How Hoteliers Can Turn Negative Reviews into a Positive Online Image

Responding to negative reviews is the key to creating a positive online reputation for your business.

***Guest post from BlueJay Reviews, a WebRezPro partner***

Many hoteliers dread negative reviews, however it’s important to know that when negative reviews are managed correctly, they can actually help to create a positive impression among your existing and potential customers.

When your property does receive the unfortunate negative online review it doesn’t mean that your property and service is actually terrible. The truth for any business is that no matter how great your business is, not all customers are going to leave happy. While you can’t prevent all bad reviews, you can have a game-plan for when it does happen.

Negative reviews can be a blessing in disguise

It’s only natural to be upset and defensive when a customer leaves a negative review, but these feelings are misguided. Here are two reasons why negative reviews can actually help your business:

1.) They legitimize your review pages.

A mix of negative and positive reviews shows customers that your online reviews are genuine. If a review page only has very positive reviews then consumers reading those reviews will become a bit suspicious about whether the page is genuine or not. Research has shown that customers will trust reviews more if they see both positive and negative reviews. After all, no one is perfect.

2.) They bring to light valuable feedback.

Negative reviews can uncover real problems and challenges that your property may be facing. This valuable feedback can not only help you improve your systems and processes but can also give you guidance to make simple changes that can improve your business’s overall guest experience. Also, responding appropriately to negative feedback from a guest could be the key to that guest coming back in the future.

The way you respond to negative reviews both online and in action at your property can have major consequences on your bottom line. All reviews, positive or negative, have an important place in your online reputation. The key is to effectively respond to the feedback and use it to grow your business.

Why you should respond to negative reviews

Potential future guests are looking at your property’s review pages. Research shows that 92% of consumers check online ratings and reviews before making any buying decision. This is truer in the hotel and travel industry than any other industry. 40% of consumers will form an impression of your hotels’ reputation based on those reviews.

It’s critical that potential customers who are reading your property’s online reviews gain the impression you want them to have. Customer perception is shaped by how well your business responds to negative reviews. The way you publicly respond to negative reviews shows potential customers what kind of service they will receive if they choose to stay with you. Potential customers understand that sometimes people have a negative experience at a business, but what is most telling is how that business handled that negative experience. Customers want to know that they will be treated respectfully if they choose to stay at your property.

I received a negative review: what do I do?

It’s important to take a deep breath and not let the initial emotional response you may be feeling come across online in your response. Respond to negative reviews tactfully to turn the customer’s negative experience into a positive one. Don’t be overly defensive, keep the conversation going. Make sure that you follow up with the customer until the customer’s issue has been resolved. Once the problem has been solved, you can politely ask the customer to edit the review or delete it altogether.

Here are a few helpful tips on how to respond to a negative review:

Be sympathetic and apologize. While dealing with an upset customer, take a step back and put yourself in their shoes. Whether or not it’s your fault, a polite apology can help retain the customer. The words “I’m sorry” are very powerful not only in your personal relationships with friends and family, but, believe it or not, in business as well. Even if you aren’t completely to blame, offering a sincere apology has the power to defuse a situation, sometimes even instantaneously. By apologizing, you show your guest (and potential new guests) that you hear them and acknowledge their concerns. You make it clear that you are willing to provide fantastic service for all of your guests.

Provide a solution. In addition to apologizing, offering real solutions to the problem is key. The solution should show that you’ve put an effort into the response and aren’t just posting a canned response. The solution should show genuine concern and thoughtfulness. 

Offer to take the conversation offline. If a customer is very angry it may be wise to offer to speak to them offline. Explain that this will help you ensure that the problem is resolved quickly. Don’t be afraid to provide them with your direct contact information in a private message.

Say “thank you.” Show that you appreciate their time and feedback. Be sympathetic to their concerns and thank them for leaving feedback that will help you build a stronger business.

Get more positive reviews. Responding to negative reviews is very important, but it is equally important to minimize the impact of negative publicity.  It is important to get more positive feedback coming in for your property. Email or text review requests to your customers. Studies show that 70% of customers will leave a review when asked. WebRezPro with BlueJay Reviews integration can help you automate this process when guests check out.

Stay on top of your reviews with BlueJay Reviews

Staying on top of customer feedback is hard. The BlueJay Reviews platform can help. With BlueJay you can maintain a steady stream of fresh reviews, manage feedback, respond to reviews immediately (even automatically) and share positive reviews on your social media pages plus more. To learn more about the WebRezPro integrated review management program with BlueJay Reviews please visit: https://www.webrezpro.com/partners/bluejay-reviews/

Marketing 101: A Guide for Independent Hoteliers

There are a lot of moving parts to juggle when running a hotel. From property maintenance to managing staff to ensuring guest satisfaction, it’s easy to spend all your time attending to on-site matters. While it’s obviously critical to ensure a quality experience at your hotel, you won’t have any guests to impress if you’re ignoring your marketing duties. We recognize that marketing can seem overwhelming and unwieldy (chain hotels employ entire departments for the task after all), so we’ve created an outline summarizing the platforms you need to prioritize. Welcome to our crash course in marketing for independent hoteliers!

Website

Creating and maintaining a website is the most important thing you can do to market your property. This is the first place a potential guest will go to find out more about, and judge the legitimacy of, your hotel. When attending to your property’s webpage you should consider:

Design >> Considering your website will likely be the first point of contact, make sure it looks professional. People expect sites to be visually-pleasing, intuitive to navigate and mobile-friendly. If they don’t like your page, they’ll navigate away without a second thought. First impressions matter!

Content >> As an independent hotel your strength is your individuality. Use your website to highlight your property’s unique charm with professionally shot images and personalized copy.

Functionality >> Getting a browser’s attention with your website is the hard part, so don’t miss the opportunity to turn it into a sale. Incorporate a booking engine directly into your web page to maximize conversion rates and score direct bookings.

SEO >> Now that you’ve expended so much time and effort on your website, you need to make sure people can find it! Optimize your placement in search engine results by (authentically) incorporating keywords throughout your website copy and in your meta-description.

The previous tips are essential for an effective site, but like anything in life, there is always room for improvement. If you’ve tackled the primary aspects of your website and want to take it even further, think about upping the ante with these advanced options:

Blog >> An excellent way to get traffic on your site, and inch your way up search engine pages, is to add and update content continually. Blogging can be a powerful way to keep your site dynamic and showcase your hotel’s unique personality. Bear in mind, a blog can be a big commitment and will only be effective if you give it the TLC it requires.

Landing Pages >> Using landing pages can have a huge effect on your conversion rates. Start by creating a ‘Book Now’ landing page and work up to creating pages for special packages, upselling, and targeted campaigns. You can never have too many landing pages!

If you need help designing (or revamping) your website, feel free to contact our design team today.

Social Media

Effective marketing is all about reaching potential guests. You need to bring your brand to the people, and the people are on social media. When constructing your social media presence, start with Facebook (which has over two billion monthly active users!) and then consider incorporating other popular sites as you see fit. Regardless of the social site in question, make sure you:

Understand the platform >> Each social media platform is different and should be utilized in a different way. Whether it’s Instagram, Twitter, Pinterest, or Snapchat, not every vehicle is going to be suited to your marketing needs. Understand the value of each platform, choose the ones that compliment your business, and then use them appropriately.

Don’t seem corporate >> Social media is by nature very personal. People are using it to express themselves and engage with one another, so your business’s activity should reflect that authenticity. Posts can be funny, sincere or even silly, but overt advertisements will not be effective on these sites.

Engage >> Don’t think of your profiles as a one-sided conversation. Social sites are dynamic communities. Actively engage with your guests by replying to comments, liking their posts and sharing content you think they’ll like (not just specifically about your property). You may even want to consider holding social media competitions which will have users interacting with your brand (and expanding your marketing reach).

Online Travel Agencies

Whatever your opinion of Online Travel Agencies (OTAs), they are an integral part of marketing for all hotels (independent and otherwise). While you should be doing what you can to maximize direct bookings, it’s a good idea to make the most out of your OTA presence. Take some time to:

Manage your profile >> There is a lot of competition on OTAs. Stand out by completing all the fields on your profile, curating a collection of professionally shot images, highlighting special promotions and keeping all information and inventory up-to-date.

Optimize your placement >> Each OTA has a unique search algorithm and will typically offer suggestions for optimizing your placement on their site. Do what you can to capitalize on this advice.

Review Sites

The internet is littered with websites dedicated to reviewing products, services, and businesses. This matters because 92% of shoppers read online reviews. While you can’t control what people post about you online, that doesn’t mean you should ignore these sites. On the contrary, there is a lot you can do to manage your reputation on these platforms. There is no way you can address every review site online, so pick the major players (like Trip Advisor) and be sure to:

Claim your profile >> The first step to making review sites work for you is to claim your profile. This will allow you to keep the information on your profile accurate and up-to-date, and add a link to your online booking engine (yay for direct bookings!). These sites also typically include analytics that you can use for your own marketing analysis.

Respond to reviews >> Claiming your profile will allow you to take one of the most important steps in managing your online reputation: responding to reviews. Every property will experience negative reviews; that just comes with the territory. But the fallout associated with a negative review can vary dramatically depending on how you deal with it. People want to feel heard, so responding (as long as you are polite) will go a long way in rebuilding burnt bridges. Offer your apologies and contact information for further concerns and communication. Remember: your responses are public and will affect the way your property is viewed by general browsers as much as the individual reviewer.

Marketing can be scary—we get that. Take it one step at a time and try not to be overwhelmed. You’ve got this!

The Dos and Don’ts of Handling Negative Reviews

So you’ve used your social listening tools and come across some stellar reviews for your hotel. But just as you are mid back pat, there it is: the negative review, looming like a dark shadow. For those of us who pour our soul into our work, this can be as painful as a dagger in the heart. But how much do online reviews matter? According to research, nearly half of travelers use online hotel reviews to decide where to stay.

It’s essential that you manage your hotel’s online reputation by learning how to react to negative online reviews. But as with all criticism, use this as an opportunity to grow. And as you will see, this can even be an opportunity to promote your hotel. So take a deep breath and read on for the dos and don’ts of negative reviews.

The DON’Ts of Negative Reviews

Don’t Take It Personally – The first rule of criticism is to not take anything personally. That doesn’t mean shrugging off the criticism with an air of superiority. It just means taking a deep breath and looking at the criticism objectively.

Don’t React Right Away – Probably the worst thing to do is to reply to a review in the heat of the moment, especially if you are feeling emotional as that could lead to review rage. Every public move you make is a reflection of your hotel, leaving a negative or positive impression on potential guests reading your review. You have probably seen reactive responses from management on reviews and it never looks good even if the hotel is in the right.

Don’t Fine or Sue Your Guests – Have you heard about the New York hotel that, on their website, threatened to fine guests $500 for negative online reviews? Well, that back fired. When the press got a hold of this, Union Street Guest House faced the fury of dozens of negative Yelp reviews leading to a low rating. But what if a review is particularly slanderous, should you sue? If a review is in no way truthful, then the burden of proof is upon you but you may have a case. However, your guest will not be liable for expressing their opinion, as long as what they say is true. There are many other ways to resolve the issue.

The DOs of Negative Reviews

Analyze the Complaint – When you come across a negative online review, research the incident or the complaints. Talk to staff and find out their side of the situation in order to create a whole picture. You may even want to contact the guest, privately, to fill in any holes of the story and to express your concern. Then you are prepared to take action to rectify the situation and respond to the review. If you resolve the complaint offline, be sure to also provide an update on the online negative review on how the matter was resolved.

Ask for False Reviews to be Removed – If you feel the review is slanderous, untrue or fraudulent, you may have a case for requesting to have the review removed. Some review sites, however, have a no-removal policy but it doesn’t hurt to ask, especially if you have reason to believe that the review came from a competitor and not an actual guest.

Understand Your Guest – As you are in customer service, you already know how far understanding your guest goes when addressing a complaint. When someone is upset, they want to feel like they are being heard, respected and understood. Saying things like “That sounds really upsetting,” or “I can understand how you must feel,” is enough to acknowledge to your guest that how they feel is valid and valued. And when you try to see the problem from their perspective, it makes you ready to resolve the issue.

Respond by Flipping the Script and Turn it into a Positive – After you have cooled off, analyzed the situation and understood your guest, you are ready to respond online to the review. We have all read reviews where the hotel responds in a defensive or arrogant way and we know as the reader how that makes us view the hotelier. So take time to craft a response that not only addresses the concerns of the reviewer but actually spins the situation to make you come out on top while still looking like the good guy.

This Forbes article about negative reviews explains that each response is the opportunity to highlight your business’s positive qualities, while maintaining genuine concern for the incident, for example, “We are very sorry to hear about your unfortunate experience. We are so proud to be in the top three most popular boutique hotels in the county and we continue to strive to maintain that position. Reviews like yours help us to continue to exceed guest expectations.” In this way, the reviewer can feel heard and valued and leaves a positive impression on others reading the review.

Bring the Customer Back – This point seems so obvious and yet not widely done. Assure your guest that there are no hard feelings and invite them back to give your hotel a second chance. Offering a discount, an in-room bottle of wine, a free night, or a complimentary spa service can turn a disgruntled ex-guest into a satisfied repeat customer who is all too happy to share their positive experience.

Get Positive Reviews – Your best defense against negative reviews are positive reviews. Using post-stay surveys and emails, ask your guests to rate their stay and to share their experience. People are most often motivated to write negative reviews, so take the opportunity to ask your happy guests to write reviews as they just may need a little prompting.

At the end of the day, responding to negative online reviews is like putting out fires. If you are having to put out a lot of fires, it’s perhaps time you take a harder look. Here are our 8 Ways to Improve Guest Satisfaction and 6 Tips for Doing Social Customer Service Right that can point you in the right direction.

Online reviews should not be your only form of receiving guest feedback. Use reputation management platforms like Revinate for gathering post-stay surveys, which may reduce negative reviews on social media if issues are resolved within a short period of time. Better yet, diffuse negative experiences by checking in with your guests during their stay to ensure their expectations are being met.