You get to work like any other normal day, and there is a slew of notifications from major review platforms. Customers have been reviewing their stay, their meals, the service, the atmosphere. Most of the reviews are positive, and you’re feeling pretty chuffed. Then suddenly, you come across a negative review: a thumbs down, one star, maybe it’s in capitals. Your stomach drops, and you start to sweat a little. How are you going to respond? Should you reply at all?
There are hundreds of review websites out there, with platforms like TripAdvisor, Yelp, Zomato and, Google Reviews ensuring that hotels and venues receive instant feedback and have the chance to compete for popularity in an online environment. More often than not, hospitality venues appreciate the world of online reviews, as it’s a great way to drum up publicity and entice new customers. But, the threat of negative feedback is all too real, and every venue will experience one (or two, or ten) bad reviews at some point in their journey.
Receiving a negative review is never going to feel good, but it’s important that instead of just ignoring the customer’s feedback, you develop a way to respond that meets their needs and your own. Customers leave negative reviews for a number of different reasons, but often it comes down to frustration or a desire to be heard. We recommend always responding to reviews, but ensuring that you are constructive and positive - even when all you want to do is argue.
Here are a few tips to ensure that your hotel or venue remains respected and that potential customers aren’t turned off when reading negative reviews.
Get your facts right
Planning to respond to a review, and getting a little bit worked up about the accusations being thrown your way? Before you take to your keyboard, take a step back and gather up all the intel you can find. If you are managing a hotel and a guest has left a negative review, you should have a lot of information on file about their stay which you can then cross-reference with their review. If you run a venue, this may be a little more tricky - but you should at least be able to ascertain whether to take the review seriously or not. Perhaps their room service did get waylaid, or perhaps you know that on the particular night the customer visited your bar, you were unfortunately short-staffed. Make sure you know the facts before you respond.
Embrace the feedback
Whether the review you have received is constructive or aggressive, it’s vital that in your response, you thank the customer for their feedback. Your response to a review is, of course, about responding directly to its writer - but it will also be seen by hundreds of people who look up your venue in the future. Remember that when writing a review response, you are inadvertently showing potential future customers how you conduct yourself, how you respond to criticism, and what they can expect if they do choose to stay with you or visit your venue.
Apologize and explain
Whether you know that your venue was in the wrong, or you think the customer might be exaggerating a little, that five-letter word - sorry - can go a long way. Ensuring that you offer an apology in your reply can mitigate any further angry response the customer might have, and quell their disappointment. Acknowledge that you are sympathetic that their expectations were not met. If there is an explanation for their complaint; for example, your elevator broke down, a staff member fell ill, or you were simply unable to keep up with demand - make sure you explain in your response. This step is not about making excuses, but rather providing context that may make the customer a little more empathetic.
Look to the future
In the event that you feel a customer’s complaint was valid, it can be a positive move to let them know about the steps you will be taking to ensure the issue doesn’t happen again. Simply telling the customer that you will be reviewing procedures around the issue they discussed, or letting them know how seriously you are taking their concerns can go a long way. Mention that customer service is a priority, and ensure that they know their complaint is being taken seriously and will be actioned.
Offer a further dialogue
Last, but not least, keep the conversation open. Whilst some venues choose to offer a discounted meal or stay in response to a negative review, we recommend not going down that path - or at least, not doing so publicly, as it can set a precedent. If you do want to offer a discount to a customer, get in touch via email or other direct communication where possible. In a public review forum, the best way to keep communication lines open is simply to let the customer know that you hope to see them again. If you want to chat more about their complaint or ensure that they feel heard, offer an email address or phone number to get in touch directly.
So, to sum up: be polite, professional, and acknowledge that - whether you are in the wrong or not - the customer was not satisfied with your venue or service. Remember that usually they just want to be heard and that your response won’t just be read by them, it will be read by potential future customers. And most of all: use negative reviews as a learning experience!
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