In the hospitality industry, nothing speaks louder than word-of-mouth. Few hotel guests book a room without first reading customer reviews online. Avoiding negative guest reviews should be a priority; 79% of consumers weigh guest reviews as much as recommendations from relatives, and one study from the UK found that 47% of guests have abandoned plans to stay in a hotel after reading a negative review of the establishment.
The same study also revealed the most common hotel guest complaints: poor cleanliness, too much noise, rude or unhelpful staff, faulty equipment, and bad décor. Attending to these areas are key to keeping that five-star rating on Google and TripAdvisor.
But even the most conscientious staff makes an error from time to time. How can hotels keep guests from airing their grievances online when something goes wrong?
When disaster strikes, take note of these tactics and tips to avoid negative guest reviews online.
1. Make an Incredible First Impression
A guest’s first impression sets the direction for their stay overall.
When you wow them with a memorable experience from the beginning, guests will be more forgiving of slight imperfections down the line. Think of it a golden first impression as “oops” insurance.
The opposite is just as true. A bad first impression puts the entire experience in a negative light, and further problems only dig the hole deeper.
Do everything necessary to impress your guests from the moment they set foot in their rooms. The linens are completely clean and fresh; the mini-fridge is stocked with complimentary refreshments; the bathroom is immaculate.
2. Don’t Wait for Feedback – Ask for It
Whenever possible, deal with negative feedback from guests in person rather than online. Don’t wait for them to publish a scathing review when they get home; find out how feel at the earliest opportunity.
Ask guests if there’s anything you can do to improve their experience throughout their stay, and when they check out, ask what you can do to make it better the next time. Letting people vent their concerns face-to-face is often enough to avoid negative guest reviews online.
3. Provide an Online Complaints Form
It’s important to provide an outlet for guests who didn’t get a chance to share their negative feedback in person, and preferably one that’s not public. Create a section on your website where people can write to you about their experience.
If your hotel emails guests to request feedback after check-out, include two different links: one for positive feedback, leading to a social media page or TripAdvisor (“Would you recommend us?”) and another for negative feedback, leading to your private complaints form (“Any problems during your stay?”). This can help to avoid negative guest reviews in public.
4. Keep Website and Social Media Up to Date
Managing expectations is a big part of avoiding negative guest reviews. If the hotel experience doesn’t live up to what’s advertised online, it’s sure to fuel the kind of disappointment that leads to bad reviews.
Everything on your website and social media should give an accurate impression of the guest experience.
When the décor changes, upload recent photos that demonstrate it. If the pool is closed for the weekend, note it on your website and social media pages. Ensure that the advertised hours for check-in and check-out, restaurants, and gift shops are up-to-date.
In short, make sure that the only surprises for guests are positive ones.
5. Respond to Negative Reviews
In the end, some negative reviews are inevitable. That’s not necessarily a bad thing.
All customers want to feel empowered and well-informed to get the best value for their money. They want the full picture. Hotel guests are no different. If an establishment has only positive reviews, it makes guests feel like something’s missing, and they’re not going to book if the place seems too good to be true.
What’s important is that positive reviews outweigh the negative ones and that your company responds to negative reviews with courtesy and professionalism.
Don’t avoid negative reviews once published. Instead, write a thoughtful response that shows other potential guests that you care.
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