Beating Negative Hotel Reviews: An Action Plan for Proactive Reputation Management
A negative online reputation can severely limit a hotel’s ability to succeed today. With more and more people using the internet to make their travel plans, reviews by other travelers are playing an increasingly large role.
If your hotel has received negative reviews, you need a solid action plan to work around them. And that’s exactly what I intend to do in this post. Let’s get started…
Step 1: Listen to the feedback
What are people saying about you? Set up tracking tools to be aware of both praise and criticism.
For Google: Google Alerts (email or RSS updates of the latest Google search results)
For Blog posts: Technorati (the largest blog search engine)
For Blog comments: Backtype (what people say about you in response to blog posts)
For Twitter: Twitter Search (monitor real time feedback)
For other social media: FriendFeed search, a social aggregator that combines YouTube, Delicious, Flickr and more
If you’re willing to spend a little money, tools such as Radian6 and Trackur allow you to monitor everything from one dashboard
Knowing exactly what your guests are saying helps you take appropriate action. Many times negative reviews require action at an operational level, so it helps to have a system for sharing this information with the management team.
It’s useful to note that not all reviews are created equal. As any hotel marketing manager will attest, negative reviews typically come in two forms:
Step 2: Respond to the reviews
TripAdvisor allows management responses. So does Qype in Europe, and more recently, Yelp.
When you see a negative review of your property, it can be tempting to fire back with a nasty response. But be careful – doing that can damage your reputation even further. Instead, follow these best practices for responding to negative reviews:
Thank the reviewer for their feedback
Respond to any positive comments
Apologize for any legitimate negative experience
Explain the steps you’ll take to prevent that from happening again
Allow the guest to contact you offline if followup discussion is needed
Angry, abusive responses…or any type of personal attack
Questioning the reviewer’s legitimacy (yes, fake reviews do happen from time to time, but they can be very difficult to prove and it’s better to avoid this accusation)
Only replying with a discount or coupon (which indirectly encourages abuse)
Corporate babble with no substantial change – such as
“We are sorry to hear about your inconvenience, and appreciate your comments here. We are happy that you have spoken up so that we may better our property. We will be working diligently to make your stays much more enjoyable in the future.”
If I had a poor experience at a hotel, this type of management response would do absolutely nothing for me. I want specifics! It’s unlikely I would return in the future to see if my stay is “much more enjoyable.”
Step 3: Fix what’s broken
There’s no getting around this. Fundamental flaws that repeatedly leave guests unsatisfied cannot be glossed over with a slick marketing campaign. That’s denial at best and borders on unethical.
Train or change your staff. Bring in a consultant. Hire a designer…or maybe just a plumber for that leaky sink! Do whatever it takes with the resources you have.
Step 4: Tell people you’ve listened and fixed the problem
Now that changes have been made, you need to go back to the audience and let them know you listened and acted on their suggestions.
Tell the guests directly – in your replies on TripAdvisor and other guest review websites
Tell the story of how you did it – through videos posted to YouTube…or interviews published on your hotel blog
Tell the media – with a press release or full-scale PR campaign (depending on the changes you made, of course)
Step 5: Start building your new positive reputation
Effective online reputation management is more than just playing defense – it’s all about proactively building a positive buzz. This is pretty straightforward stuff, but is an essential ingredient of this action plan.
Ask satisfied guests for reviews. Specifically, ask them to review your hotel on sites where you’re struggling the most. If you’re not sure, start with most popular: TripAdvisor.
Launch a special blogger’s campaign. As Malcolm Gladwell taught us in The Tipping Point, obtaining the help of a few influential people is essential to spreading a message. In the online travel community, bloggers often act as Gladwell’s Connectors, Mavens, and Salesmen – playing a big role in shaping perceptions. Take advantage of this by finding authors of the most influential blogs, and inviting them to review your hotel.
Begin an aggressive content publishing effort. Content is the key to staying relevant in today’s web. It’s also the best way to build a loyal fanbase. Publishing a large amount of very useful content in multiple media channels is the only way to make sure your voice is heard. It takes a lot of work, but there’s no better way to build a positive web presence.
Dealing with Negative Reviews FAQs
Can I remove negative reviews?
Yes and no. TripAdvisor lets you start over with a clean slate if there was a change in management, but not if you did a renovation.
Can I get in touch with a guest to resolve a problem?
Usually you can only use a website’s management response function to publish a reply. You may try leaving a customer service phone number to encourage offline resolution.
I think a competitor is writing negative reviews.
I recommend you contact the review site directly, and explain your reason for concern.
Can I ask someone to remove their negative review?
Most sites do not allow this. You’ll need to follow the steps above to improve your reputation.