Marketing Pilgrim's Reputation Channel

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Advice for Managing Negative Reviews of Hotels or Small Businesses




>>Need help managing the reputation of your hotel or small business? I can help!<<

If you’re a small business–or one that operates only in a particular geographic region–you might be forgiven for seeing “online reputation management” and think it doesn’t apply to you. You’re not a big brand, you don’t have to worry about the Wall Street Journal or Newsweek writing about your business, so why worry?

While managing a national reputation may not be of concern, I’ll guarantee that there’s a local web portal or trade journal that keeps tabs on what your customers think about your business. No better example of this than the hospitality industry. Most hotel managers look upon online reviews as a thorn in their flesh–there’s just no pleasing some guests, so why even try?

Well, as spotted by my wife–who just happens to be a Hawaii travel writer–there’s one hotel manager that absolutely gets it.

The ResortQuest Wakiki Beach Hotel might not be the most famous or luxurious hotel in Honolulu, but that doesn’t stop its “Guest Service Manager” from engaging every single guest that takes the time to leave a comment on TripAdvisor.com.

Of course, it’s easy to respond, when your guests have nothing but nice things to say…

or

Notice how each response is personalized to the guest’s comments? How valued do you think that guest feels now? How likely do you think that guest will be to re-book and tell their friends?

But, what about the negative reviews. How do you respond when your hotel doesn’t get it right? Here’s an extract of one such complaint…

Here’s the response from the hotel…

Pretty much the perfect response.

OK, so what about some tips for other hotels and small businesses that are subject to local portal reviews. First, advice for managing positive reviews:

  1. If someone takes the time to leave a positive review–how much time does it really take for you to say thank you? Make it a daily/weekly part of your routine–it will take you less than an hour a week.
  2. Did you get an email praising your staff or complimenting you on your premises? Reply, thank them, and provide them a link to a place where they can share their comments online. A simple “Thank you for your kind comments, if you find yourself with a few spare minutes, we’d love it if you could share your feedback here www.reviewsite.com” will do wonders for increasing the positive reviews of your business.

What if the review is negative or at least contains some constructive feedback? Here are some tips for handling negative reviews:

  1. Thank them for taking the time to leave a review.
  2. Highlight first any positive aspects or comments the reviewer left–you want to draw readers of the review to these, not the negative points.
  3. Let them know that you’re shocked to hear their experience was anything less than 100%. You want this guest, and future ones, to know that this is an atypical experience. (side note: obviously, this only works if you mean it!)
  4. Apologize for any legitimate complaint. Sure, you can explain some mitigating circumstances, but what the reviewer really wants is an apology–they want to be heard by your company.
  5. Explain how you’ll act on their feedback. If you read the above negative review–and had subsequent concerns about the quality of the hotel’s elevators–you might feel better knowing the management is taking action to address any problem.
  6. Provide an offline channel for continuing the conversation. Do you really want to get into a debate with a single guest about the quality of your breakfast? You’ll likely enter a conversation that will distract others from deciding to book with you. Instead, leave a lasting impression by inviting the reviewer to call your office, where you’ll personally listen to their comments and review their concerns. What a strong message you’ll send to future guests? “Wow, this hotel really cares about its guests!”

OK, there’s much more to online reputation management for small/local businesses–you’ll find more in my new book Radically Transparent–but these tips should at least give you some pointers, the next time you’re staring down at a negative review.

Like this post? You might also like “10 Reputations All Hotels, Resorts & Inns Should Monitor Online.”

  • http://www.govisithawaii.com Sheila

    I am really impressed how the manger is interacting! How proactive!

    Sheila’s last blog post..Hawaii Vacation New Roundup for April 15th

  • rcjordan

    You nofollow that link to your wife’s site, Andy?

    I don’t allow reviews on my own travel sites, preferring to leave the quality time spent on lawyering up to others, but I do get a few requests from hotel managers trying to combat negative reviews on booking sites –actually, most are protesting their 2- or 3-star rating.

    And while I think that positive reviews are still noteworthy for the general public, many savvy travelers I know deeeeply discount them as, well, manager spam. Note, too, that your post/response scenario looks very suspiciously like a tag-team spamming effort. I really only read negative reviews, and then cross-reference the reviews from 3 sources to see how they sync.

  • http://www.jaankanellis.com Jaan Kanellis

    I really love websites that offer client testimonials, reviews or customer feedback. Says a lot about them.

    Jaan Kanellis’s last blog post..Widget Baiting Gone Bad?

  • http://www.marketingpilgrim.com Andy Beal

    @rcjordan – one day you’ll find something positive to say about some’n. ;-)

  • http://www.brickmarketing.com Brick Marketing

    Yes! We have seen this kind of interaction on CitySearch and think it’s highly commendable. Not sure if too many business owners even know the effectiveness of such monitoring of reviews and how it can effect them. We’d be sure that they’d be far more “on it”. The more customized customer service is… the better the effect for sure. We’ve seen it time after time and would recommend ANY business that has gone even slightly out of their way to accomodate us.

  • http://copybrighter.com Brett Borders

    Such simple, great advice..! Advice that can make all the difference in the world for your online review reputation!

  • http://www.seoverflow.com Mike Belasco

    Very good advice in this post. This way if someone sees something negative, they also see a positive reaction.

  • http://jeffmcneill.com Jeff McNeill

    This is exactly how to do it. People need a forum to say both good and bad things. Responses by management are needed for both to be heard (and encourage additional posting. People seeking information need to see both the good and the bad. And the very transparent and public approach of seeing the responses by management increases the sense of trust that things which are not always perfect will be taken care of.

    My only nit is the tone of the management, which is to my sensibility overly formal, but that may be the way the brand wants to be conveyed.

    Great post!

  • http://www.kensavage.com Ken Savage

    Excellent way to give the customer the “time of day” rather than brushing them off as a customer and we already got their money. The Guest Service Manager was right to engage people even after their stay to assure them you appreciate their comment and ratings as well as criticism.

    Ken Savage’s last blog post..Good Times at Tonights Celtics Game

  • http://www.muzikolay.net Dikili

    thanks

    Dikili’s last blog post..Tansu Gencer Doyamıyorum

  • http://www.seoresults.co.za Web Marketing Man

    Online Reputation Management is becoming a rapidly growing niche. There is no better marketer than a satified client, and the small touches are what gives one the edge in a competitive marketplace.

    Everybody likes to feel special, and the hotels personalised approach will definitely stand them in good stead. Dealing with complaints in a positive manner also instills confidence in the quality of service offered by the establishment.

    This article was a good contrast to the one about
    cyber-bullying teens which highlighted the negative side to a bad online reputation.

  • http://seologia.com.ar Seologia

    Aloha! :P Very useful info on how to take negative feedback. Will keep in mind.

    Seologia’s last blog post..Google no es tonto, vos sí

  • http://www.greatpriceshere.com Nicole

    This story needs to be circulated to the widest possible extent. What this small hotel will generate in word of mouth publicity from guests who have received such messages, is priceless.
    Other businesses can learn a lot from such a wonderful practice.

    Nicole’s last blog post..Some of the Worst Commercials

  • http://www.tealmontgomery.com Steve Teal

    This certainly is a great practice by this business. Not only is it time consuming but by responding to their guests shows great customer service. Seing a response to a negative feedback will show me (as a customer reading the review) that the business is customer service oriented and will put them in good standing in my eyes. ~ Steve

  • http://www.kudzu.com Ed Murray

    Great post highlighting a best practice! It’s encouraging to see this kind of reputation management in action. At Kudzu.com, all merchants have the ability to respond to any review (positive or negative), and I’m amazed at the variety of usage I see, from not-at-all to reply-to-every-review. What I’m continually baffled by, though, are merchants who use the reply tool to respond aggressively or threateningly to a negative review!!??? Especially when it comes to “he said/she said” issues, even a simple mea culpa will suffice, rather than potentially tarnishing your reputation with a seemingly abusive response…

  • http://www.whatimnot.com Piper

    Even if some of the reviews were negative, I think I’d be more likely to stay after seeing any kind of semi-professional response from the management. At the very least, it would tell me that they’re involved enough to know and care about what’s going on in the hotel.

    Piper’s last blog post..The Butterfly T-Shirt that Gives Me Butterflies

  • http://www.viperchill.com/blog/ Glen Allsopp

    Great example of a manager who knows what he is doing; nice post.

    Glen Allsopp’s last blog post..Online Reputation Management Proposals: A Guide

  • http://HospitalityMarketingBlog.com Madigan Pratt

    Managing a hotel’s online reputation is critically important today – especially if you are at a small luxury property. A comprehensive strategy is what’s needed.

    This is an interesting tactical approach that may not fit every brand or strategy. In the social media world commenting (some may say “intruding”) on every comment can serve to interrupt the flow of the conversation. Particularly grievous reviews certainly warrant a Management Response.

    Sometimes it’s best to just let people talk. If someone posts a negative comment, oftentimes other guests will correct it in a subsequent post.

    Whatever you do online start with a comprehensive plan.

  • http://www.marketingpilgrim.com Andy Beal

    @Madigan – some good points. If you let the community police your reputation, it can be more beneficial. However, in the hospitality industry it rarely happens that way.

  • http://HospitalityMarketingBlog.com Madigan Pratt

    Andy – interesting point which leads to a discussion of segmentation and why what might be good for the goose may NOT be good for the gander.

    For small luxury hotels with a loyal following and high repeat rates, the community in fact does do a good job of policing their reputation.

    A more proactive effort may be warranted for larger and/or less luxurious properties with a less loyal following. Which brings us back to the original point that hotels need a comprehensive social media strategy. And that should be based on the needs of a specific property not on what some other hotel that may have other needs is doing.

    Madigan Pratt’s last blog post..Where’s Your TripAdvisor Strategy?

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  • http://www.webguruasia.com Jeff Zweig

    hey andy, great post. i hope you’ll share even more useful, consise examples of reputation management with examples for businesses in other industries/scenarios.

    jeff

    ps i recently bought radically transparent from a bookstore here in malaysia and i’m enjoying the book very much so far.

    here in asia, it’s a hard sell to get companies to engage comments in public online due to a fear of potential loss of face in the event of negative feedback (i.e., loss of face for the company, for the CEO and for the person who makes the decision to engage in the first place)–despite the fact that the risk of not doing so is even higher.

    fortunately, however, a recent political situation here highlighted just how powerful the malaysian blogosphere/use of youtube, etc. has become and this has generated new interest in how this force can potentially be harnessed to support a proper reputation management strategy.

    pps i’m lovin’ the commentluv!

  • http://www.webguruasia.com Jeff Zweig

    dang, i meant concise! :)

  • http://www.marketingpilgrim.com Andy Beal

    @Jeff – I’ll give some thought to other industry examples. Thanks for buying the book!

  • http://blog.untanglemyweb.com Fabie

    I am very pleased to read such a post with great examples that will be able to benefit small businesses. What I find is that many (very) small businesses are not even aware that past guests leave comments on trip advisor (one of my latest blog posts) so there is still a lot of educating to be done with regards to online reputation management!

    Thanks, excellent post!

    fabie

  • John Kerry

    Look at the publicity ResortQuest Wakiki Beach Hotel has received by taking a little time to check guest’s comments.
    If this standard of monitoring was widened to other areas within the industry, it could make such a difference in how the public view the word “hospitality” that is often not good enough.

  • http://www.woodysoldtowngrill.com Missy

    Excellent tips on “online reviews” of small businesses. I live in a tiny town and my father-in-law owns a bar and grill.

    I wonder how this applies in my SMALL TOWN situation? I also wonder how many people here are wired, as in have online access? So many questions, so little time.

    Thanxs for your tips. Will think about this some more.

    Missy.

    Missy’s last blog post..FREE Woody-Licious DESSERT Coupon. Did you find Woody’s through the web?

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  • http://marketingonlineinternet.com Junior

    Nice article and i do recommend commentluv for use with wordpress all the time.

    Junior’s last blog post..Google Adsense Profits Mixed In With Affiliate Marketing

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  • http://www.torontoparentsguide.com Olga

    This is a great way to respond to the negative reviews. When we added Review feature to our web site, we were so excited and looking forward to receiving reviews! Now we ran into 3 problems that we don’t know how to deal with. Any advice is appreciated.
    Here are our challenges:
    1. Some businesses submit negative reviews about their competitors to bring their reputation down.
    2. Other businesses submit numerous positive reviews about themselves to bring their reputation up.
    3. And yet some other businesses, when receive negative reviews from their customers, send us angry letters asking how could we let somebody leave a negative review and demanding that we delete it.
    I wonder if anyone has similar experience and how they deal with it…

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  • http://soyouwanttobeabanquetmanager.blogspot.com banquet manager

    As a banquet manager, hopefully I’ll never need your advice.
    So You Want To Be a Banquet Manager

    banquet manager’s last blog post..Is The Store Room More Important Than Customer Service?

  • http://www.romaclick.com Rome

    I am a hotel manager. I really love this post. Thank you!

  • http://www.marketingpilgrim.com Andy Beal

    @Rome – you’re welcome!

  • http://www.anaokulumarketi.com Anaokulu

    Look at the publicity ResortQuest Wakiki Beach Hotel has received by taking a little time to check guest’s comments.
    If this standard of monitoring was widened to other areas within the industry, it could make such a difference in how the public view the word “hospitality” that is often not good enough.

  • Linda

    Hi Andy..Such a great post for the people who run small business and hotels. I'm very much impressed with the notices from management response. Also the six steps to handle the negative reviews made your blog unique from others. I will sure take a look at your book Radically Transparent.
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