Preventing and Responding to Negative Guest Reviews


Today, a guest can take to Yelp, TripAdvisor, YouTube, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Google Reviews (and more!) to share their experience at a hotel, resort, or vacation rental management company.

In today's world, we have access to a vast wealth of information and our voices can be heard in ways that they never were before. The days of feedback cards and handwritten letters to management are dead (not to say extinct, but let's be real). Today, a guest can take to Yelp, TripAdvisor, YouTube, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Google Reviews (and more!) to share their experience at a hotel, resort, or vacation rental management company.


When we look at the data we know that a guest is always more willing to share a negative experience than a positive. According to Marketing Charts, customers who have a bad customer service interaction were 50% more likely to share their experience on a social media platform than those who had a good experience. Now, keeping in mind that it takes at least 5 positive reviews to boost business by 10% but only one negative review to cost your business thousands of dollars in revenue, that's a pretty big deal (Forbes, 2018). It's vital to not only respond to negative reviews with urgency, but to also prevent them.


Customers who have a bad customer service interaction were 50% more likely to share their experience on a social media platform than those who had a good experience.

A topic covered heavily in our WholeHearted Guest Service™ training is that the guest is the true heart of hospitality and that anticipating their needs and responding to their feedback immediately is the primary key to overall guest satisfaction when it comes to repeat business. What this means when we're looking to respond to and prevent negative reviews, is urgency and alertness. Let's say that you don't prevent a negative review. In reality this will happen no matter what steps you take, because guests don't always make their dissatisfaction apparent, and some guests are non-conflict, which means they prefer to handle dissatisfaction in a more passive (protected) manner by leaving a review. We can't control the guests who do this, nor can we change their experience once they've checked out, but what we can do is respond to them in a kind, professional and timely manner.


For those guests who do make their frustrations apparent, it means responding immediately and offering to make things right. A small amount of lost revenue on current guest reparations is minor to the loss that a negative review will cause. Furthermore, anticipating a guest need or looking for ways to ensure their stay is stellar, might prevent any sort of frustrations or issues to begin with.


Let's say that you don't prevent a negative review. In reality this will happen no matter what steps you take.


It's time for a scenario: Lisa has stayed at a destination hotel for her extended weekend getaways for the last two years and has always had a wonderful experience. She always gets the same room with an incredible ocean view, she always has the same breakfast at the restaurant, the front desk agents always remember her, and her dog has always been welcome throughout the hotel. Within the last three months the hotel has undergone several renovations, some of which are still ongoing. Lisa was not made aware of this when she made her reservation and is disappointed when she arrives to see all of the construction. She doesn't say anything to the front desk agent, because she knows it isn't their fault and continues to her favorite room. Lisa works late nights, so she often sleeps in especially on vacation, but the morning after her arrival she's awoken at 8am by very loud drilling and hammering outside--just a short distance from her room. See, when Lisa made her reservation she requested her usual room, but she was never informed that this room would be in the building closest to the construction.


Within the last three months the hotel has undergone several renovations, some of which are still ongoing. Lisa was not made aware of this when she made her reservation and is disappointed when she arrives to see all of the construction.

In addition to being woken up early, Lisa's dog is terrified of the noise and begins barking

Lisa tells the front desk that she's been called back to work and will need to check out 4 days earlier than expected, but she actually moves to a nearby competitor for the remainder of her stay.

which concerns Lisa for the noise level on behalf of other guests around her. Lisa takes her dog with her when she goes to breakfast that morning like she always has, but is dismayed at the fact that the dog-friendly patio is under construction as well. The hostess doesn't offer a solution though they are apologetic, and Lisa knows her dog will not do well in the room alone with all of the construction noise. She ultimately decides she has no other choice but to order room service to have her dog with her, which also means dining with all of the construction noise. By this point Lisa is very disappointed and angry but, she doesn't want to cause a stir so she is polite and happy when she interacts with the hotel staff. Lisa tells the front desk that she's been called back to work and will need to check out 4 days earlier than expected, but she actually moves to a nearby competitor for the remainder of her stay. After her vacation is over, she leaves a very negative review regarding her experience.



Let's review the scenario. In this instance, since Lisa actively wanted to avoid any sort of conflict she never let the hotel staff know how disappointed she was. There were certainly points within this scenario that the various team members could have helped prevent Lisa leaving a negative review, but since that didn't happen, it is vital that the manager responds to Lisa's review right away. By responding, they not only help Lisa feel heard and empathized with, but other guests will see how the hotel manages a situation like this which will in turn maintain potential and return guest trust. This hotel's manager responded to Lisa's review with a heartfelt apology, admitting the mistakes that were made on the staff's behalf, and asked Lisa to call their direct line so that they could make it right. When she calls, the manager offers to give Lisa a free night the next time she stays, as well as complimentary breakfast and lunch for her usual 5 night stay. Lisa edits her review to say that while the experience was still poor, the resolution and response of management was wonderful and she will stay again.


By responding, they not only help Lisa feel heard and empathized with, but other guests will see how the hotel manages a situation like this which will in turn maintain potential and return guest trust.

Let's now look at how this could have been prevented in the first place. At the heart of the issue, Lisa should have been notified by the Reservations team that there was construction going on during her stay. Should they have dropped the ball, the front desk agent who saw the room request should have mentioned to Lisa that this was going to put her into close proximity to the construction and could have offered another similar room or an upgrade. Now, even if both of these things happened, she may have still run into the issue at the

Rather than simply sending Lisa back to her room with her dog, the restaurant staff could have offered a complimentary room service set-up on her private patio, or even made suggestions of nearby pet-friendly restaurants.

restaurant with the patio being closed. Rather than simply sending Lisa back to her room with her dog, the restaurant staff could have offered a complimentary room service set-up on her private patio, or even made suggestions of nearby pet-friendly restaurants should she have not wanted that option.


Ultimately, the guest happiness needs to take priority and had these steps been taken, Lisa may have had an entirely different experience. The good news is, she will return again due to the quick response of the hotel's manager, but how much better would it have been for business if that negative review didn't exist online at all? How much revenue will be lost not only for repairing Lisa's relationship with the hotel, but due to guests who decide to avoid the hotel because of Lisa's review? In all aspects it is absolutely necessary to anticipate a guest's need, look out for their satisfaction, and if nothing else - respond in a timely manner and offer to make things right. And most of all, realize that it isn't just about the reviews. If you treat your guests right, and with sincerity, the reviews will speak for themselves.


To meet with us to discuss this and other topics in full and create your own game plan, feel free to reach out to us! We'd love to hear from you. -All Heart Consulting


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kirsten@allheartconsulting.com    541-423-2665     Central Oregon and the PNW