How to Deal with Negative Reviews of Your Business Online

October 31st, 2016 by Shawn Kerr

It happens to every business sooner or later – a less than stellar review shows up online.  That’s nothing new. In this article, I present an overview of of options on how to deal with negative reviews when they show up online.

bad review

No doubt about it: online reviews and social media empower consumers.  That’s both good and bad news for hospitality businesses.  Glowing reviews earned and posted online for others to see help increase both visibility and reputation of a business.  Negative reviews, whether earned or not, also increase visibility, but can become a detriment.

Basics for Dealing with Negative Reviews

These common sense tactics are proven effective and well known, so they will be kept brief:

  • Be vigilant: Have systems in place to catch online reviews of your business such as Google Alerts and/or a reputation management monitor service.
  • Be prepared:  Don’t panic when a negative review shows up. Instead, read the review thoroughly and be honest with yourself about any valid claims.
  • Be prompt in response: If you feel the review is unfair, take the time you need to “cool off,” but don’t put off a response any longer than necessary.
  • Be professional: Once you’ve shaken off any initial negative feelings to the review, submit a response that:
    • Thanks the guest for the response
    • Takes responsibility for any truthful claims, acknowledging what could have been done differently
    • Apologizes for the negative experience (whether you agree with the claim or not)
    • Includes a course of action that will prevent the problem from occurring in the future
    • Provide a clear way for the guest to communicate with you directly

How to Deal with Negative Reviews That Are within Your Control

It’s an imperfect world.  The aim for hospitality providers should instead be for excellence.  Mistakes and failings happen. Negative reviews of those mistakes and failings sting, but it’s how you respond that determines your true success or failure at excellence.

“Rip Off!” – Pricing Issues

Generally, pricing complaints aren’t about the rate paid, but rather the guest’s perception of value received.

The occasional complaint should be treated with a prompt response that is neither defensive nor patronizing.  It also should not come off as a boilerplate response.  Be sure to address the specifics of the pricing complaint, if noted in the review.  If nothing specific is mentioned then make sure the response doesn’t come off as boilerplate.  A very general example would include:

Our rates are competitive with similar properties in this location and we believe offer a good value to guests.  We regret that you feel differently.

pattern of reviews that criticize pricing indicates a need to review your rates.  Identify what you’re overcharging, overselling and/or not delivering and make the necessary adjustments.

Personal Attacks

Guest have high expectations from lodging providers. Personal issues such as perceived rudeness guests can have high consequences in guest reviews.

Internally, you will want to get the story from the person identified as being rude.  This will help you evaluate the claim honestly and prepare a gracious response that either recognizes the fault or supports the accused.

Again, a pattern of rudeness complaints indicates that immediate change is necessary.

Let the Internet Community Know the Resolution

After responding to a negative review, follow up with:

  • Respond to the review on the site where it appeared: provide proof of how the problem has been resolved.
  • Start positive review campaign: ask all future, satisfied guests to leave positive reviews on that specific website.
  • Blog: Use your website blog write about how the problem was resolved, again providing evidence of the resolution.
  • Market yourself: if you feel that real damage was done to your business from the review, market your business in new places. Contact the local newspaper. Invite professional reviewers/journalists to experience your business.

Review Blackmail or Extortion

A growing problem for lodging providers are threats of negative reviews made by guests.  This is known as review blackmail.  This kind of extortionist action will be covered next month.

What Are Your Experiences with Reviews Management?

How do you monitor your business’ online reputation.  What do you do when responding to negative reviews and how have things turned out with past complaints.  Please leave a comment!

Overwhelmed by reviews management?  Contact us to discuss our consultation services.