Online reviews, what a nightmare for some hoteliers. They can really ratify your success and boost your income, in case of a positive word-of-mouth, or they can prompt your failure when the feedbacks are negative and frequent.
Internet offers the great opportunity for previous guests to share opinions and comments based on their experience in a hotel and for potential customers to have a real insight of the business, avoiding washouts. Personally, I am not a big fan of online reviews – I barely use TripAdvisor or Booking.com when booking for hotels and restaurants. I believe that these websites are somehow tricky especially because most of the times the identity of the user is not verified and therefore can be used to share comments about competitors and even about your own business (sad but true!). However, I can’t deny the success of these platforms and here I try to give you some tips to avoid and handle online negative reviews.
Listen to your guests
Most of the times guests write atrocious complaints about a business because they feel like nobody paid attention to their needs and requests during their experience. As a result, they feel extremely frustrated and angry. If you want to avoid this situation you really need to start to listen to your clients when they are still at the hotel. The ideal would be having a person in charge of guests, who would take care of them and their specific needs and coordinate the different departments to improve their customized experience. However, if this is not possible, use every single human resource you have to make your clients feel cared about. Waiters, chambermaids, managers, receptionists, SPA attendants – everyone is involved in the guest experience and everyone should be trained to pick up subtle or more evident signs of guest satisfaction or dissatisfaction. If there is no spontaneous feedback at all – be that positive or negative – ask your clients how they feel about their stay, how is the trip going, if they have any problems, etc. By doing so you will not only make them feel cared about, but you will also start to build a relationship with them and they will be more reticent to write a bad review.
Know the source
As you know, there are several websites where previous guests can leave their comments about your business. Since the web it’s plenty of reviews platforms, it’s hard to control and manage all of them. The most important thing is to know which platforms are the most relevant for your target market. For example, TripAdvisor is the most common review website for the European travelers, while the US market prefers Expedia. Afisha is very used among Russians and Asian people tend to consult Agoda for their trips. In case you are targeting a highly specialized group or your main target is a niche, you should pay more attention to forums where your target gathers in order to overview the popularity of your business there.
Once you have identified which platforms work the best for your market, you have to deeply understand how they work. Some websites allow to manage comments so that you can already start to tackle potential issues directly on the website, while others do not allow to reply to reviews. Another important point is the verifiability of the reviewing profile. Logically, if the website asks for “proof of stay”, like number of reservation, the reliability of the comment is higher since you will be sure of the identity of the previous guest.
Turn it into an opportunity
Negative reviews are never pleasant, but they can be resourceful if used wisely. If your guests keep complaining about the lack of variety of the buffet, then you probably should consider to revise the menu (Are you looking for some tips to improve your hotel buffet? Read Create the Wow experience with an appealing hotel buffet). If bad reviews are always about the lack of cleanliness of the place, then you should have a word with the housekeeping department. Set a number of minimum complaints for taking action (for small hotels I’d suggest 5). If at least 5 target customers complaint about the same thing, then elaborate an action plan to tackle the issue.
Even if our main goal is to achieve perfection when it comes to satisfy clients and running our business, we are humans and we make mistakes. If you understand you have made a mistake the first thing to do is acknowledging it. Guests will appreciate it very much and they will hopefully be more indulgent when it will come to evaluate their experience. If you understand that the complaint is sincere and these clients are valuable to you and your business think about offering a compensation – if necessary – to win their heart back. Compensation has to be proportioned to the type of problem the customer had – it can go from a free bottle of cava or a voucher for a SPA treatment in case of “small” mistakes, up to a discount for the stay if you really need to make up for something more serious. Do you want to learn more about guest complaints? Read The guest is NOT always right.
In conclusion, negative reviews can be painful, but they are not the end of your business. Looking at the bright side, they can even be a valuable asset and help you to improve the hotel and the service you offer. Once you understand how to avoid and how to handle bad comments, the future of your business is just right on the next step.