else I can do please do email me or telephone me; both my email address and direct line are available at reception****.

We very much look forward to welcoming you back* in the near future.

With best wishes


NAME and POSITION*****


Complained post-stay: 

Dear 'Username'*

Thank you for taking the trouble to post your review on [TripAdvisor/Google] and for allowing us the opportunity to apologise here for the issues which made your stay with us** less than perfect.

[here address ALL*** the specific issues raised, explaining politely why each event happened, and, most important of all, what action has been taken].

I hope this clarifies matters; we do try very hard to make sure all our guests' stays exceed their expectations. If there is anything else I can do please do email me or telephone me; both my email address and direct line are available at reception****.

We very much look forward to welcoming you back* in the near future, and if any issues arise then please do ask for me by name.

With best wishes


NAME and POSITION*****


Notes

*1 Not the guest's real name, even if you know it, and not 'Dear Guest'

**1 (not with XYZ hotels - you don't really want this spidered by Google and returned in searches)

*** 'ALL': so many responses on TripAdvisor simply include a generic apology but fail to address the specific issues mentioned in the review. Besides being seen by the individual reviewer as 'lazy' this runs a significant risk that a potential guest will see that a point that concerns them (e.g. air-conditioning faulty) has not been addressed.

**** Don't give out your email address or direct phone number in a response, they are a gift to spammers.

***** How often do we see 'JimB' (or, worse: 'GM' or 'FoH') and no position? It's partly because responses on TripAdvisor are automatically assigned to the first person who registered the hotel, make sure this is current and conforms.

A very important postscript


To answer the question that must be in the minds of many readers (after all, only one in twelve reviews on TripAdvisor is responded to): 'Why bother at all?'


And this for a review of a tiny establishment, half way up a mountain in the middle of nowhere!


Interestingly enough, the review of the Ritz at the top of this page is as good an example as any:
  1. Reviews ARE read (see above), negative reviews are read MORE (the average traveller consults seven websites before booking)
  2. Many (if not most) reviewers see the review as a direct communication to the hotel, not a 'review' to inform others. If it were an email (or a letter) we are sure the Ritz would have responded. We recommend to all our clients that they respond to all reviews, without exception
  3. All negative reviews have the potential to deflect business. If the reader only sees the guests' side of the story, then the hotel will lose business as a result
  4. The reader doesn't know that the guest writing the review was wrong; if you don't correct misapprehensions, whether they be about price or 'lack of air-conditioning' then they will stand as fact
  5. You will never know if you have lost business as a result: no-one is going to phone a hotel and say "I was going to stay with you, but..."
  6. TripAdvisor's own research states that people favour hotels who respond to reviews
  7. Guests are less likely to write a negative review if they know they will receive a response

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