Six Guidelines for Managing Guest Conflict and Preventing Bad Online Reviews
June 23, 2015 12:36pm
By RJ Friedlander
Dealing with guest conflict is one the hardest things employees face in the service industry. If poorly managed, an on-property complaint can escalate to a bad online review. Negative reviews can frighten prospective guests away and put a permanent scar on the reputation and revenue of your business.
When guests take the time to bring an issue to your attention, consider it a gift. They’re giving you the opportunity to make things right. The way you respond will have a decisive impact on the outcome.
Here are six guidelines for managing guest conflict in a way that prevents negative reviews and leaves guests feeling positive about you and your business.
1. Manage expectations
Guests arrive at your door with expectations of the quality, value and service your business will provide. If expectations are not met, conflict can result.
Preventing conflict starts with setting realistic expectations of the experience you provide. Ensure that descriptions, imagery and other information on your website, promotional materials and listings on third-party sites are an accurate reflection of your business.
Avoid superlatives in promotional materials like “best value”, “ultra-luxurious” and “uncompromising service” unless you’re confident you can deliver every time. Businesses are often called out in reviews over such claims. It’s better to under-promise and over-deliver.
2. Be aware of triggers
Complaints in reviews are often less about the problem than about how staff handled the problem when it was brought to their attention. Triggers are things an employee does or says that make a guest angry. The more emotional a guest becomes, the harder it will be to reason with him.
There are three types of triggers:
In face-to-face interactions, visual and vocal cues play the dominant role. On the telephone, you must rely on verbal and vocal cues to convey meaning. In social media and email, you are limited to verbal cues, so choice of words is especially important.
3. Maintain a positive attitude
Be aware that you too have triggers. If a guest says something offensive or untrue, you may become annoyed and less willing to help. Work hard to control your triggers. Remind yourself that it’s your job to please customers, and sometimes that means setting aside your own feelings.
Attitude is key. Rather than dread having to deal with upset guests, think of these situations as a welcome challenge. Tell yourself, “I can handle this. I’m going to turn this guest around.” A positive attitude and great service can help you calm down even the most irate of guests.
4. Understand what upset guests want
Most people are reasonable. They don’t expect perfection, and they understand that mistakes can happen. Their needs are simple. They want:
5. Support, train & empower staff
Management should provide employees with guidelines, training and empowerment to resolve issues quickly and effectively. If staff know how far they can go to appease upset guests and that management will support their decisions, they will act with more confidence.
If a guest’s demands are unreasonable, weigh the costs of fulfilling the request against the risks of not doing so. Suggest meeting the guest partway. For example, you might say, “I’m not at liberty to comp your room, but as a gesture of our regret we can offer a 25% discount. Would that be satisfactory?” If you’re not authorized to offer compensation, say you’ll discuss it with a manager and let the guest know when to expect a response.
If a customer threatens to write a bad review if you don’t give in to unreasonable demands, handle the situation with your usual courtesy and professionalism and work hard to find a solution. Review blackmail is against TripAdvisor’s terms of service. Go to TripAdvisor’s Management Center and complete a review blackmail form. If the guest follows through with the threat, dispute the review, referring back to the form.
6. Perform temperature checks
Rather than wait until departure to ask how the guest’s stay was, when it might be too late to fix problems, perform temperature checks during the stay. Ask open-ended questions like, “How is your stay going so far?” Be on alert for signs of trouble and follow up to ensure the guest doesn’t walk out the door upset.
By showing genuine concern and going the extra mile to turn around upset guests, you’ll not only prevent negative reviews, you may even generate positive reviews. With expert handling, upset guests can become your greatest advocates. Make it your goal to change the story from “We had a problem” to “Staff did an amazing job resolving our problem and we’ll definitely be back.”
Tags: rj friedlander,
RJ Friedlander is the founder and CEO of ReviewPro. With more than 17,000 clients, ReviewPro is world leader in Guest Intelligence solutions for independent hotel brands, destinations and investors. Prior to ReviewPro, Friedlander worked as the CEO of Digital Media at Grupo Planeta, one of Spain’s largest media companies.
Contact: Jennifer Nagy
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