How Do You Handle Negative Reviews?


You’re always going to get negative reviews, however hard you try to make every guest’s stay with you perfect. Sometimes you might drop the ball and not offer as good an experience as usual, and some people just can’t be pleased.However, whether you’re faced with a genuine issue or a guest that just feels the need to complain about anything and everything, you need to be able to handle this efficiently.Unfortunately, it’s not the case that you can just ignore poor online reviews.

Research conducted by TripAdvisor and PhoCusWright in 2012 emphasised the importance of responding to online reviews. The statistics were pretty clear. 84 per cent of users agreed that an appropriate management response to a bad review “improves my impression of the hotel.” In addition to this, 64 per cent of users agreed that an aggressive/defensive management response to a negative review “makes me less likely to book that hotel.”So, the message is fairly clear. Guests generally won’t completely write you off if they’ve had a poor experience while staying in your hotel, but they need a response to their review that appropriately addresses their comments. You need to be sure that you’re getting this right.

Having a bad review on TripAdvisor can hurt your reputation. A proper response to a bad review can do two things for you. It can minimise the damage to your reputation by making prospective guests think more highly of you, and it can repair your relationship with the unhappy reviewer.

What constitutes an acceptable response though? Well, obviously you need to remain polite. If your response could in any way be considered rude or standoffish then you’ve already made things worse. Firstly, do your research before you respond. Did the guest complain before checkout? Is there a record of his or her communications with your staff? You don’t want to assume any information and makes things worse. When you write your response, thank your guest by name. Even if the review is aggressive or unfair, they’ve still taken the time to provide you with feedback. All feedback is useful – even when it’s bad. In fact, the poor reviews are what you need to use to improve your hotel, so it’s often the most useful. You need to make sure that you apologise to the guest for their poor experience – even if you don’t agree with their comments. It might be that they are complaining about a member of staff. You may well have been there and know that the staff member remained polite throughout – but the guest clearly doesn’t see it that way.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.

Next, you want to assure the guest that you’re taking steps to address the situation. 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 directly, so you can make it right. Don’t promise any form of compensation online though, as you want to avoid setting a precedent for future complaints. If you do get the guest’s contact information, then it’s a good idea to contact them privately to again apologise, and if necessary to offer compensation in some form. This doesn’t need to be a refund, but perhaps a free upgrade and breakfast on their next visit.If you’ve handled the situation appropriately, then by offering the guest an incentive you might even get a repeat visit from them. You now need to look at the review again and address any issues that need to be fixed.Did this guest experience a problem that could be negatively affecting other guests too? How can you fix this problem? You’ve done all of this, but the guest is still upset. This happens – it’s impossible to make everyone happy. What you now need to do is damage control, to show any potential guests who see the review that you’ve done everything possible to resolve the issue. Make sure that all responses are polite and really do try to address the issue. Apologising but glossing over the complaint itself won’t help. Other potential guests know that some people just can’t be pleased, so it’s your response that will really forge their opinion of your hotel.

Naturally, you can’t impress everyone – so accept this. Do everything that you can to appropriately handle any negative reviews and that’s the best you can do.