We recently hosted a webinar for hoteliers, How to Respond to Online Reviews (Click the link to access the recording). We cover this fairly often, since it’s one of the topics hoteliers ask us about most frequently.
One attendee had a great question about review responses that I thought I’d highlight in a blog post this week, because it’s so critical for every hotelier to have the answer.
Is it a good idea to dispute negative reviews if you feel a guest is not being truthful?
It’s only natural to get defensive when someone posts something untrue about yourself or your business online. I don’t blame anyone who feels this way! But, this is a situation where it’s very important to avoid getting into an argument online. It usually doesn’t end well.
Take this example: A few years ago, the Bluesky Hostel in Scotland got a ton of negative publicity via its Facebook page, and an article on Buzzfeed. Essentially, the owner of the hostel got aggressive with a past guest who wrote a negative review, arguing over the details of her stay. Ultimately, as you can see in the article, commenters were not kind to the owner of the hostel.
Here’s another example: A fish and chips shop in the UK recently gained notoriety for its responses to one-star TripAdvisor reviews.
While the restaurant claims they get quite a bit of support for their sarcastic responses, it’s unlikely that prospective patrons feel the same way. Look at the comments on this article. One reader writes, “Negative reviews on TripAdvisor don’t necessarily put me off visiting an establishment. However, nasty, patronising, snooty, childish and insulting responses to criticism from the management most definitely do. This restaurant clearly has very little regard for its customers or its reputation, and I won’t be visiting it again when I’m in the area. No doubt that makes me crass or childish or something, eh, Mr Pinnacles. Thanks to the Chronicle for the heads up!”
This reaction is not uncommon amongst consumers. In fact, a 2012 PhoCusWright survey found that 64% of TripAdvisor users agree that an aggressive or defensive management response to a bad hotel review “makes me less likely to book that hotel.”
On the other hand, the same study found that 84% of users agree that an appropriate management response to a bad review “improves my impression of the hotel.”
How should hoteliers respond?
Whether or not the guest is telling the truth is ultimately not the issue at stake here. Getting into a public argument with a guest is the last thing you want to do, regardless of the facts of the situation.
What you can do is take the conversation offline. You could say something to the effect of, “We’re so sorry that your stay fell short of expectation. The details of your review are concerning, as we do not have a record of these occurrences. We would certainly like to know more about this.” Then, ask the guest to contact you offline at his or her earliest convenience.
This way, you’re essentially giving the guest the benefit of the doubt, and at the same time communicating to prospective guests that you truly care about the guest experience at your hotel. Whether or not the guest is telling the truth, taking the conversation offline is a much better idea than getting into an Internet tussle that could result in a ton of bad publicity for your hotel.