How to Respond to Negative Hotel Reviews

May 23, 2016 Carrie Murphy

In 2012, TripAdvisor and PhoCusWright reported a series of statistics that emphasize the importance of responding to online reviews. Most notably, the survey of 2,800 respondents showed that:

84% of users agree that an appropriate management response to a bad review "improves my impression of the hotel."

64% of users agree that an aggressive/defensive management response to a bad review "makes me less likely to book that hotel."

The message is clear that not only do hoteliers need to respond to negative reviews, but doing so in the right way is crucial. Having a bad review on TripAdvisor hurts your reputation. A proper response to a bad review can do two things for you. It can minimize the damage to your reputation by making prospective guests think more highly of you, and it can repair your relationship with the unhappy reviewer. 

How to Respond to Negative Hotel Reviews

In general, you want to show prospectives that your hotel reads, internalizes, and responds to reviews. You should personalize your responses to the guest review, and show your brand voice. You should also research the issue before you respond, so that you are aware of as many details of the guest's stay as possible. Did the guest complain before checkout? Is there a record of his or her communications with your staff?

1. Thank the guest by name 

Even if the negative review is aggressive or hurtful, you should thank the guest for taking the time to give feedback. Take a minute and remember that all feedback is valuable. And, if you handle the situation gracefully, it can mitigate the effects of the bad review in the eyes of your prospective guests. 

2. Apologize for the guest's poor experience 

Remember, an apology is not an admission of guilt or wrongdoing. 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. 

3. Highlight any changes you have made or intend to make 

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, so you can make it right. Don't promise any form of compensation online to avoid setting a precedent. 

4. Evaluate the need for follow up procedures. 

If you have the guest's contact information it's a good idea to send them a personal email to express your apologies and offer compensation if appropriate. Additionally, you should ask the following questions about the review:

Did this guest experience a systemic problem that each customer could face? 

Is there an easy fix to the problem?

Is the problem unfounded or not likely to be repeated?

Or is the problem linked to something you cannot easily change, like infrastructure or design? 

Real World Example

Here's an example of a situation where the problem is linked to something that cannot easily be changed. 

Dear Patrice,

Thank you very much for your candid review of your recent stay at our hotel. Your feedback is extremely valuable to us, as we strive to improve with each and every stay. I greatly appreciate your comments about aspects of the room that need updating. It is a pleasure to announce that we will be implementing many of these upgrades to the property within the next couple of months. Our rooms will be getting new mattresses, bed skirts, window treatments, carpeting, in-room accessories, and much more! In taking great care of our charming hotel, our main priority is to be able to offer a very well-maintained and comfortable atmosphere. I hope that I can convince you to change your mind about another visit to our property. Please reach out to me directly at [email] if you would be willing to give us a chance to turn your experience around. It would be such a pleasure to personally welcome you back to our new and improved hotel!

With much appreciation, Elanor L. | General Manager

Everything this manager says indicates both to the reviewer and any prospectives who might read the review, that she truly cares about her guests. Although she is unable to fix all the issues immediately, she takes care to highlight the aspects of the hotel that are getting an update. This is a great way to mitigate any damage to your reputation, and potentially repair your relationship with an unhappy guest. 

I've done everything I can, and the guest is still upset. What now?

When a guest goes online and writes a bad review, even after you've done everything you can, the next objective is damage control. You need to show any potential guests who see the review that you've done everything possible to resolve the issue. In the following example, this manager has clearly done everything he can in terms of following up with the issue. Sometimes there's only so much you can do. 

Dear James,

Thank you again for bringing this issue to our attention. The safety and security of our guests is always our top priority. As discussed in our previous conversations, our team has done everything possible—in cooperation with the Cincinnati Police Departmentto investigate your claim. I am so sorry that we have not been able to resolve this. Please feel free to reach out to me directly at [email] if you have additional information to share. 

Kind regards,
Jim L | General Manager

When should I respond to negative hotel reviews?

Once you've researched the details of the guest's stay, you should respond to negative hotel reviews ASAP. Responding as quickly as possible is one more step you can take to repair your relationship with your unhappy guest. It will also minimize the number of prospective guests that see the review online without your response. We recommend that you respond to 100% of negative reviews within 24 hours

It’s also helpful to have an Online Reputation Management system that aggregates all your online reviews onto one platform, and alerts you when you get a one or two star review online. This way, you know right away when a guest gives you negative feedback online, and can respond promptly.

Want to learn more about review responses? CLICK HERE to access our free article, Responding to Online Reviews: A Guide for Hoteliers

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