By: Maiya Wall / Pipeline Social Media

Though we all strive for positive feedback, receiving a negative review on your hotel’s social media is inevitable. In our hyper-connected world, opportunities to offer an opinion are prevalent and growing. Not to mention, the open line of communication empowers guests to serve up their opinion whenever and from wherever.

We’re here to give you some practical advice on how to deal with negative feedback. First, begin to think of your hotel’s negative reviews as a path to improve guest experience and your online image rather than something to avoid. Keep reading to learn how you can respond to criticism.

Step 1: Respond Promptly & Kindly.
Step 2: Move the Conversation to a Private Space.
Step 3: Privately Address the Guest’s Concerns.
Step 4: Record What You’ve Learned & Make a Plan.

Step 1: Respond Promptly & Kindly.

The Pipeline team has experienced first-hand what can happen if you don’t respond to negative feedback ASAP—This is probably the most important step. A problem that could have been solved quickly and privately can turn into a messy, and worst of all, public failing on your part. And, we must remember that nothing really goes away once it’s online.

Let’s give you some context. For example, let’s say a guest comments on one of your Facebook posts about removing an incorrect charge on their account after staying at your hotel. This is a relatively easy fix, right? However, the issue is about money, so this request is rightfully urgent to a guest. If you take days to respond back to the comment, maybe that guest will decide to write a scathing review. You can’t remove reviews—so now that’s an issue. Then maybe the guest decides to make a post to the page. He or she goes on and on about how not only were they charged unfairly, but you won’t even address the issue. Finally, the guest could start commenting on other’s check-ins and reviews that are even remotely negative—reigniting the fire for past unhappy guests. Now you have multiple people up in arms about your hotel, even though you have a great team that is happy to help. This can happen quickly!

One thing we’ve noticed when it comes to negative feedback is that guests are often quick to forgive if they can see how quickly you move to correct the error. Even if a guest is seemingly irate in their message, a kind and prompt response can diffuse anger almost immediately. Once the guest realizes that their issue will be taken seriously and solved quickly, he or she will lose steam and work with you to resolve the issue.

The guest may be making a mountain out of a molehill, but the simple fact is—you’re still in the wrong for not being responsive. We understand that you can’t catch every bad review when it happens, but it is worth a shot! Guests will read your past responses and see how promptly you responded. That will work to your advantage and credit when a guest is deciding whether to leave negative feedback. Respond promptly & kindly!

Step 2: Move the Conversation to a Private Space.

Online, a back and forth conversation between you and a guest can look like an argument. When possible, move the conversation to a private location before hashing out the details. Here’s an example:

Negative Facebook Review: “I was not at all happy with the service. Room looked dirty when I first arrived. I requested extra towels, waited for an hour and never received the towels. I called the front desk again and the front desk lady told me that they would send some up shortly. She seemed annoyed like she was trying to hurry me off the phone. I shouldn’t have to wait that long for a basic service. I’ve been a loyalty member for years and stay frequently for work. You should be able to take a shower after a long day and not worry about not having what you need. And to top it all off, I left my watch in the room and the front desk said that it hasn’t been found. I doubt I’ll be seeing it again.”

Your Response: “Hello, (guest’s name). Thank you for being a loyalty member and a return guest. First, we ask that you accept our apology. We are looking into why you did not receive proper room service. It is unfortunate that you did not experience us at our finest. Our staff appreciates you bringing this mistake to our attention so we can prevent this from happening again. We would love the opportunity to speak further and see if we can find and return your watch. Please give us a call at (your hotel’s number or relevant ext.) or send us a private message with your dates of stay and contact information so we can talk more about your experience.”

Most likely, you’ll receive a private message from the unhappy guest providing their contact information. Now is the time to ask for further details, solve what can be solved, and connect them to management if necessary. If they don’t send you their contact information, then at least others on the page will see that you tried to resolve the issue.

It’s important to mention that it is totally fine to correct a guest if they complained about something that is against your hotel’s policy. For example, let’s say a guest leaves an angry review complaining about how their room was not ready when they arrived at noon. If check-in doesn’t begin until 4pm, it is okay to respond with something like “We apologize for the inconvenience and understand your concern. Our hotel’s check-in time is at 4pm, so that is why your room wasn’t ready. We apologize for any miscommunication on our end. If there is anything else that we can help you with, please leave us a private message so we can talk further. Thank you for your review and your business.”

Guests could unknowingly write incorrect information about your hotel, so you want to keep an eye out for that so you can clear things up for fans.

Step 3: Privately Address the Guest’s Concerns.

Once you move the conversation to a private message, you’re in a good space to get further details about what went wrong and how you can help. When the guest sends you a private message, they may rehash some of their initial concerns or they may just send a simple message with their dates of stay and contact information. Resist the urge to get argumentative and make resolving the issue quickly your only goal. Apologize again – specifically address what went wrong. Ask for any clarifying details that you need to fix the problem such as their room number, more details on an interaction with a hotel employee, or a charge they think was credited to them unfairly.

A note to remember – Everything reads more hostile online, so craft your words carefully in order to not offend or discuss the details of their concern over the phone. Oftentimes, if you are kind and resolve an issue quickly, the guest will remove their negative review or comment. If you are able to turn a negative review into a positive interaction, we encourage you to ask the guest if he or she could remove the negative review.

Step 4: Record What You’ve Learned & Make a Plan.

Lastly, make a note of the interaction and keep an eye on any patterns in negative reviews. Bad feedback can be turned into improved guest services!

If you begin to notice frequent negative reviews on a certain service, it might be time to address that with your staff. Not every negative review is cause for alarm, but it is certainly helpful for revealing blind spots in your operation.

Get in the habit of checking your social media and Google My Business notifications daily. Adjust to best fit the level of feedback you receive and you’ll be able to catch problems before they get out of control.

Final Thoughts

It’s instinctual to not look in the proverbial box that is our own negative feedback. And it’s difficult to not take it personally, especially if you receive negative feedback and are not actually in the wrong. The above-mentioned steps will help you take your negative feedback in stride and push you to solve problems at your hotel sooner rather than later. We encourage you to be proactive about your reviews – good or bad. Above all, guests will value a caring and responsive staff over one that never makes mistakes.