More Advice About Negative Reviews

A client contacted me today and asked if I could share any advice with her team on responding to negative reviews. She wrote, “We have a few people who are really intimidated by the process and I want to be able to provide any resources, articles, examples that can to help ease their mind.” I referred her to a recent article that Daniel Craig wrote on the subject and, never one to not have an opinion, added some more beef, which I have copied below.

Before I include my response, I want to address the intimidation factor. It is intimidating to know that you are responding to a customer who has had a bad experience and that your comments will be public for the whole world to see. It’s trite to say, but if you put yourself in the customer’s shoes it becomes much easier. How would I feel if I just spent my hard-earned money on a hotel room and I had a disappointing experience? I would feel cheated. I would tell my friends and post a review. If I didn’t get a response I would seethe and think the hotel doesn’t care at all about customers. I would expect a response and in it, I would want the hotel to tell me that I am right and they are sorry. Simple stuff.

Here is the advice I sent to our client:

When a negative review is posted, it is important that you respond immediately (when allowed by the review sites) to show that you care about your customers and you take their feedback seriously. Reply as a person, not as ‘the hotel’ to give your reply a personal touch. All replies are moderated so there might be a delay before you see your review posted.

Your response should be tailored to each review, but you can use these steps as a guideline.
1. Thank the reviewer for taking the time to post a review
2. Acknowledge the positive comments where applicable and natural
3. Apologize for your hotel not living up to its high standards
4. Never offer compensation, as it might encourage more complaints (A good tip from Daniel Craig)
5. Depending on the severity, provide the GMs name and number in case the customer would like to discuss the situation in more depth
6. Let the customer know that you will make sure that the right department is made aware of the review

Then, follow through with hotel staff to make sure that the problem doesn’t happen again.

Here are a couple of examples taken from real reviews on TripAdvisor:
stayed at omni may 29, 2010… 4 star hotel according to spent 299 plus tax for 1 night. hallway and room smelled like someone just smoked a cigerette when we got there. requested non-smoking. Called the front desk and they said they would “ionize my room” but 5 hours later still smelled like an ash tray. offered me a kids room with bunk beds?!?!?!?!lobby is a 4 star, location is a 4 star, staff is a 4 star… rooms area 2 star… dont let their pictures fool you. not a 4 star hotel at all. I have stayed at many hotels in sf.. all have a good location and good staff. this place sucks. I will upload pics fo the room soon. We had a view of a wall. carpet and bed set up looks like 15 years old. faded, and old looking. Do not recommend at all. Web site said free wi-fi. When u get there , only free wi-fi free in lobby, $10 additional charge if you connect from your room.

Sample Response:
Hello. Thanks for reviewing the Omni. As the sales manager at the hotel, I appreciate all feedback, positive and negative, and use reviews as a way to train our staff and improve our hotel operations. I am pleased that you enjoyed the lobby, the location and the staff but am very sorry about the experience you had with your room. As a nonsmoker, I know how frustrating it can be when someone smokes on a non-smoking floor. And, as a frequent traveler I know how a great room can make a stay. I am sorry that we weren’t able to provide you with such room, as our hotel is full of them. Furthermore, I am also sorry that you felt misled about our internet services. It’s clear that our hotel didn’t live up to the high standards we set for service, amenities and accommodations and I will make sure that your feedback is shared with the appropriate managers, as well as the GM.
While I know you have many choices for hotels in San Francisco, I hope you will give us another try. We can do better and I would love to prove that to you.

… Front desk hotel staff were aloof. They promptly reminded us that the rewards program we signed up for on the chain’s website does not include this hotel; I guess I should have read the fine print. The continental breakfast they serve is on par with any other chain, nothing spectacular, and we felt rushed by the busboys. The business center, while comprehensive, charges you $4 for every 20 minutes of computer time and $0.20 per page to print. I felt nickel-and-dimed, especially since the downtown hotel we had just checked out of included these services at no charge.

Sample Response:
Thank you for taking the time to review our Hotel. We set high standards for our staff and I am sorry that we didn’t live up them. I will ensure that your feedback is routed to the front desk, the restaurant and the business center, in addition to the GM, so all departments can be made aware of how their services are viewed by our customers. While I am sorry that you had a less-than-perfect experience with our hotel, please know that your feedback will be used to improve our offering and I hope you will give us another chance on your next visit as I know we can do better and I would like to prove that to you.

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