Online reviews – they’re everywhere today. From e-commerce stores to hotels, people love to share their thoughts about their experiences. It’s about more than just venting when you have a bad customer service experience, though. Online reviews are a form of social proof. They tell others what to expect from a product, service, or company.
In the case of your hotel, online reviews tell prospective guests what their stay might be like. And, if the review is negative, it can convince many would-be guests to look elsewhere. With enough negative reviews, you may find that your reputation is damaged and your ability to attract new guests is curtailed.
How do you avoid this fate? It’s called online reputation management and it’s a process that too many hotel owners and decision-makers get wrong. In this post, we’ll explore online reputation and what you can do to protect it.
Why Are Guest Conflict and Resolution So Important?
Negative reviews are the result of a less than stellar experience at your property. It could be that the guest had unrealistic expectations. It could also be that your staff somehow dropped the ball. No matter the underlying reason, though, guest conflict is a sign of something being wrong that needs to be addressed.
It’s critical that you do so because your online reputation can define your property for any potential guests. It takes very few negative reviews to “poison the well” so to speak, and once your online reputation is tarnished, it’s difficult to get guests to take a chance on your property.
How to Manage Bad Feedback
Online reputation management really comes down to managing bad feedback. You might think that a negative review is there to stay, but that’s not true. It’s also possible to head the situation off before it gets to the point that a guest is leaving you a negative online review. Below are the steps you should take to manage bad feedback.
- Acknowledge the situation.
- Apologize, even if the problem was not your fault.
- Find a solution to the problem and do so quickly.
- Follow up with the guest when and how you say you will.
Often, you’ll find that managing negative feedback will result in one of two actions. First, the guest may modify their rating of your hotel. They might change their rating from a single star to a three or four-star review. Second, the guest might retract the negative review and leave a positive one in its place.
Your Online Reputation Management Checklist
Below, you’ll find a convenient checklist to help you manage your online reputation.
1. Manage Guest Expectations
A critical component of your reputation management strategy is to manage guest expectations. This can head off negative reviews before they’re even posted. Preventing guest conflict starts by ensuring that guests arrive at your property with the right idea of what to expect. This begins with your images, the description of your amenities, and the promotional materials you use. In other words, don’t make your property out to be something that it’s not and you’ll have fewer disappointed guests.
2. Understand the Real Issue
Often, negative reviews are less about the problem than about how your staff handled the situation. Make sure that your entire team is trained in how to handle guest conflict and that they’re able to communicate without triggering the guest. Body language, negative verbal language, and patronizing tone of voice can all trigger or amplify conflict.
3. Stay Positive
It’s easy to let a guest’s words or attitude rub you the wrong way. It’s important that you (and your entire team) can maintain a positive attitude at all times. This can go a long way toward defusing a situation with an unhappy guest, too.
4. Realize What Guests Want
An unhappy guest doesn’t want excuses or even valid reasons why the situation might have happened. They want you to be understanding of their situation, an apology, a quick solution, and for you to follow up when and how you say you will. It’s that simple.
5. Train Your Staff
Your staff members form the front line in your battle against guest conflict. While there is no way to please 100% of people 100% of the time, a well-trained, empowered team can go a long way toward heading off problems before they become issues that would warrant a negative online review.
However, it’s important to empower your team so that when guests are being unreasonable, they can decide where to draw the line. Meeting a disgruntled but unreasonable guest halfway shows that you’re dedicated to their happiness but are unwilling to be taken advantage of. If a guest threatens to blackmail your property with a negative review, know the terms of service and policies of the platform where they’ll leave the review and then dispute it (as long as you’ve done everything possible to satisfy them and rectify the situation).
6. Don’t Wait
How many times have you seen a negative review magically appear online with no warning? The truth is that you can see the warning signs if you pay attention. The best online reputation management begins long before the situation moves online. Be on the alert for signs of trouble while the guest is on property. Go so far as to ask how their stay is going. Show real concern for their experience and happiness and find ways to correct negative situations.
How Successful Resolution Affects Loyalty
Guest conflict resolution is an art, and you’ll find that the steps outlined above may not work in 100% of cases. Sometimes, there is simply no satisfying an unhappy guest. However, if you put these tips into practice, you’ll find that a negative review or two have little effect on your property’s reputation.
Part of that is because by being proactive and dedicated to delivering a great experience every time you create a sense of loyalty in your guests. A happy guest is far more likely to return in the future, particularly one who has had a positive experience with staff members and who feels that you genuinely care for their needs.
In the End
Ultimately, reputation management is an ongoing process that never ends. However, by taking a proactive stance, you can limit the number of negative reviews left by unhappy guests. And it’s always possible to connect with those reviewers and find a solution that will convince them to modify their review.
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