Online Reputations: Responding to Negative Reviews
Last week, PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC), released a report called “Online Reputations: Why Hotel Reviews Matter and How Hotels Respond”. In the 90 page report, the consulting firm analyzes the online reviews of more than 11,000 hotels in 48 cities all over the world, dissecting what makes some hotels rank higher than others.
We have known for a while now that customers view earned media as the most trustworthy source of information about a brand. The PwC report confirms this, and adds that reviews are valued even higher than other types of earned media (ie social media mentions) when shopping for hotels. Hotel staff and ownership should look at reviews as an opportunity instead of a nuisance: an opportunity not only for constructive exchange, but also a place to learn about areas for improvement.
Furthermore, the report points out that a single negative review is enough to take a toll on a hotel’s overall image. While a guest might have had an otherwise wonderful stay, a single interaction that goes wrong is enough to trigger an angry, sometimes scathing review.
According to the report, the majority of negative reviews fit into one of two categories: physical or service. Physical refers to the property itself: the facilities, rooms, or amenities, and how clean or modern all of the above might be. Service focuses on just that, the quality of interaction that guests experienced with staff in both standard and crisis situations.
When you are confronted with a negative review, it is only natural to feel defensive, but it is not professional to react in anger. If you do, it won’t do you or your hotel any favors. Think of it as a magnifying glass that will only intensify the impact of an already negative review.
The best way to respond to a negative review is to be swift, honest, acknowledge the reviewer’s main concerns, and detail your plan of attack.
Before you respond, you must first evaluate what type of negative review it is. Did your guest have an incorrect expectation or what your hotel looked like or offered? Or did they experience subpar service?
If you decide that the review is a result of incorrect expectations, the hotel can remedy this by updating brand communication or website content to better align communication with actual experience. On the other hand, a negative review based off of subpar service requires much more time, effort, and oftentimes money to remedy.
Poor service needs more than just a band-aid to fix the root of the problem. Often times, service issues stem from a more systematic problem that is deeply rooted in the business structure or hiring process of the brand. The report provides the following three ways to help save your hotel’s service:
Hire based off of attitude rather than experience. You can always teach someone policies and procedure, but you can’t teach patience, empathy, or kindness.
Empower employees and teams, remove fear of retribution. Solutions to guest problems should be available to all guest-facing employees rather than hidden behind layers of red tape and bureaucracy. By allowing the most junior employees to help solve these problems, guest complaints are nipped in the bud instead of festering into something that can’t be healed.
Owners must think of training as a necessary investment in the future of their property. Much in the same way properties budget for renovations and updates, service training is something that can make or break the future of a brand. Training programs MUST include preparation for events that occur outside of normal operating procedure. In other words, something will go wrong at some point: Prepare your employees for service failures accordingly.
Either way, by acknowledging the root cause of the guest’s concerns, you are taking the first step towards healing that relationship while also demonstrating your commitment to excellence.
Responses to guest problems both on property and in reviews should always be adjusted the guests’ specific situation and needs. Obviously, hotels with higher star categories have more capital and resources at their disposal when reacting to reviews, but even small hotels have to learn to make this a central part of their customer service strategy in order to survive.
Learn to love your negative reviews. They are the most honest window into the guest experience that you have, and your greatest resource.