How to Respond to Negative Hotel Reviews

In 2012, TripAdvisor and PhoCusWright reported a series of statistics that emphasize the importance of responding to online reviews. Most notably, the survey of 2,800 respondents showed that:

84% of users agree that an appropriate management response to a bad review “improves my impression of the hotel.”

64% of users agree that an aggressive/defensive management response to a bad review “makes me less likely to book that hotel.”

The message is clear that not only do hoteliers need to respond to negative reviews, but doing so in the right way is crucial. Having a bad review on TripAdvisor hurts your reputation. A proper response to a bad review can do two things for you. It can minimize the damage to your reputation by making prospective guests think more highly of you, and it can repair your relationship with the unhappy reviewer. 

How to Respond to Negative Hotel Reviews

In general, you want to show prospectives that your hotel reads, internalizes, and responds to reviews. You should personalize your responses to the guest review, and show your brand voice. You should also research the issue before you respond, so that you are aware of as many details of the guest’s stay as possible. Did the guest complain before checkout? Is there a record of his or her communications with your staff?

1. Thank the guest by name 

Even if the negative review is aggressive or hurtful, you should thank the guest for taking the time to give feedback. Take a minute and remember that all feedback is valuable. And, if you handle the situation gracefully, it can mitigate the effects of the bad review in the eyes of your prospective guests. 

2. Apologize for the guest’s poor experience 

Remember, an apology is not an admission of guilt or wrongdoing. For whatever reason this guest’s expectations were not met, which is disappointing for anybody. You should express sympathy that his or her experience fell short of expectation. 

3. Highlight any changes you have made or intend to make 

This is a good opportunity to take the conversation offline to avoid further public conflict. If the situation warrants, “changes you have made or intend to make” can be as simple as inviting the guest to contact you, so you can make it right. Don’t promise any form of compensation online to avoid setting a precedent. 

4. Evaluate the need for follow up procedures. 

If you have the guest’s contact information it’s a good idea to send them a personal email to express your apologies and offer compensation if appropriate. Additionally, you should ask the following questions about the review:

Did this guest experience a systemic problem that each customer could face? 

Is there an easy fix to the problem?

Is the problem unfounded or not likely to be repeated?

Or is the problem linked to something you cannot easily change, like infrastructure or design? 

Real World Example

Here’s an example of a situation where the problem is linked to something that cannot easily be changed. 

Dear Patrice,

Thank you very much for your candid review of your recent stay at our hotel. Your feedback is extremely valuable to us, as we strive to improve with each and every stay. I greatly appreciate your comments about aspects of the room that need updating. It is a pleasure to announce that we will be implementing many of these upgrades to the property within the next couple of months. Our rooms will be getting new mattresses, bed skirts, window treatments, carpeting, in-room accessories, and much more! In taking great care of our charming hotel, our main priority is to be able to offer a very well-maintained and comfortable atmosphere. I hope that I can convince you to change your mind about another visit to our property. Please reach out to me directly at [email] if you would be willing to give us a chance to turn your experience around. It would be such a pleasure to personally welcome you back to our new and improved hotel!

With much appreciation,
Elanor L. | General Manager

Everything this manager says indicates both to the reviewer and any prospectives who might read the review, that she truly cares about her guests. Although she is unable to fix all the issues immediately, she takes care to highlight the aspects of the hotel that are getting an update. This is a great way to mitigate any damage to your reputation, and potentially repair your relationship with an unhappy guest. 

I’ve done everything I can, and the guest is still upset. What now?

When a guest goes online and writes a bad review, even after you’ve done everything you can, the next objective is damage control. You need to show any potential guests who see the review that you’ve done everything possible to resolve the issue. In the following example, this manager has clearly done everything he can in terms of following up with the issue. Sometimes there’s only so much you can do. 

Dear James,

Thank you again for bringing this issue to our attention. The safety and security of our guests is always our top priority. As discussed in our previous conversations, our team has done everything possible—in cooperation with the Cincinnati Police Departmentto investigate your claim. I am so sorry that we have not been able to resolve this. Please feel free to reach out to me directly at [email] if you have additional information to share. 

Kind regards,
Jim L | General Manager

When should I respond to negative hotel reviews?

Once you’ve researched the details of the guest’s stay, you should respond to negative hotel reviews ASAP. Responding as quickly as possible is one more step you can take to repair your relationship with your unhappy guest. It will also minimize the number of prospective guests that see the review online without your response. We recommend that you respond to 100% of negative reviews within 24 hours

It’s also helpful to have an Online Reputation Management system that aggregates all your online reviews onto one platform, and alerts you when you get a one or two star review online. This way, you know right away when a guest gives you negative feedback online, and can respond promptly.

Want to learn more about review responses? CLICK HERE to access our free article, Responding to Online Reviews: A Guide for Hoteliers

40 responses to “How to Respond to Negative Hotel Reviews

  1. Hello Carolyn,

    I want to increase my online response rate for my hotel for this year. I have just started to do so but noticed that I have many online reviews un-responded from the previous month. Do you and Revinate recommends me to catch up and write as much as reply as I can in order to increase my response rate? I am a bit afraid to reply to the guests who wrote a reply already few months ago… they may think that this delay is unacceptable or may remind past previous negative experiences… what are your suggestions and recommendations on this?

    1. Hi there,

      This is a great question! If you have the time to do play catch-up for any reviews written over the last month, it’s not a bad idea to do so. Focus on the negative reviews first, because responding to these will make the greatest impact on your reputation today and in the future. You should also be sure to personalize the response to the review as much as possible, which will show that even though your response was not timely, you still care about this past guest and the experience he or she had with your hotel. Then in the future, be sure to respond to all negative reviews within 24 hours, and any additional reviews that you choose to respond to within a couple of days.

      Does that make sense? Thanks for the question! I hope this helped.

      Best,
      Carolyn

      1. Dear Carolyn,

        Thank you very much for your kind advices which I will follow. My biggest worry is that the customers can see for example on tripadvisor that the reply has been posted on 10 of May 2015 for a review wrote in 10 of January 2015. .. I am wondering how do they feel about this delay…

        1. That’s a legitimate concern! I wouldn’t worry about most reviews over a month old. The exception to this would be if you have made changes to your hotel, and some of your old reviews address a problem that has been fixed by those changes. It might be worth your while to go back a couple of months and say something like, “Thanks for taking the time to leave feedback! We realized that __________ was a problem for our hotel, and thanks to your comments, we’ve made the effort to fix the problem. Please come back and stay with us again sometime. We’d love to show you how much better _______ is, thanks to you!”

          1. That is a great way to handle older reviews. One thing to keep in mind as well is that if you continually respond to every review going forward, new travelers will see all of the reviews that you respond to! It’s an investment, but it’s well worth it.

            Thanks for sharing this Carolyn!

    1. Hi there,

      Thanks for the comment! This is a tougher question, as your response will depend on the severity of the guest’s misbehavior and what the guest wrote about your hotel. If you’d like to email me privately ( carrie(at)revinate.com ), I’m happy to help you come up with an appropriate response.

      Best,
      Carolyn

  2. I got a three star review. But I an quite sure she/he is not our customer. So I report that to TA to tell the truth. TA said the review will continue to be published. What should I do?

    Thanks

  3. Dear Carolyn
    I enjoyed reading this, however sometimes I receive a false review, meaning that guest is saying few things which are not true or in some cases he is over reacting for instants that : (…..contractors keep working and making noise from 7 am & I could not sleep…) while in fact they started at 10 am.. and so on… in such case what will be the ideal reply to all these allegations ??
    Many thanks & regards
    Samer / Executive Asst. Manager
    Fraser Suites Hotel
    Dubai

    1. what will be the ideal reply to all allegations ??

      This is the review to my hotel: 1) There was different furniture, like on the pictures 2) At the place was different (higher) price, than I got in e-mail

      both absolutly not true

      Many thanks & regards

  4. Dear Ms.Carolyne

    Thank you very much for all these subjects. By reading your tips I have improved my skill of writing regarding to respond to anykind of reviews from either tripadvisor or others. I also had upgraded my knowledge in terms of what is going on in hotel business. Once again, thank you.

    Mia

    1. Thanks, Mia! Glad to hear our blog has been helpful. If you have any questions or any topic you’d like me to write on, feel free to ask!

      Best,
      Carolyn

  5. Hi Carolyn,

    This is great! Learnt a lot!

    My concern is on guests writing their old experiences on online sites… say more than a year sometimes.

    The hotel has done many changes and has improved a lot during the period!
    but when you get a bad review… the bad review count goes up and sometimes the rating falls.

    Hope the web site could control this!

    Rusira

    1. Hi Rusira,

      Yes, that’s a great point! Unfortunately, TripAdvisor only removes old reviews when the hotel undergoes a substantial renovation or changes ownership. But, what you can do is respond to the review. You can accomplish two things by responding: One, you can inform the unhappy guest of your hotel’s changes or improvements since his or her stay, and two, you can communicate those changes to prospective guests who see the review online and reassure them that the review does not reflect the current state of your hotel.

      You can say something like, “Thanks so much for taking the time to write a review. It looks like it has been some time since your stay, and I’m happy to report that our hotel has improved significantly since then!” Then, you can address the specific complaints. For example, if the reviewer complains about the rooms being old or dated, and you’ve since made updates, you should address that. Or, for another example, if the guest was complaining about the staff being inexperienced, you can assure the guest that the staff has been through rigorous training since their stay. Finally, you should invite the reviewer back to enjoy your updated hotel, to show you care about the guest experience at your hotel.

      I understand that it’s hard to see your review score fall. The advice we can give here is to encourage more guests to write reviews. The greater the volume of reviews you can get on sites like TripAdvisor, the more accurately your review score will reflect the experience at your hotel. Here’s some more information on that if you want to read more: https://www.revinate.com/blog/2014/09/how-to-improve-your-ranking-on-tripadvisor/

      Thanks so much for the comment! Please feel free to write back if you have more questions.

      Best,
      Carolyn

  6. One of my hotel’s received a negative review about our staff being racist, which is far from the truth. Our reviews are typically good and afraid this will hurt the hotel. What is a suggested response?

    1. Hi Odester,

      Thanks for commenting! This is a tricky one, but as a general rule, it’s a good idea not to get into an “I said – you said” argument online, or try to dispute the details of the review. The two objectives here are to enact damage control, and to take the conversation offline. You could say something like, “I’m sorry to hear that your stay was not up to expectation. I’d like to hear more about this situation. If you’d like to contact me offline, we can discuss further.” Remember, an apology is not necessarily an admission of fault – by responding in this way, you’re making it clear to anyone reading the review that you care about the guest experience at your hotel.

      I hope this helps.

      Best,
      Carolyn

  7. Dear Madam,
    Is it fine to replace Apology / apologies word with “I sincerely regret”.
    Warm Regards
    Jitendra

  8. I like that you mentioned that you should thank people for giving feedback. I think that if I was going to stay somewhere then I would want to know what people thought of it. I think that if you are questioning whether or not you want to stay somewhere the reviews are a good place to look for help.

  9. Very useful tips mentioned. Responses to negative reviews are read by people searching for hotels online. Addressing guests by name and then thanking them for their inputs lets people know that every guest is important and that feedback is taken seriously and used to improve guest experience.

  10. Thanks for the amazing tips. And these tips will surely help people to overcome the negative reviews about their hotels. And you have explained everything very clearly and Kudos for your great work.

  11. I appreciate the great advice listed here to always apologize to the customer when they have a poor experience at your hotel. My wife and I love to travel around and go to hotels. We always appreciate the hotel workers that sympathize with us and do their best to make our experience amazing. Thanks for the post!

  12. Pretty good post. I just stumbled upon your blog and wanted to say that I have really enyed reading your blog posts. Any way I’ll be subscribing to your feed and I hope you post again soon

  13. Couldn’t agree more. There’s always the saying “Customer is king”, and actually, if the hotel were to get aggressive or defensive and stand stubbornly stick to what they think is right, then it’s quite obvious the guests won’t think twice about returning. This is really in any business. I’ve dealt with people like this, that is, me being the customer.

    However, I’ve also dealt with customers who are just so hard to please no matter what. And that’s the end of the relationship with them. They imagine themselves to be flawless, some of them, and expect everything else to be far more than perfect. This is actually an expense to the business, trying to please a bigoted and ignorant client. So rather, if the client goes public with accusations and etc, we privately deal in the best of manners with them, and then finally if nothing works, just make a reply publicly in a extremely civilised and absolutely polite manner, and set things straight so it doesn’t wrongly affect the business. At least the experts will see the truth.

    We’re in the web development business actually, and I came across this since we’re building a hotel linen supplier’s website, http://www.BenhamIntl.com. These guys, I have to say, have been one of our top clients. Professionals and experts in their field, who know to work with other professionals. From taking advice, to pitching the right ideas, and together aiming for a calculated success.

    A thumbs up to the article; Business-client psychology is something people (specially some businesses I can name, lol), should really study about.

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