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One Example of How NOT to Respond to Negative Reviews

Last Updated: October 21, 2022|Categories: Blog|Tags: , |4.6 min read|

The owner of a tapas restaurant recently posted an 895 word response on TripAdvisor after a customer criticized its portion sizes online.

The hungry customer wrote a short review about the restaurant in Huddersfield, a large market town in West Yorkshire England, but said it “wasn’t worth the drive” after traveling 50 minutes there. The reviewer and her husband had chosen the restaurant for their anniversary dinner after it was recommended by a friend.

Leaving three stars, she said: “The food was lovely just not enough of it. I know tapas is little dishes of picky food but in all the other [tapas] places we’ve been we’ve ordered 5 dishes and been full.”

The customer also commented on the location of her table – she and her husband were seated right by the fire exit and her husband kept knocking his arm on the fire exit release bar. “Service was OK and the people were nice but for us is [sic] wasn’t worth the drive. If we lived closer we would probably return,” she wrote.

While recognizing that tapas by nature consists of smaller portion sizes, it is worth pointing out that this was not the customer’s first time dining at a tapas restaurant. The service was also not exceptional, and because of where the couple was seated, the experience was not comfortable. As such, these are some good, constructive points of feedback for the restaurant. Some action items might include conducting additional staff training to set guest expectations as to portion sizes, or slightly re-arranging the seating in the restaurant to avoid the uncomfortable experience with the fire exit.

But, instead of recognizing that the customer’s experience was far from perfect, the owner of the restaurant reacted defensively.

Your fabulous friend recommended my restaurant to you because we are the number one Tapas restaurant in the whole of Huddersfield, Brighouse and Calderdale. Your review says a lot more about you than it does about Volare. I shall explain:-

I have served 100’s of happy customers this week why oh why is it, that THE ONE nit picky ignorant person is the only reviewer?

While the owner’s response has since been removed from TripAdvisor, probably in response to the bad press around it, screen caps were taken while it was still live, and can be read here: Part 1, Part 2. You’ll also notice that this owner has a history of writing inappropriate responses to mixed reviews as evidenced by responses to the previous reviews seen here.

This is one of the cardinal rules of the web: Once online, nothing on the Internet goes away, so be careful what you post.

So, how should a hotel respond to this kind of online review? According to TripAdvisor research, 64% of users agree that an aggressive/defensive management response to a bad review “makes me less likely to book that hotel,” whereas “84% of users agree that an appropriate management response to a bad review “improves my impression of the hotel.” Here’s our advice for hoteliers when responding to negative reviews:

1. Don’t get defensive.

Approach the situation with empathy instead of taking critical feedback personally. Remember, the customer is writing because for whatever reason, his or her expectations were not met. That’s a disappointment for anybody.

2. Apologize.

Remember, an apology is not necessarily an admission of wrongdoing. You can say, “I’m sorry your experience with us failed to meet your expectations.” Recognize that the customer paid for something with something in mind that they did not receive. Regardless of how or why that happened, it’s important to recognize that someone walked away from your business disappointed.

3. Be brief.

You don’t need to address every point in the review. In some situations it’s better not to, because that can come off as defensive.

4. Follow up.

It’s important to say how you will fix the issue in the future. In a hotel, if the customer complained about the room being dirty, you can say, “Thank you for bringing this issue to our attention. We’ll address the issue with the housekeeping staff to ensure that this doesn’t happen again.”

5. Invite the customer to return.

Don’t promise any kind of financial compensation online, as that can set a precedent that may encourage others to complain, but do what you can to make the situation right. Invite the customer to return to show them that you value their business and that the poor experience was atypical, or at least that you’ve fixed the issue. It also helps to offer to speak with them over the phone to learn more about the experience and what you can do to make it right. Sometimes, approaching the situation with empathy in this way can lead unhappy customers to update their reviews.

We’ve seen examples where customers were getting complaints that their rooms were old or dated. They didn’t realize that these complaints were consistent until they saw the data in their Revinate dashboards. So they were able to justify updates to the property when planning the budget for the following year, and were able to address these reviews with, “Hey, thanks for bringing this to our attention. Because of your feedback, we’ve decided to make [these necessary changes.] We hope you’ll come back and enjoy our updated hotel.”


Learn about what’s trending, review response metrics, and a look forward at hospitality reputation in our 2018 Reputation Benchmark Report. Available free for download.

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