This week Groupon and flower powerhouse FTD got caught in a very embarrassing situation. It seems they offered a 50% off Groupon but then marked up the flowers on their site so customers weren’t getting a deal at all. When they were outed, they denied… and then they apologized and offered a refund. Bottom line is they got caught looking shady. With so many vehicles for sharing real-time information, photos, links and videos, you can pretty much be sure that getting away with anything these days is a lot harder than it was just 10 years ago.
So what are the new rules of transparency? First and foremost, know that you’re going to get caught so do everything you can to stay on the straight and narrow path. Think about your billing. Do you charge a resort fee? Is it very clear to guests upon booking that they will be charged an extra fee? If not, make sure it’s clear as day. You can be sure that surprised guests will tweet about it and include it in their reviews if they feel swindled at check-out.
Second, don’t be afraid to reach out. Hotels are 24-7 operations. It’s OK for mistakes to happen but you must be proactive in communicating with guests before issues spiral out of control. If you are the GM, train your staff to alert you to any potential issues so you can handle them when the guest is still on site. The last thing you want is an angry guest returning home and logging onto TripAdvisor to share the bad experience. Often, a phone call apologizing for the error or a small gift with a handwritten apology note can do wonders.
Finally, when negative feedback hits the public channels, you must respond and acknowledge it. In the past, many PR experts advised to ignore public criticism because you don’t want to draw attention to negative feedback and get into a sparring match with a disgruntled customer, but today the opposite is true. Not responding sends the message that you don’t care about the guest’s voice. You need to respond publicly to acknowledge the issue and say you want to make it right. Then, take it off-line with the guest.