I don’t care what a business you’re in – if you’re dealing with the public there are times you’re going to get negative reviews and there is very little you can do.
Welcome to another edition of hospitality property school.
Today, I’m going to talk about how negative reviews are good for business.
I don’t care what a business you’re in if you’re dealing with the public there are times you’re going to get negative reviews and there is very little you can do about that. Your choice lies in what you do with them.
You can cover your ears, close your eyes and hope they go away, but unfortunately, with the Internet, that is never going to happen.
Let’s take a quick second review some statistics from statisticbrain.com up to June 2014.
- Number of travel bookings made on the internet each year -148.3 million
- Percent of all travel reservations made on the internet – 57 %
- Percent of same-day hotel reservations made from a smartphone – 65 %
These statistics show that is vitally important for hospitality properties to have a strategy in place to find out what guests are saying when leaving a review.
I should make it clear right now that any hospitality property owner hoping to monitor every possible review about their property is in for a very difficult time since almost every online travel agency has feedback or common sections about hotels. So instead of driving yourself crazy, you should focus on a couple of the larger sites that have leverage in the hospitality and travel market and they can give you a good idea and what is being said on other sites.
TripAdvisor is the largest site in the industry, having over 75 million impartial reviews, photos, and advice on hotels, attractions, restaurants, and vacations and over 60 million individual visitors a month, according to their own statistics. This makes it the most influential and quite often the first site people look at when looking for travel advice.
There have been cases where hospitality properties trying to raise the perception of their own hotel, left negative reviews the on TripAdvisor trying to smear the image of competitors. This hurt the reputation of TripAdvisor that a little bit, but it still retains massive authority.
Other sites that hold influence in the industry are those that provide booking services.
They are important because they have a large number of users and a negative review could make a potential customer choose another property.
You have to monitor social media. The bad review on Facebook or Twitter can take off in no time and within days be on tens of thousands of timelines.
The last type of review site that you should stay aware of are the travel guides. Fodors and Frommers should be at the top of your list and more often than not, feedback in these type of publications would come from experienced staff.
I have heard “A couple bad reviews won’t hurt my business, I can offer discounts”.
Research has shown that a slowdown in bookings due to bad reviews cannot be countered with discounts. At least not enough to recover the lost original business.
So what can you do?
- Encourage your guests to fill out your survey. Surveys can guide the respondent to consider the entire experience, not just the one thing that stood out when it comes to filling out a review or comment online. Guests who have a problem write a review about it 22% of the time. Guests without a problem write reviews just 9% of the time.
- Encourage your customers to leave positive reviews. The simple fact is that customers are much more likely (maybe up to seven times) to leave a negative review or opinion. So you need to be proactive in getting people to leave positive reviews and comments; if your customers say something nice to you then ask them to put it online. At the point of check-in and check-out, ask your customers to leave positive feedback if they have had a good time.
- Don’t ignore negative feedback. As I mentioned earlier, you can’t be perfect all the time, but you need to have an easy process in place for guests to leave both positive and negative reviews about your property. Engaging with the complaint in a clear, polite and positive fashion creates a much more favourable impression with potential customers than simply doing nothing. Never react in an aggressive or impolite manner, and never respond when you are angry, even if you feel the complaint or poor rating is unwarranted.
- I mentioned earlier that some businesses trying to stack to reviews in their favour by paying for them or having acquaintances write them.
Don’t do that!
If you not delivering what you promise, word will get out through other means and is the travel sites find out you could be blacklisted from the sites.
Don’t be tempted, it’s not worth it and you will be found out.
So how can negative reviews be good for business?
- They give you authenticity
When you check out a business and see nothing but flattering reviews and five stars, do you believe they’re all true? Or is there a little voice in the back your brain saying to you “this might be too good to be true”. It is possible to pay for good reviews or a hospitality property owner could get their family to write them. Nothing is perfect and because we are human, we all make mistakes. If I’m looking at a hospitality properties reviews and I see a large number of great reviews and a couple of not so great reviews, I will take the time to look a little further. We all have days where we can miss a hair in the sink or scrambled eggs are too cold and if I see this type of thing written up in the review, I don’t get too worried.
- You recognise (fixable) weak points
As a business owner, this is valuable information so you know what needs to be fixed. Negative reviews help your business to improve by showing you areas where you can do better. Instead of fearing these types of reviews, welcome them as an unfiltered look into your business. Once you know where there’s a problem or areas where customers were confused, you can resolve the problem and make the experience better for everyone. Instead of fearing these comments, thank the people who leave them and tell them how you going to change things for the better.
- Let your customer service skills shine
If your customer takes the time to let you know what or where you can do better, thank them.
This is valuable information. It also gives you a chance to show off your customer service skills, while giving others who are checking out your property the opportunity to see how much you value your customers. Potential customers can tell a lot about a property by how they respond to criticism. If you handle the situation with grace, maturity and (when appropriate) humour, it tells them you’re a business that is confident in what you offer and how you treat people. If you get defensive or argumentative, it tells potential customers you’re a business they may want to avoid. It is important to respond wisely.
- You give your loyal guest a chance to respond
If your property has received a negative review and you feel is unfair or undeserved, show it to some of your best and most loyal guests and ask what they think. If they feel the review is justified, they’ll tell you and then you can correct the problem. If they don’t, they’re likely to go respond to that comment for you and help set the record straight. In many cases, if loyal customers feel you were wronged, they will come to your defence and be support for your brand.
If treated right, guests can be passionate about the people and properties they frequent. If they see someone talking badly about “their” Hotel or “their” Bed and Breakfast, they’re going to jump into that conversation and fight for you.
- You can change the conversation
As much as no one likes to see negative comments left on their property, they do give you the chance to change the conversation and that person’s experience. By responding maturely, validating the critique, and offering a promise to do better, you can significantly increase someone’s impression of your brand. And, truly, if someone is not happy with your service, don’t you want to improve and make it right?
Reviews are important and the more positive reviews you have, the more likely it is a new customer will feel comfortable taking a chance on your business. But negative reviews also have their place and can offer some benefits to any business.
It is normally at this point have a conversation about reviews that I hear many independent hotel and bed and breakfast owners tell me they don’t have the time to search online for reviews about their property.
Well, if you’re only getting a few so-so negative reviews, you can probably live with that but, if you’re getting reviews that are damaging your image and not dealing with them, it can have a major negative impact on your business.
If you cannot do this yourself, it is worth taking the time to give this task to a trusted employee or invest in “Online Reputation Management” or ORM Company. These are companies who can help manage your brand online and can complement the investment you make each year on advertising, marketing and promotional activities.
If you aren’t managing what people read about you online, then much of this investment may go to waste when people read negative reviews about your establishment; there is no point spending a budget on raising the profile of your property if your profile is stained.
If you have any interesting stories about negative reviews and would like to share or have any questions or feedback you can leave them in the comments section of the show notes at.
That’s it for this session of hospitality property school.
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