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To respond or not to respond? That is the question…

We hoteliers are a fickle bunch.  We can rant for hours about how much we hate TripAdvisor and how much we hate those ‘Keyboard Warriors’ – that feel they have a right to complain when they get home, using the safety of their screen to hide behind, yet none of them say one word when they are in our hotels and using our bars and restaurants.

Like you, that drives me crazy as there is nothing I detest more than cowardly behaviour.  Now I know that there are some people who make the excuse of ‘ well perhaps your customer didn’t feel like they could complain at the time’, or perhaps ‘they were in company and didn’t want to say something’. Well trust me, I can’t defend either of these arguments.  I have never been in a position where I couldn’t step away and ask discreetly to speak to a Manager, so I have to be honest and say, I truly can’t defend those who don’t utter one word while on the premises but yet feel they can go home and somehow be brave and often rude whilst hiding behind a screen.

Well enough ranting about how awful it is to get these terrible and often unjust comments, the reason why we are fickle is that I bet we all do it! Check TripAdvisor I mean…I bet before we go on holiday, plan a city break or decide to try out a new restaurant, we often have a sneaky peak at the reviews.  So if we do it, we have to expect our customers to do it too.

Now for me Trip Advisor (and the likes) can, if used correctly have a positive impact on your business.

I often get asked if hoteliers should respond to every review and my answer is always yes.  Now the thinking on this has changed over the past couple of years but my justification is that if someone takes the time to leave a review, positive or negative, then we should have the common courtesy to respond and acknowledge.  We now know that we need to mimic the product and service we provide directly to our guests online. So lets face it, if a customer came up to you in your restaurant and said ‘thank you for an amazing meal and the service was fantastic’, you wouldn’t just blank them and not reply, so why would you do the same if the same comment was made online?

We also know that we humans only have something to say if an experience was really, really good or really, really terrible.  People very rarely leave indifferent reviews when things were just ‘ok’ so we need to recognise that.

If a review is really good, here are some tips:

  • Always thank the person for taking the time to leave a review – courteous
  • Don’t start the review by using their Username. Nothing worse than seeing hotels respond by starting off ‘Good Morning BigJimmyRoundHead17788888…’ etc etc etc.  Keep it simple: Good morning or Good afternoon.  Of course the reviews don’t get posted right away so you may well be out on your timings but hey better that than acknowledging BigJimmy!
  • If your reviewer mentions your staff by name then make sure you mention that you will pass on to ‘Simon’ or ‘Clare’ their comments
  • If you actually remember the reviewer then acknowledge that as well.  I had one guest recently who left a lovely review for one of my hotels and the receptionist remembered her as she had to rush home as her cat had just had kittens – now mentioning that is a nice touch and makes your online relationship ‘personal’.
  • And most importantly, you can use TripAdvisor to strengthen your Book Direct message. So if someone says they had a great time and can’t wait to come back, say something like, ‘ we are all really looking forward to welcoming you back and don’t forget, you will always find the best rates, best availability and our great special offers if you book direct on our own website’.  You can’t add the url (www.your hotelname.com) but you can hammer home that Book Direct message

Now what if the review is really bad:

  • Again acknowledge and thank them for taking the time to leave a review
  • Remember that as someone in the hospitality industry, you should be using any complaint to measure how you are doing in your own property.  So if there are complaints about cleanliness, noise, air-conditioning, state of the carpets etc, then for goodness sake take that all onboard and start fixing things.  My advice is to traffic light what people are saying – so work out what are the critical and most mentioned issues down to the stuff that isn’t too bad and that can wait for another time. Then use this information and get stuff done.
  • Ask yourself, ‘did we let this customer down’ and if you did then own up! Say that you are really sorry that their carrots didn’t appear with their main course or that dessert took 45 minutes. Acknowledge that you had staffing issues that were out of your control on that particular night; that this is not your normal level of service and that all issues have been addressed and rectified
  • If the complaint gets abusive and I have seen my fair share of racist or sexiest comments, then call the person out and ask that they remove the comment from Tripadvisor or you will start action against them.  That normally works but don’t let anyone away with being vile about your staff
  • If the complaint is justified and you have quite literally messed up from start to end (and lets face it, we all do that from time to time) then offer to take the whole thing offline.  Give them your email address and ask if you can correspond with them so that you can sort out directly.  This usually works and if worded correctly can actually have a really positive effect.
  • And if the comments were totally unjustified? I would always include something like, ‘it is a shame that you didn’t mention any of your issues while you were in the restaurant, as our Manager Amanda was on duty and certainly would have dealt with everything to ensure you enjoyed your evening’.  Or if it is really just a rant and totally unjust, then you can ask TripAdvisor to remove or again call that person out and ask them to remove it themselves as there is nothing within their review that was true.
  • And finally ‘listen’ and I know that seems obvious but people are using review sites to tell you what they think of your hotel so if you are letting people down on product or service, fix it!

The worst way to deal with any review is to ignore it and after all there are some frightening statistics out there that should warn us all about the wrath of just brushing reviews under the carpet.  So use this as a positive. Learn from it and play nice.

(and if you would like some information on Right Revenue’s new Review Service, please just email ask@rightrevenue.wpengine.com)