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The Good, The Bad and The Sometimes Ugly - Online Hotel Review Response Best Practices

Online Hotel Reviews Best Practices

Responding to online reviews that your hotel receives has become more vital as the behavior of travelers evolve. A hotel’s online reputation will directly impact bookings and ultimately bottom line profits. Hoteliers must be as cognizant of online reviews on sites like TripAdvisor, Hotels.com, Expedia, Priceline, Orbitz, Travelocity, Kayak etc. as they are of customer feedback on the brand site. These reviews are a window into your guests’ experiences. They will let you know where your service is slipping or when one of your staff is going above and beyond. Reviews will help you target everything from outstanding staff members, less than welcoming demeanor to mechanical issues. Any part of a hotel stay that impacts a guest’s satisfaction can and will be brought to your attention – and the world’s. So how do you handle responding to online reviews? Here are some best practices that we have implemented at our hotels.

 

The Good
The guest loved your hotel, the staff, the room, the breakfast, the shampoo – you name it, they loved it. They write a glowing review on TripAdvisor – and silence. How likely is that guest to tout you again? Will that lack of communication impact their decision to stay with you in the future? While most guests don’t currently expect a response, it’s the easiest and fastest way to solidify an already great experience. Thank them for their kind words, let them know that you appreciate Emily Employee as well, and you also like the waffles the restaurant serves. Any business course or article will tell you that it is more cost effective to keep a current customer than to acquire a new one. By responding to positive reviews you are solidifying your relationship with that guest and creating an advocate for your property. Here’s an example of a wonderful response to a positive review from one of our hotels:

 
 
 

The Bad
It happens. Someone dropped the ball. A room was not cleaned properly, a front desk staff member was less than welcoming, there was an issue with a reservation and the guest is NOT pleased. We are in the business of providing extraordinary guest experiences, but sometimes a misstep occurs. If you have the opportunity to make it right while the guest is still on property, you will decrease your chances of receiving a negative review. If they don’t bring it to your attention and then it shows up on a review site your options are much more limited. When responding to negative reviews there are a few steps you can take: 

  • Thank them for the review 
    Although you really don’t WANT to see negative comments about your hotel, negative reviews will often bring issues to light that you may be unaware of. Every negative review is an opportunity to provide a learning experience to your staff and educate them on how to do it better the next time.
  • Apologize – more than once 
    If an issue with a hotel stay stuck with a guest so much that they are posting a negative review your first duty after thanking them is to apologize. A few times. If you were standing in the lobby talking to a guest that was not happy about the lack of blankets in their room, you’d apologize for the inconvenience right? Extend that courtesy to them online.
  • Directly address their concern 
    The majority of the time concerns that are raised by our guests are legitimate. A room not cleaned or a reservation mix up is distressing for them. Specifically respond to each issue with acknowledgement and let them know that it will be addressed with the staff members. 
  • Ask for another chance 
    Always close the review with a request for another opportunity to make a better impression. While it may feel awkward to ask someone who has just slammed your hotel online (for the whole world to see) to come back, that’s exactly what you want. What better champion could you have than someone who was not pleased with their previous stay and then goes online to praise your hotel and staff for the tremendous service they received on their next stay? 
 
The Ugly
Unfortunately, online perception is reality. Very few readers will doubt a previous guests’ account of their stay unless it is so outrageous that their own mother doubts it. But sometimes they are wrong. There is that small portion of the population that is looking for anything they can get.

But what should you do? 

Respond to the review. Very generically and admitting nothing. The worst thing you can do is leave it out there with no response. Something like “Thank you for taking the time to share a review of your stay with us. We’d love to discuss these issues directly with you and resolve them. Please reach out to a member of our management team at your earliest convenience.” You are not allowed to post a phone number or email address in your response on most travel sites. And some will not post a request for discussion. But it is a neutral response while you are working with the travel site to get it removed.

They may remove it 

There are avenues for you to get such reviews removed. TripAdvisor and other review sites have guidelines for the reviews that travelers post. If the review posted violates one of TripAdvisor’s guidelines like inappropriate content, not relevant to other travelers, not an authentic review or not even your property (they hated the steak, and you don’t have a restaurant) you can request that it be removed by reaching out.

Most readers assume that the guest is being honest in their accounts of events at your hotel. But as experienced hospitality professionals will tell you, that’s not always the case. It’s your job to protect your hotel’s online reputation by being as vigilant about that as you are about security in the lobby. By planning some time each day to respond to reviews, you can participate in and even guide the online reviews and discussions taking place about your hotel.
 

What is the most challenging review you've had to respond to? Share how you handled it in the comments below.