Responding to Online Reviews: The Positive Sandwich Method
Your guests are talking about their experience with your property on review sites and OTAs. Prospective guests look for these reviews at a critical stage in the booking process. It is essential for hoteliers to respond and interact with these guests for three reasons. By responding, you can:
- Minimize the damage negative comments can do to your hotel’s reputation
- Recover service with unhappy guests
- Discover brand enthusiasts and turn them into promoters
But when it comes to online reviews, one of the most common questions we get from hoteliers is, “How do I respond to negative reviews?”
The answer is, that depends. We’ve talked before about the best way to respond to negative hotel reviews. But sometimes, reviews contain mixed sentiments. The majority of reviews on TripAdvisor, even some five-star reviews, express mixed sentiments. Since customers can learn unflattering things about your property from mixed reviews, it’s important to respond to as many as possible. In the 2012 TripAdvisor survey, researchers found that:
- 78% of travelers say that seeing management responses to reviews make them believe the hotel cares more about its guests.
- 57% of users agree that seeing hotel management responses to reviews generally “makes me more likely to book it (versus a comparable hotel that didn’t respond to reviews).”
Because it can win bookings for your property, you want potential customers to see your responses and get your side of the story when there are negative mentions of your property online.
The Positive Sandwich Formula
Mixed hotel reviews are often mostly complimentary. One way to address mixed feedback is by using the positive sandwich method. By sandwiching your responses to the negative remarks with positive statements, you can recognize and respond to negative messages without emphasizing them.
1. Thank the guest
Address the guest by name and thank him or her for taking the time to write a review.
2. Highlight the positive comments
Express delight that the guest had a good experience with some aspects of his or her stay. This personalizes the message and reminds the reader that the guest said good things about the hotel.
3. Address the negative comments
Apologize for the negative experiences discussed in the review, and give details on any changes the hotel has made or intends to make.
4. Return to the positive
Highlight another positive aspect of the guest’s stay. This surrounds the negative comments with positive statements, which allows you to address customer service issues without putting too much emphasis on any unflattering information about your property.
5. Invite the guest to return
Inviting your guest to return reminds the reviewer and readers that you value your guests and any feedback they have to offer. Even though this person said negative things about your hotel online, it says great things about you if you accept the feedback graciously.
Real World Example
Here’s one example of a guest that had mostly positive things to say at a newly launched property in Cincinnati. But, he or she found that the staff did not live up to expectations:
A manager could respond like this:
Thank you for taking the time to share your recent experience at our hotel. We are so glad you found our hotel a good place to stay, and that you enjoyed the menu and food at our restaurant. Unfortunately, it seems that we did not meet all your expectations. We would certainly like to learn more about that. If you would like, please connect with me at the hotel or via email at JimmyL@hotel.com. Your feedback is very valuable to us as we work to be better each and every day. We are pleased that you enjoyed so much of our establishment, and we would be honored to have you return to our hotel in the future.
Jimmy L | General Manager
Even though the guest’s mention of the staff was brief and most of the review was glowing, it’s clear to any prospective customers that this guest did not have a perfect stay. The manager’s goal here is not just to manage online reputation, but also attempt service recovery. He addresses the guest’s issues, sandwiching the negatives between positive comments to de-emphasize them. He also invites the guest back, to reassure the reviewer and any readers that he really does care about his guests.