Responding to Online Reviews: Q&A
Our recent webinar, “Creating a Guest Feedback Driven Culture,” was a great success! We co-hosted with Tara Peterson of IDM Hospitality, and were asked many excellent questions by the attendees. Unfortunately, there were so many that we didn’t have time to answer all of them during the webinar. So, here’s a follow-up with our answers.
Responding to negative reviews
Q: What if someone is unhappy, I respond with what i feel is correct and they still are unhappy when responding back, stating they want a full refund. How would I handle this?
Encourage the guest to contact you directly to resolve the issue. Don’t promise a refund online, so as to avoid setting a precedent. But, you can say something like,
“I would be happy to discuss this further offline. Please contact our front desk and ask to speak with me directly. Again, I apologize that your stay with us did not meet your expectations.”
Q: Can you give some tips on how to handle a negative review that includes an employees name, especially when the employee was not at fault for the issue at hand, but just taking the brunt of the guest’s dissatisfaction?
Try to put yourself in the guest’s shoes. Each employee represents a part of your organization. If something is wrong with the guest’s stay, his or her frustration can unfortunately fall on specific employees as being representative of the organization as a whole. When this happens, it’s best to avoid getting defensive. Instead, focus on accepting fault as a team, rather than singling out individuals. And, focus on what you plan to do to improve future experiences.
For example, this might happen if a guest complained about a slow check in time, and specifically mentioned the name of the front desk clerk. It might be an issue of understaffing, and not the individual employee’s fault at all.
“We offer our sincerest apology that our organization was unable to meet your expectations. We’ve evaluated our staffing procedures at the front desk, and have taken steps to ensure a speedier check in process. In the future, we hope you’ll return and be satisfied with our improvement.”
Q:What’s the best way to respond to a review when a guest has had a very challenging stay, but the issues they had were specific to their likes/dislikes, not necessarily that the hotel was at fault? The hotel compensated them while they were at the hotel, but the guest still went online and posted a bad review.
It seems like you’ve already gone some distance by mitigating the problems that were raised during the guest’s stay. You still want to respond to the review though. I would suggest remaining positive and trying your best to see the guest’s perspective. Sometimes you can only do so much!
“How often should I respond?” And other best practices
Q: Tara, what is your % on positive response rates? Would you suggest not only responding publicly but also privately?
A general best practice is to respond to every negative review. If you happen to have the private information of the guest, absolutely send them a personal message in addition to your public response. Tara also responds to 30% of neutral and positive reviews. The guidelines we often give to hoteliers are close to IDM’s approach. We usually suggest:
100% of 1 and 2 star reviews
50% of 3 star reviews
25% of 4 and 5 star reviews
Q: Would you then encourage responding to ALL reviews?
If you have time, absolutely! But, we realize that this is not a realistic expectation for every property.
Q: When responding to both negative and positive reviews is there a maximum length for the response?
Generally, brevity is the way to go. Don’t write a short response that comes off as curt, but you also don’t want to write an essay. You can do this in as little as 4-5 sentences.
1. Thank the guest for choosing your establishment, and for taking the time to write a review.
2. Personalize your message. Take this opportunity to highlight specific praises from a positive review, and to recognize criticisms in a negative review.
3. Apologize for criticisms and highlight any changes that you have made or intend to make.
4. Encourage the guest to return.
The guest is misinformed
Q: How would you handle a great review that was scored wrong by the guest? For example, if the written review was excellent, but the guest only gave you one circle on TripAdvisor?
You can try addressing the error with something like this:
“Thank you for taking the time to write a review! Unfortunately, we’re a little confused as your written review is glowing, but your rating is very poor. Is there anything that we could have done differently to make your stay with us live up to your expectations?” This way, you’re calling attention to the error without assuming that the guest is wrong.
Q: We have seen reviews concerning the price of parking, and how our pricing is not competitive with other hotels in the area. They are referencing self park hotel pricing, not valet. What would be the be way to respond to this?
You’ll want to call out the correct pricing, without necessarily telling the guest that he or she is wrong. For example, you could try something like this:
“Thank you for calling the pricing of parking to our attention. While this is the correct price for valet parking, we are happy to announce that there is a self park option priced at $x, which is comparable to self park options at other hotels in the area. Apologies for not making this clear upon your arrival. We hope you enjoyed the rest of your stay with us.”
Q: What if someone writes a positive review but states incorrect information?
You’ll want to correct the information, but do so gently and/or subtly. For example, if a guest states that they got free wifi when the wifi at your property is not free, you can say something like, “Thank you for writing such a glowing review! We’re pleased that you enjoyed your stay with us, and we’re glad we were able to accommodate your specific circumstances with regards to the wifi.” Or, “We’re glad you enjoyed our limited time promotion with the wifi.”
Q: The TripAdvisor survey we took earlier let us know what criteria are used in factoring in the Hotel’s ranking. How is each criteria weighted in the process?
Unfortunately the TripAdvisor algorithm is proprietary, so we don’t have an exact answer for this.
Q: So management responses have absolutely no effect on the hotel popularity ranking?
No. Management responses do not affect a hotel’s ranking on the popularity index. But, management responses do affect bookings. In a TripAdvisor study, 68% of respondents agreed, “If I was considering two comparable properties, the presence of management responses on one would sway me in its favor.”
Q: What constitutes a review to be removed by TripAdvisor?
Fraud is one reason. If you have reason to believe that a review on your site is fraudulent, you can’t ignore it. But, you can’t get angry or defensive either. Try this:
1. Respond,and say something like, “While we appreciate that you took the time to submit a review, I believe your review was erroneously attributed to our hotel as we have searched our guest records and logs and have no evidence of your stay.”
2. Ask for the review to be removed.
3.If you think you are being blackmailed, report it to TripAdvisor.
Another reason a review might be removed is if your hotel has undergone major renovations. In this case, follow these instructions to report the renovation to TripAdvisor. If it meets their criteria, they may delete some of your old reviews so you can start with a clean slate.
Finally, there are guidelines for traveler reviews on TripAdvisor. Click here to view them. If you feel a review violates these guidelines, TripAdvisor has a procedure for reporting it. Click here for more information.
A couple of webinar attendees had questions about staffing.
Q: I work in a larger resort property with many departments. How do you suggest holding departments accountable for researching complaints and following up?
Q: How much manpower do I need to devote to reputation management? We’re a property with 400 rooms and we struggle with time management.
Revinate’s Online Reputation Management platform is a great solution for both of these problems. It aggregates all mentions of your hotel online into one place. It automatically analyzes your online reviews for trends with Sentiment Analysis, and has integrated reporting. ORM also has a ticketing system, so you can delegate issues to specific departments, and track their follow up.
Email us at email@example.com for a free demo of ORM or any of our other reputation management solutions.