Many hotels and destination resorts are being plagued by guest reviews on sites like Yelp, TripAdvisor, Expedia, and Travelpost – many hoteliers are wondering “what should I do next?”
The answer revolves around two simple points:
- practice good customer service
- search engine optimization is not always your friend
As a business owner or staff member, if you can keep these two points front-of-mind… then you are a lot farther to saving your sanity and protecting your business.
PART ONE: PRACTICE GOOD CUSTOMER SERVICE
Read all reviews online, but respond to negative reviews in-person (either face-to-face or over the phone.)
You may think “but I don’t have the contact information for the reviewer”
SIMPLE STEP: write up a sincere and honest request to have them personally contact your care team. Keep it short and to the point.
Here is an example:
“I work for XYZ. I would love to talk with you about your experience at our hotel and see how we can improve them. Please use the following e-mail to personally contact me.”
WHY SO SHORT?
First thing to remember: humans have hundreds of signals we display when communicating and most of these signals are impossible to detect and respond to when the guest is limited to simple text complaints on a review site. If you can get in front of this person and interact with them, a skilled communicator has a much better chance to resolve the issue and have a mutually beneficial outcome.
By providing a simple and precise response to offer support to a guest, you don’t accidentally throw “more fuel on the fire” and you don’t unknowingly cause SEO damage to yourself. You also gain the benefit of visibly offering good customer service to potential guests trying to figure out if they should stay with you.
PART TWO: SEARCH OPTIMIZATION IS NOT ALWAYS YOUR FRIEND
Review sites have a primary goal of using advanced search engine optimization (SEO) techniques to rank a review thread for the name of your hotel when someone searches online. This is the new method of “digital brand theft” that we detailed as a huge industry problem in Hotel reputations, search brand value under attack.
The main problem with responding to online reviews is that you are providing fresh new content for the review site to use in search optimization. Without really thinking about it, you may even be adding specific keywords to your response that include your location, hotel name, employee title and more. All of these relevant keywords help refresh older content, driving even more exposure to the review on search engines.
As a hotel owner with a brand, you should always minimize the amount of content you give these review sites and discourage lengthy conversations regarding your hotel on someone else’s site. In an ideal world, take ownership of the negative conversation and host it on your own property using a blog or customer service portal.
FOLLOW-UP, the devil is in the details
When posting a method of response for a previous guest, provide them with an actual email and tracking identify. Instead of using “Support@hotelxyz.com” – use an alias like “Sam-ExperienceSupport@hotelxyz.com”
This allows you to maintain you customer service without losing your main support process. If the alias begins receiving tremendous usage, it can be forwarded over to a customer care department at a later date and you don’t lose your employee e-mail account.
IF YOU RESOLVE THE ISSUE, ask the guest to update the review.
Lets face it: people say stupid things when they are angry or feel abused. If your support team can resolve the issue, ask the previous client to either update the review or post an amendment stating what the outcome was. In many cases, working to repair a damaged relationship can earn you a lifetime customer. It can also create an evangelist, as the previously disgruntled consumer now knows you will go above and beyond to provide great customer service.