How hotels react to bad reviews can make or break a reputation

If Basil Fawlty were around in today’s world of online customer reviews he would find his Torquay hotel going out of business faster than you can say TripAdvisor.

Before the days of the internet, hotel guests who were unhappy might advise friends and family to give the venue a wide berth but the impact of one person’s opinion was limited.

Today those guests who feel angry at perceived rudeness by reception staff or offended at the choice of wallpaper can vent their frustrations to an audience of millions. TripAdvisor alone is accessed by more than 500 million people worldwide each month.

Jo Lumani, Head of Corporate Communications at NFU Mutual, said: “One bad review among several positive ones will be seen in context by most fair-minded people – it might be assumed the hotel has had an out-of-character off-day or that the reviewer is eccentric or had unrealistic expectations.

But numerous bad reviews which focus on similar themes, or one particularly headline-grabbing  review which sparks a viral reaction across social media could be damaging.

Any hotel should expect to receive bad reviews at some point – you can’t please all of the people all of the time. But it is how owners react that will make the difference between throwing fuel on the fire or potentially turning a negative into a positive.”

Possible reactions might be to ignore the review, to respond in a defensive way, or to respond in a way that will portray the business in the best possible light to the website audience.

Mark Hayward, a former hotel owner and author of ProBlogger’s Guide to Blogging for Your Business, offers some advice to heed before reacting to negative and potentially damaging criticism.

 He tells his blog audience:

  • Respond in a professional manner
  • Keep it as brief as possible
  • Address the complaint(s) directly
  • Make it positive in tone

“Your number one goal should be to minimise the negative impact of the review and to maximise the opportunity to show that you are human, you care, and where applicable, that corrective action has been taken,” he adds.

But whatever you do, don’t repeat the mistake made by the owners of the Broadway Hotel in Blackpool who thought fining guests £100 for bad reviews left online was a good idea. The subsequent media coverage made the original negative review pale in comparison.

NFU Mutual’s Jo Lumani concluded: “Although it might not feel like it at the time, a bad review could be a blessing in disguise. If it makes a hotel owner aware of a problem that they didn’t know existed then they can take steps to make changes that will ultimately improve their business. In these cases we should say thank you to our biggest critics.”